Taliban take control of Afghanistan: Why the country's army melted away

A defiant President Joe Biden rejected blame for chaotic scenes in Afghanistan. At the White House, Biden on Monday conceded the Taliban had achieved a much faster takeover of the country than his administration had expected.
Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on Monday.(AFP Photo)
Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on Monday.(AFP Photo)
Published on Aug 17, 2021 10:43 AM IST
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By hindustantimes.com, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Afghanistan has been plunged into chaos after Taliban took over in the wake of pullout of American forces from the country. While Afghans living outside the country are angry at world community for "abandoning" them, much of that anger is directed towards the United States.

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The Biden administration has been accused by many, like former US ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann, of giving a "profound shock" to the Afghan army and morale by pulling out. Many Afghans were seen clinging to US military planes in Kabul on Monday in a desperate bid to flee their home country after the Taliban's easy victory over an Afghan military.

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America and Nato allies had spent two decades trying to build the army, but it easily melted away. Here's a look at what really went wrong:

Dollars down the drain

Washington spent $83 billion to create a modern army. It meant huge dependence on high-tech communications where 30% of the population can count on reliable power supply. The Afghans, many of them illiterate in a country lacking infrastructure to support cutting-edge military equipment, failed to mount a resistance against an outnumbered foe.

Inflated numbers

For months on end, the Pentagon had said there was a numerical advantage held by the Afghan forces - supposedly with 300,000 men in the army and the police - over the Taliban, estimated to number some 70,000. But those army numbers were inflated.

As of July 2020, the 300,000 included only 1,85,000 troops or special operations forces, with police and other security personnel making up the rest. And barely 60 per cent of the troops were trained fighters.

Unpaid and unfed

The salaries of the Afghan army were paid for years by the Pentagon. But from the time the US army announced its withdrawal, responsibility for payments fell on the Kabul government. Afghan soldiers complained they not only were unpaid for months, in many instances, their units were no longer getting food supplies and ammunition.

Illusory promises

US officials have vowed they will support the Afghan national army after August 31 - the date for completing the withdrawal of American forces - but they have never explained how this would be done. In May, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said help would be provided from afar through "over the horizon" logistics. That vague concept implied the use of virtual training sessions with video conferencing on the Zoom platform - an approach that seems illusory.

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Thursday, October 21, 2021