Corruption, Reliance on US Forces and Factionalism Led to ANDSF Collapse, Recent SIGAR Report Uncovers

A new report was released by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) which explains the reasons behind the collapse of Afghanistan’s National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in August 2021.

On Tuesday, SIGAR’s report identified several significant factors contributing to the collapse of Afghanistan’s National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). These included the decision of US presidents to withdraw from Afghanistan, corruption within the military, politicization of the military based on ethnicity, and limitations on air strikes.

The report also stated that after the US forces started withdrawing from Afghanistan, the Afghan government did not create a comprehensive national security strategy. Instead, former President Ashraf Ghani frequently replaced army leaders with individuals who were loyal to him and shared his ethnic background, which led to the politicization of the Afghan defense forces.

SIGAR’s report revealed that Ashraf Ghani’s frequent changes in the chain of command had a negative impact on the morale and confidence of the ANDSF. The report also noted that many young, trained, educated, and professional officers who had received training from the US were marginalized as a result.

According to SIGAR, the ANDSF relied heavily on support from US troops, and the sudden decrease in US presence in Afghanistan had a significant impact on the morale of Afghan troops.

The report pointed out that the reduction in air strikes on Taliban positions, following the agreement made with the group in February 2020, deprived the Afghan army of a crucial advantage needed to keep the Taliban at bay.

As per the report, the ANDSF lacked the capability to transport weapons and supplies offered by the US overland to fulfill their operational requirements. Consequently, they had to rely on a limited air force to carry out this task.

The collapse of the ANDSF, according to the report, was caused by a combination of factors. These included the absence of effective inter-organizational monitoring and evaluation programs, corruption that eroded the capability of the ANDSF and undermined its legitimacy and efficiency, logistical dependence on US forces, and the Taliban’s media and psychological warfare campaign, magnified by real-time reporting.

The ANDSF’s collapse in August 2021 marked a significant turning point in Afghanistan’s history, with the Taliban once again taking control of the country after two decades of US-led efforts to stabilize the region. The fall of Kabul was rapid and unexpected, taking only a matter of days for the Taliban to seize control of the capital and the surrounding provinces. Despite billions of dollars in funding and training provided by the US and other countries, the Afghan security forces were unable to resist the Taliban’s advance.