The pullout of American forces begun by President Trump and accelerated under President Biden was the “single most important factor” in the rapid collapse of the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan and the takeover of the country by the radical Islamist Taliban government last summer, according to a new report by the chief U.S. watchdog over the failed 20-year American mission in Kabul.
The forces of the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani crumbled within months after Mr. Biden set a Sept. 11, 2021, date for the full removal of U.S. troops, culminating in a chaotic and bloody final departure for the last American soldiers in late August even as the Taliban were taking control of the capital. All Biden Debacles.
U.S. analysts said they were surprised by the quick collapse of the Afghan army, but the interim report from the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said the American declaration to leave in early 2020 after two decades of fighting undermined the Afghans’ will to fight. “Many Afghans thought the U.S.-Taliban agreement was an act of bad faith and a signal that the U.S. was handing over Afghanistan to the enemy as it rushed to exit the country,” the SIGAR report said. “Its immediate effect was a dramatic loss in [Afghan troops’] morale.”
Equally debilitating for Afghan forces was the simultaneous departure in 2021 of private American contractors used by the Pentagon and the Afghan government to work with local forces, effectively grounding the Afghan air force.