Kabul Falls and the Taliban Nears Full Control of Afghanistan
Security Assistance Monitor, August 2021
In a matter of a few short weeks, the Taliban have swept across nearly all of Afghanistan, retaking the capital Kabul and forcing the collapse of the U.S.-backed government. As provincial capital after provincial capital fell, the Taliban faced little resistance from the Afghan National Defense and Security forces (ANDSF), leading many to question how the 300,000 strong force, backed by nearly two decades of intensive U.S. military aid, could have collapsed so swiftly.
The stunning defeat of the ANDSF is a stark indictment of the U.S. defense institution building effort in Afghanistan and begs serious questions about the wider American security assistance enterprise. A recent report from SAM – Evershifting Goalposts: Lessons Learned from 20 Years of Security Assistance in Afghanistan – sought to extract lessons learned from the failure of the US and its international partners to create an effective and sustainable Afghan defense sector capable of preventing a Taliban takeover of the country.
The report’s findings are all the more relevant following the evaporation of the ANDSF in the face of Taliban advances. Among the most important lessons learned identified by the study were the failure of the U.S. to create a contextually relevant force, perverted institutional incentives wrought by ambiguous American objectives and commitments, and persistently ineffective mechanisms of assessing ANDSF abilities.
No doubt that the ANDSF’s quick defeat will elicit serious self-reflection amongst US defense planners and security cooperation professionals. In the meantime, the fate of the Afghan people remains deeply uncertain, with many thousands now internally displaced or seeking to urgently leave the country.
To read the full report on lessons learned from 20 years of security assistance in Afghanistan, click here.
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