Afghanistan live news: Biden defends withdrawal as Taliban patrol Kabul


Built and trained at a two-decade cost of US$83bn, Afghan security forces collapsed so quickly and completely — in some cases without a shot fired — that the ultimate beneficiary of the American investment turned out to be the Taliban. They grabbed not only political power but also US-supplied firepower — guns, ammunition, helicopters and more.

The Taliban captured an array of modern military equipment when they overran Afghan forces who failed to defend district centres. Bigger gains followed, including combat aircraft, when the Taliban rolled up provincial capitals and military bases with stunning speed, topped by capturing the biggest prize, Kabul, over the weekend.

A US defence official on Monday confirmed the Taliban’s sudden accumulation of U.S.-supplied Afghan equipment is enormous. The official was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity. The reversal is an embarrassing consequence of misjudging the viability of Afghan government forces — by the US military as well as intelligence agencies — which in some cases chose to surrender their vehicles and weapons rather than fight.

The US failure to produce a sustainable Afghan army and police force, and the reasons for their collapse, will be studied for years by military analysts. The basic dimensions, however, are clear and are not unlike what happened in Iraq. The forces turned out to be hollow, equipped with superior arms but largely missing the crucial ingredient of combat motivation.

‘Money can’t buy will. You cannot purchase leadership,’ John Kirby, chief spokesman for Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, said Monday.


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