“A strategic failure”: the Pentagon’s regrets over Afghanistan

The officials of the American army finally recognize their errors on the Afghan file. On Tuesday, Pentagon leaders admitted to underestimating the demoralization of the Afghan military. The collapse of the latter, in the last days of the withdrawal of foreign forces from Kabul in August, enabled the Taliban to quickly win after 20 years of war in Afghanistan.

Lloyd Austin, Minister of Defense, General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States, and General Frank McKenzie, Commander of the United States Central Command, testified before elected representatives of the United States Senate on the chaotic end of the war.

Mark Milley considered that the end of the war was the consequence of the twenty years of American presence in Afghanistan: “Such a result in a war, a result which is a strategic failure – the enemy is in power in Kabul, he does not There is no other way to describe it – which is a cumulative effect of 20 years “of war. He added that the United States must learn from this, AP agency reports. He notably mentioned a dependence on American technologies, which the United States army had created within the Afghan army.

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“We built a state but we couldn’t create a nation”

The failures of the training of the Afghan army were at the heart of the testimony of military officials before elected officials. “We built a state but we couldn’t create a nation,” admitted US Defense Minister Lloyd Austin. “The fact that the Afghan army, which we formed with our partners, collapsed – often without firing a bullet – took us all by surprise. It would be dishonest to say otherwise.”

“We did not realize the level of corruption and incompetence of their high ranking officers, we did not measure the damage caused by the frequent and unexplained changes decided by President Ashraf Ghani in the command, we did not ‘we did not foresee the snowball effect of the agreements made by the Taliban with four local commanders after the Doha agreement, nor the fact that the Doha agreement had demoralized the Afghan army “, he enumerated .

Donald Trump’s administration signed a historic agreement with the Taliban on February 29, 2020 in Doha. It provided for the withdrawal of all foreign soldiers before May 1, 2021, in exchange for security guarantees and the opening of unprecedented direct negotiations between the insurgents and the authorities in Kabul. After several months of reflection, Joe Biden had decided to respect this agreement, while extending the deadline for the withdrawal to August 31.

2,500 soldiers could have avoided the fall of Kabul

Chief of Staff General Mark Milley noted that the decision to withdraw military advisers deployed to Afghan units from Afghanistan has contributed to overestimating the capacity of the Afghan army. “We were not able to fully assess the morale and the will of the command,” he said. “You can count planes, trucks, vehicles, cars (…) but you cannot measure the human heart with a machine. (…) You have to be there.”

Senior officers have publicly admitted that they would have preferred to keep troops in Afghanistan to avoid the collapse of the Afghan government. Mark Milley, when asked about it, said his “personal opinion” was that at least 2,500 American troops would have been needed to prevent the fall of Kabul. Frank McKenzie said he shared his colleague’s opinion. “I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, and I also recommended early in the fall of 2020 that we maintain 4,500 troops, those were my personal opinions. I also thought that the withdrawal of these forces would inevitably lead to the fall of the Afghan military forces and then of the Afghan government. ”

In August, Joe Biden was interviewed by television on the subject; he then assured that the army had not advised him to keep troops in Afghanistan, and that opinions were “divided”, recalls AP. Republican Senate officials considered the testimony of Generals Milley and McKenzie to be evidence that the president had lied. But Mark Milley, along with Minister Lloyd Austin, declined to say what they advised Joe Biden in the spring. The newly elected president was then considering whether or not to follow the agreement established between the Trump administration and the Taliban.

125,000 people evacuated

Military officials also answered questions about the mass evacuation of civilians by the US military. Just under a hundred American citizens are still in Afghanistan today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier in September, and many Afghan allies of the Americans are also still there.

Lloyd Austin like Mark Milley dismissed criticism from elected officials about a failed evacuation. “Was it perfect? ​​Of course not,” conceded the Minister of Defense. But he insisted on the successes of the American army, 125,000 people having been able to leave Afghanistan, including 6,000 American citizens and their families. “At the height of the operation, a plane was taking off every 45 minutes. No sortie was missed due to maintenance, fuel or logistics issues.” The minister added that the Pentagon was still working on the exfiltration of American women who so wish, as well as the evacuation of Afghan allies enrolled in a special immigration program.

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Differences arose between the chief of staff and the minister, when an elected official asked them if the reputation of the United States had been “damaged” by the withdrawal. “I think that our credibility with our allies and partners in the world, as well as with our adversaries, is being re-examined very carefully”, declared the chief of staff. “Damaged is a word that can be used, yes.” “I think our credibility remains strong,” said Lloyd Austin on the contrary.


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