(Washington) Joe Biden’s United States is showing growing frustration, even anger at the inability of the Afghan armed forces to counter the Taliban’s offensive – which also points to some failure by Washington after 20 years of presence in Afghanistan.
Posted on Aug 11, 2021 at 4:30 p.m.
Francesco FONTEMAGGI and Paul HANDLEY Agence France-Presse
The American president said he had no regrets about his decision to withdraw his troops from the country at war, but on Tuesday he gave a clear warning to the authorities in Kabul.
The Afghans “must have the will to fight,” “for themselves, for their nation,” said Joe Biden.
He claimed the United States had “spent over $ 1 trillion on training and equipment in twenty years.” […] more than 300,000 Afghan soldiers “who are” more numerous than the Taliban “- an overestimated figure in the eyes of many observers.
US diplomacy spokesman Ned Price added that the Afghan army “has the potential” to cause “greater casualties” and denies “the idea that the Taliban’s advance cannot be stopped”.
And in the Pentagon we also insist that Kabul finally use its “superiority”: “They have air forces, the Taliban do not; they have modern weapons and organizational skills, the Taliban do not ”.
The little music had risen for a few days as government forces continued to defeat and insurgents captured many provincial capitals.
A “tendency” that “deeply worries” the Washington authorities, even if they refuse to publicly admit that they were caught off guard by this incipient turmoil.
In private, however, US diplomats admit to be surprised by the speed of the Taliban’s advance, even before the withdrawal of international troops ends by August 31. And are even less cautious about the strategic decisions made by President Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan leaders, as well as their political divisions, which they believe are damaging the morale of the troops.
“You are right, the Afghan government can do more,” said AFP Carter Malkasian, former US Department of Defense official, today a specialist in Afghanistan at the consultancy CNA.
According to him, the Afghan ruling class must overcome its proverbial divisions and, above all, lead by example by “sending the best military leaders to the front.”
Andrew Watkins of the International Crisis Group’s conflict prevention organization also describes an over-centralized Afghan bureaucratic system that hinders or delays the flow of funds and equipment to local government-related forces likely to confront the Taliban on the ground.
“When Washington says we need political unity, I think Ghani and all the former warlords should put their divisions aside and cooperate,” he explains.
President Ghani’s visit on Wednesday to Mazar-i-Sharif, the city in northern Afghanistan besieged by the rebels, and his meeting there with the powerful warlord Abdul Rachid Dostom, the two experts see as the first sign of his desire to regain control.
For the Biden administration, it is about justifying an irrevocable decision: If support for the Afghan army continues, there is no question of questioning the withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan to help it.
The 46th President of the United States argues that a longer stay, as demanded by some opponents and the military, is the best “recipe for eternal stay”.
But the argument of the alleged incompetence or faintheartedness of the armed forces in Kabul can also backfire on the Americans who spent twenty dollars to fund, train and equip an army that has so far proven unable to stand alone.
This “failure to create effective Afghan armed forces” is one of the main arguments made by researcher Anthony Cordesman in a report published this week by the Think Tank Center for Strategic and International Studies on the reasons for the “defeat” in Afghanistan.
“The United States has been far too optimistic about the Afghan government’s progress in governance, military progress and building effective Afghan security forces,” he wrote.
“The change should have taken place a month, a year, several years ago,” sighs Andrew Watkins, fearing that it is now “too late”.