The latest fall of that city and it’s sort-of-nation. A good read from Jonathan Schroden at War on the Rocks, details the six factors that led to the fall of the Ghani regime, laid out by the May 2022 Interim Report of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
Bookend excerpts below, but I recommend the full read for anyone who is interested in the topic….or who has trafficked in political narratives for partisan gamesmanship.
The Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on Aug. 15 of last year cemented the complete collapse of Afghanistan’s security forces, which the United States and its partners built over twenty years at a cost of nearly $90 billion. Last week, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction placed primary blame for that collapse on the shoulders of the United States, saying that the “single most important factor” behind it “was the U.S. decision to withdraw military forces and contractors from Afghanistan through signing the U.S.-Taliban agreement in February 2020 under [President Donald Trump], followed by President [Joe] Biden’s withdrawal announcement in April 2021.”
This finding aligns with views espoused by some U.S. military leaders, such as the former commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie. He similarly traced the collapse of Afghanistan’s security forces to the signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement. But this runs squarely against statements by Biden, who placed the blame on Afghan security forces themselves, saying, “We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.”
This report — and others that will follow, such as those from the Afghanistan War Commission — have the ability to drive that accountability. But to do that effectively, their framing is critical. The special inspector general and his team deserve credit for the work that went into this report. But its identification of the U.S. withdrawal decision as the “single most important factor” behind the Afghan security forces’ collapse enables the blame for that disaster to be placed singularly on Trump and Biden instead of forcing us to grapple with the more complicated reality that a whole web of people and institutions were responsible.
The answer to “who is to blame” for what happened with Afghanistan’s security forces is complex. Framing six factors as equally important avoids oversimplifying that complexity and is more likely to enable the type of accountability we really need: not just of presidents, but of critical leaders and institutions at all levels. As the special inspector general concludes, “Unless the U.S. government understands and accounts for what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how it went wrong in Afghanistan, it will likely repeat the same mistakes in the next conflict.” On that at least, the special inspector general is absolutely correct.