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Classified Afghanistan report: US watchdog warns of collapse

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Months before US President Joe Biden announced the full US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, Washington’s watchdog warned that the Afghan air force would collapse without training, support, and assistance. important American training and maintenance. The report was declassified Tuesday.

The report by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko, submitted to the Department of Defense in January 2021, highlights that US authorities have been warned that Afghanistan’s air force is not capable of ability to survive after the US withdrawal. In particular, the report points to the failure of the US to train Afghan support personnel, making it impossible for the air force to maintain its aircraft without US contractors.

US air support for government forces is key in the 20-year war against the Taliban insurgency. Its removal – along with the inability of the Afghan air force to fill the void – was one of the factors that contributed to the Taliban’s sweeping victory as the Americans withdrew.

The inspector general’s office told the Associated Press on Monday that it is rare for SIGAR reports to be classified, but that a declassified version would be issued by the Pentagon in less than two months. The office said it did not know why it took the Defense Department more than a year before declassifying this particular report, or why it is doing so now, five months after the Taliban took power.

SIGAR has tracked and documented Washington’s spending and progress in Afghanistan since the office was established in 2008. It has released successive reports documenting corruption, failures and scores. weaknesses of Afghan and American leadership in the Afghan military, making recommendations on where to improve.

Since the 2001 US-led invasion to topple the Taliban and in the protracted war that followed, Washington has spent more than $145 billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan and nearly $1 trillion on the force’s military operations. this amount. Billions of people have been used to build up the Afghan army.

In April, Biden announced that 2,500-3,500 US troops would eventually leave along with 7,500 NATO troops, following an agreement reached with the Taliban by the Trump administration. The announcement opened the door to the rapid demise of the Afghan defense forces.

The Taliban’s sweep through the country has been swift, with many areas falling without fighting as the Afghan army – many of whom have not received a paycheck from the Afghan government for months – has dropped out. run. Afghan warplanes continued to strike Taliban positions in some areas last June and July, but it was not enough to stem the tide.

The Taliban entered Kabul on August 15 after US-backed President Ashraf Ghani fled the capital. At the end of August, the US completed the chaotic departure and evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans, marked by images of young men clinging to American planes leaving American planes for a chance to live in America. and fleeing the harsh and restrictive rule of the Taliban.

In previous months, Afghan officials had warned that the air force could not stand on its own. Ata Mohammed Noor, a powerful warlord in northern Afghanistan who was a key US ally in the 2001 defeat of the Taliban, said the fleet was overused and poorly maintained.

“Most of the planes are back on the ground. They can’t fly and most of them are out of ammunition,” he said.

The newly declassified SIGAR report says that between 2010 and 2019, the US spent $8.5 billion “to support and develop” the Afghan air force and its elite unit, the Special Wing. duty. But the report warns that both are not well prepared. It also warned against scrapping the hundreds of US contractors who maintained the fleet.

According to the report, in 2019 NATO and the US moved from building up air forces to ensuring this force has a chance to survive in the long run.

However, Sopko dismissed their efforts as unsatisfactory, saying that the Afghan air force had not been able to acquire the necessary qualified personnel to set out for independence on their own.

He said a combination of US and NATO service members, as well as US-funded contractors, had focused on pilot training but did not prioritize training for the 86% of Afghan Air Force personnel. including its support staff.

Even as the US Department of Defense welcomes the advancement of the Afghan Air Force, Sopko said, in terms of “combat capability, proficiency of pilots and ground crews, and air-to-ground integration capabilities,” Sopko said. “, they continued to “grapple with human resource constraints, leadership. challenges, overuse of aircraft, and reliance on contractors for logistical support.”

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