Some U.S. military experts, observing the catastrophic defeats suffered by Afghan forces since May, and particularly in the last week as six provincial capitals have fallen, including the strategic city of Kunduz in the North, make an argument that reflects much of the fourth-grade-level analysis that led to President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Biden simply decided to implement Donald Trump’s February 29, 2020 surrender and withdrawal agreement with the Taliban.
The argument of these military experts is that the U.S. and NATO have provided the Afghan military with all of the training and equipment they need to defeat the Taliban. Whether they will effectively defend the country against the Taliban depends on two things: mikitary capacity and the “will” of the military to fight.
Even after the withdrawal of U.S. close-combat air support, these experts argue, Afghanistan has the necessary military “capacity”.
In short, they are arguing, the U.S. did everything possible to train and equip the Afghan forces. Now, if they suffer defeat, it will be because they don’t have the “will” to fight.
“Afghan security forces teeter on the brink of collapse amid Taliban onslaught, Transcript, PBS Newshour, August 9, 2021 (6:45 PM EDT).
On the PBS Newshour, U.S. Lt.Gen Doug Lute (Ret.) put the argument as follows:
So, we need much more capacity and much more will demonstrated by the Afghan forces so that we don’t see reports of Afghan forces surrendering or abandoning their posts and so forth. So, it’s both capacity and will.
Right, I don’t think the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban is inevitable. I think that the Afghan government does have a capacity. It has over 300,000 army and police on station, on the payroll. The question here is whether we can — they can provide Afghan leadership to those Afghan forces that will then stem the tide on the ground.
So the essence of this is Afghan capacity and Afghan will.
Let us, however, inquire further. What are the determinants of that “will”?
We have described the horrific choices facing individual Afghan soldiers and officials:
Soldiers and government officials are faced with terrifying personal choices, as it begins to look like the Taliban will take over.
They and their families are extraordinarily exposed to Taliban reprisals, and may have to make excruciating decisions about whether they can better protect themselves and their families by putting aside their weapons and acquiescing in a Taliban takeover, or by sticking with the government forces and fighting for a future under the existing government.
The surrender and withdrawal of the Americans could well have a decisive impact on their calculus.
–“Afghanistan: A chronicle of defeat and looming collapse–August 8, 2021,” The Trenchant Observer, August 8, 2021.
The “will” that may prove to be be the decisive determinant of the future of Afghanistan is not that of the Afghan soldier or government official, but rather that of Joe Biden and the government and people of the United States.
The Trenchant Observer
The Trenchant Observer has been following Afghanistan closely since 2005, when he worked in Kabul as the Team Leader of group of six lawyers charged with advising the government on modernizing its criminal justice process to better meet international human rights standards.
Use the Search box to the right to find previous articles by the Trenchant Observer on Afghanistan, going back to 2009.