KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Months earlier than President Joe Biden introduced the U.S.’s full withdrawal from Afghanistan final yr, Washington’s watchdog warned that the Afghan air force would collapse with out important American support, coaching and upkeep. The report was declassified Tuesday.
The report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko, submitted to the Department of Defense in January 2021, underscores that American authorities had been alerted that Afghanistan’s air force didn’t have the capabilities to outlive after a U.S. withdrawal. In explicit, the report factors to U.S. failure to coach Afghan help workers, leaving the air force unable to keep up its plane with out American contractors.
U.S. air help to authorities forces was key within the 20-year-war towards Taliban insurgents. Its removing — together with the shortcoming of the Afghan air force to fill the void — was one issue that contributed to the Taliban’s sweeping victory because the Americans withdrew.
The inspector basic’s workplace instructed The Associated Press on Monday that it’s uncommon for SIGAR experiences to be categorized however when they’re, a declassified model is issued by the Pentagon in underneath two months. The workplace mentioned it didn’t know why it took the Defense Department greater than a yr earlier than declassifying this explicit report, or why it did so now, 5 months after the Taliban took energy.
SIGAR has tracked and documented Washington’s spending and progress in Afghanistan for the reason that workplace was established in 2008. It has launched successive experiences that documented corruption, Afghan and U.S. management failings and weaknesses throughout the Afghan military, providing suggestions on the place to enhance.
Since the 2001 U.S-led invasion that ousted the Taliban and throughout the lengthy warfare that ensued, Washington spent greater than $145 billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan and practically $1 trillion on its army engagement. Billions went to increase the Afghan army forces.
Biden introduced in April that the final 2,500-3,500 U.S. troops would depart together with NATO’s 7,500 troops, following a deal reached with the Taliban by the Trump administration. The announcement began a fast collapse of the Afghan protection forces.
The Taliban’s sweep by the nation was swift, with many areas falling with out a combat as Afghan troops — many of whom had not obtained their salaries from the Afghan authorities in months — fled. Afghan warplanes continued to hit Taliban positions in some areas in June and July final yr, but it surely was not sufficient to stem the tide.
The Taliban entered Kabul on Aug. 15 after U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani fled the capital. By the top of August, the U.S. accomplished its chaotic departure and the evacuation of tens of hundreds of Afghans, marked by photos of younger males clinging to departing U.S. plane for a chance to reside within the U.S. and flee the Taliban’s harsh and restrictive rule.
Over the previous months, Afghan officers had warned that the air force was not in a position to stand by itself. Ata Mohammed Noor, a robust warlord in northern Afghanistan who was a key U.S. ally within the 2001 defeat of the Taliban, mentioned the fleet was overused and under-maintained.
“Most of the planes are back on the ground. They cannot fly and most of them are out of ammunition,” he mentioned.
The newly declassified SIGAR report says that between 2010 and 2019, the U.S. spent $8.5 billion “to support and develop” the Afghan air force and its elite unit, the Special Mission Wing. But the report warns that each are ill-prepared. It additionally warns towards eradicating the lots of of U.S. contractors who maintained the plane fleet.
According to the report, NATO and the U.S. switched in 2019 from constructing the air force to creating positive it had an opportunity at long-term survival.
But Sopko gave their efforts a failing grade, saying the Afghan air force hadn’t been in a position to get the certified personnel wanted to set itself on the highway to independence.
He mentioned a mix of U.S. and NATO army personnel, in addition to U.S.-funded contractors, had targeted on coaching pilots however had not prioritized coaching for 86% of Afghanistan Air force personnel, together with its help workers.
Even because the U.S. Department of Defense touted the Afghan air force’s progress “in combat operation capabilities, pilot and ground crew proficiency, as well as air-to-ground integration,” Sopko mentioned, they continued “to struggle with human capital limitations, leadership challenges, aircraft misuse, and a dependence on contractor logistic support.”
Follow Gannon, the Associated Press News Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan, on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kathygannon