According to a scathing watchdog group’s report released on Monday, the Biden Administration’s August 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan was “abrupt and uncoordinated” and gave an impression to locals that the United States “was simply handing Afghanistan over to a Taliban government-in-waiting.”
The report issued by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that President Biden’s April announcement of a withdrawal that year “destroyed the morale of Afghan soldiers and police” who had “long relied on the U.S. military’s presence” to ensure the government in Kabul paid their salaries and that the U.S. military would continue to protect them.
John F. Sopko, a watchdog, also faulted the 2020 Doha Agreement between the Taliban and Trump administration for instilling “a sense of abandonment” in both the public and among Afghan forces.
“The U.S.-Taliban agreement gave the Taliban its core demand, the complete withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops, as well as contractors,” stated the report. “The Afghan government, a nonsignatory to the agreement, was excluded from negotiations, legitimating the Taliban on the world stage and further undercutting the Afghan government’s credibility, which many Afghans already viewed as illegitimate.”
In the meantime, the government of Kabul, which is backed by the West, and led by President Ashraf Ghani, believed the United States wouldn’t complete its pull-out until an all-Afghan peace deal had been agreed upon.
According to SIGAR, Ghani “read the [Doha] agreement as the conditions-based peace deal it purported to be, not the calendar-based withdrawal deal that it had become.”
Ghani’s former national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib told the watchdog that President Joe Biden’s withdrawal announcement “was a shock to us because prior to that … U.S. officials had consistently — at every opportunity — assured the Afghan government that they were committed to an “independent and democratic Afghanistan.”
“They insisted that they wanted a peaceful Afghanistan in which the gains of the last 20 years would be preserved,” added Mohib. “They maintained this position until the very end.”
U.S. evacuation left the Afghan military unable to supply or maintain its forces
At the same time, the evacuation of U.S. contractors left the Afghan military not able to maintain or supply their forces, which left them helpless in the face of the Taliban onslaught.
“We built that army to run on contractor support,” said a former commander of Afghanistan’s NATO forces. “Without it, it can’t function. Game over … When the contractors pulled out, it was like we pulled all the sticks out of the Jenga pile and expected it to stay up.”
According to SIGAR, the Pentagon failed to properly account for the equipment and weapons it provided to the Afghan military.
As a result, more than $7 billion worth of U.S.-provided military equipment ended up in the hands of the Taliban, according to the Defense Department’s inspector general’s estimate, issued last year. According to the inspector general’s report, the U.S. has spent $18.6 billion arming the Afghan military since 2002.
Congress commissioned the report by the special inspector general only weeks after the August 15, 2021, fall of Kabul.
The inspector general warned that mistakes that involved the abuse of funds in Afghanistan might reoccur in the European conflict and could reignite oversight concerns about the U.S.’s aid to Ukraine.
“Given the ongoing conflict and the unprecedented volume of weapons being transferred to Ukraine, the risk that some equipment ends up on the black market or in the wrong hands is likely unavoidable,” said Sopko.
GOP Senator Josh Hawley said on Twitter the IG report “shows yet again what a disaster Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan was — and billions of taxpayer dollars wasted.”
A report by the House Foreign Affairs Committee released in 2022 found that more than 1,000 Americans were stranded in Afghanistan at the time of the withdrawal.