Afghan commander says army was ‘betrayed by politics and presidents’
An Afghan army commander says his country’s forces were “betrayed by politics and presidents,” contending that decisions made by President Biden, former President Trump and former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani led to the current Taliban rout.
General Sami Sadat of the Afghan army penned an op-ed in The New York Times on Wednesday where he admitted that his force “lost its will to fight,” but argued that its eventual defeat was driven by “political divisions” in Kabul and Washington that “strangled the army and limited our ability to do our jobs.”
“This was not an Afghan war only; it was an international war, with many militaries involved. It would have been impossible for one army alone, ours, to take up the job and fight. This was a military defeat, but it emanated from political failure,” Sadat wrote.
He added that while the Afghan army “is not without blame,” the forces “ultimately stopped fighting because our partners already had.”
The op-ed from Sadat comes as a number of American officials have blamed the fall of Afghanistan and the chaotic situation in the country on Afghan forces failing to fight against the Taliban, despite receiving years of training and millions of dollars worth of resources from the U.S.
Biden last week, in remarks delivered after the Taliban seized control of Kabul, said “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.”
Sadat, however, took issue with that statement, writing that it “pains” him to see Biden and other officials “blaming the Afghan Army for collapsing without mentioning the underlying reasons that happened.”
He noted a “growing sense of abandonment by our American partners and the disrespect and disloyalty reflected in Mr. Biden’s tone and words over the past few months.”
The commander listed three specific factors that led to the Afghan army’s collapse: the peach deal Trump signed with the Taliban in 2020, the loss of contractor logistics and maintenance support in Afghanistan that bolstered the forces’ combat operations and the “corruption endemic” in Ghani’s government that put unqualified officials in leading positions.
He said the deal brokered by the Trump administration “doomed us” and “emboldened” the Taliban.
The arrangement Trump agreed to called for all U.S. troops to be out of the country by May, but Biden has set a withdrawal deadline of the end of the month, and left the option open for an extension based on current conditions.
Sadat said when the roughly 17,000 support contractors in the region had left by July, they took with them proprietary software and weapons systems that left the army unable to use key technology, including aircraft, a helicopter missile-defense system and software to track vehicles, weapons and personnel.
“We lost our superiority to the Taliban when our air support dried up and our ammunition ran out,” Sadat wrote.
On Ghani, Sadat criticized the former president and his government for installing leaders “for their personal ties, not for their credentials,” arguing that those choices “had a devastating impact on the national army because leaders lacked the military experience to be effective or inspire the confidence and trust of the men being asked to risk their lives.”
Sadat also slammed Ghani for fleeing the nation as the Taliban entered Kabul earlier this month.
“There is an enormous sense of betrayal here. Mr. Ghani’s hasty escape ended efforts to negotiate an interim agreement for a transition period with the Taliban that would have enabled us to hold the city and help manage evacuations,” Sadat wrote.
“Instead, chaos ensued — resulting in the desperate scenes witnessed at the Kabul airport,” he added.
The commander also pinned the army’s collapse on Biden, contending that his decision to stick to Trump’s plan and pull all troops from Afghanistan “was when everything started to go downhill.”
He added that Biden’s “full and accelerated withdrawal” had “exacerbated the situation” and “ignored conditions on the ground.”