Sponsored by Exensor
20 Aug 21. Statement by NATO Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan.
Issued in Brussels, 20 August 2021.
- We, the Foreign Ministers of NATO, met today to discuss the difficult situation in Afghanistan.
- We are united in our deep concern about the grave events in Afghanistan and call for an immediate end to the violence. We also express deep concerns about reports of serious human rights violations and abuses across Afghanistan. We affirm our commitment to the statement by the UN Security Council on 16 August, and we call for adherence to international norms and standards on human rights and international humanitarian law in all circumstances.
- Our immediate task now is to meet our commitments to continue the safe evacuation of our citizens, partner country nationals, and at-risk Afghans, in particular those who have assisted our efforts. We call on those in positions of authority in Afghanistan to respect and facilitate their safe and orderly departure, including through Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. As long as evacuation operations continue, we will maintain our close operational coordination through Allied military means at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
- The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity, and to build on the important political, economic and social achievements they have made over the last twenty years. We stand by civil society actors who must be able to continue to safely play their meaningful role in Afghan society. We call on all parties in Afghanistan to work in good faith to establish an inclusive and representative government, including with the meaningful participation of women and minority groups. Under the current circumstances, NATO has suspended all support to the Afghan authorities. Any future Afghan government must adhere to Afghanistan’s international obligations; safeguard the human rights of all Afghans, particularly women, children, and minorities; uphold the rule of law; allow unhindered humanitarian access; and ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists.
- For the last twenty years, we have successfully denied terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to instigate attacks. We will not allow any terrorists to threaten us. We remain committed to fighting terrorism with determination, resolve, and in solidarity.
- We honour the service and sacrifice of all who have worked tirelessly over the last twenty years to realise a better future for Afghanistan. Together, we will fully reflect on our engagement in Afghanistan and draw the necessary lessons. We will continue to promote the stable, prosperous Afghanistan that the Afghan people deserve and address the critical questions facing Afghanistan and the region, in the immediate future and beyond, including through our cooperation with regional and international partners, such as the European Union and United Nations. (Source: NATO)
20 Aug 21. NATO pledges to speed evacuations from Afghanistan as criticism mounts. More than 18,000 people have been flown out of Kabul since the Taliban took over Afghanistan’s capital, a NATO official said on Friday, pledging to redouble evacuation efforts as criticism of the West’s handling of the crisis mounted.
Thousands of people, desperate to flee the country, continued to throng the airport, the official who declined to be identified told Reuters.
The speed with which the Taliban conquered Afghanistan as U.S. and other foreign troops withdrew surprised even their own leaders and has left power vacuums in many places.
The Taliban urged unity ahead of Friday prayers, the first since they seized power, calling on imams to persuade people not to leave Afghanistan amid chaotic scenes at the airport, protests and reports of violence.
A witness told Reuters several people were killed in the eastern city of Asadabad on Thursday when Taliban militants fired on a crowd demonstrating their allegiance to the vanquished Afghan republic, as the Taliban set about establishing an emirate, governed by strict Islamic laws.
There were similar shows of defiance in two other cities – Jalalabad and Khost – in the east, as Afghans used celebrations of the nation’s 1919 independence from British control to vent their anger with the Taliban takeover.
Another witness reported gunshots near a rally in Kabul, but they appeared to be Taliban firing into the air.
A Taliban spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Kabul has been largely calm, except in and around the airport where 12 people have been killed since Sunday, NATO and Taliban officials said.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in an interview with NBC News that the United States is “laser-focused” on “the potential for a terrorist attack” by a group such as Islamic State amid the evacuation.
Criticism of NATO and other Western powers has mounted as images of the chaos and desperation are shared around the world.
In one scene captured on social media, a small girl was hoisted over the airport’s perimeter wall and handed to a U.S. soldier.
U.S. President Joe Biden is set to speak about the evacuation efforts at 1 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Friday, having faced a torrent of criticism for his handling of the troop withdrawal, negotiated by the previous U.S. administration.
British media reported the country’s spy chiefs may face a grilling over intelligence failings. Several British civil servants remained on holiday as the Afghan debacle erupted, and Foreign Minister Dominic Raab has been heavily criticised for his initial response to the unfolding crisis.
The governments of Germany and Australia have also faced calls to do more and speed up the evacuation of citizens and vulnerable Afghans.
On Thursday, G7 foreign ministers called for a united international response to prevent the crisis from worsening, in comments echoed by countries including Russia.
China said the world should support, not pressure, Afghanistan. read more
A Taliban spokesman told Chinese state media that China has played a constructive role in promoting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and is welcome to contribute to the rebuilding of the country.
FEAR OF REPRISALS
Since seizing Kabul on Sunday, the Taliban have presented a more moderate face, saying they want peace, will not take revenge against old enemies and will respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law.
A report by a Norwegian intelligence group said the Taliban had begun rounding up Afghans on a blacklist of people linked to Afghanistan’s previous administration or U.S.-led forces that supported it. Complaints by some Afghan journalists have cast doubt on assurances that independent media would be allowed.
Amnesty International said an investigation found the Taliban had murdered nine ethnic Hazara men after taking control of Ghazni province last month, raising fears that the Taliban, whose members are Sunni Muslims will target Hazaras, who mostly belong to the Shi’ite minority.
A Taliban spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the reports.
A U.S. lawmaker said the Taliban were using files from Afghanistan’s intelligence agency to identify Afghans who worked for the United States.
“They are methodically ramping up efforts to round those folks up,” said Representative Jason Crow, who has been leading efforts in the U.S. Congress to accelerate the evacuation of American-affiliated Afghans. (Source: Reuters)
19 Aug 21. Planes, guns, night-vision goggles: The Taliban’s new U.S.-made war chest. About a month ago, Afghanistan’s ministry of defense posted on social media photographs of seven brand new helicopters arriving in Kabul delivered by the United States.
“They’ll continue to see a steady drumbeat of that kind of support, going forward,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters a few days later at the Pentagon.
In a matter of weeks, however, the Taliban had seized most of the country, as well as any weapons and equipment left behind by fleeing Afghan forces.
Video showed the advancing insurgents inspecting long lines of vehicles and opening crates of new firearms, communications gear and even military drones.
“Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now,” one U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
Current and former U.S. officials say there is concern those weapons could be used to kill civilians, be seized by other militant groups such as Islamic State to attack U.S.-interests in the region, or even potentially be handed over to adversaries including China and Russia. President Joe Biden’s administration is so concerned about the weapons that it is considering a number of options to pursue.
The officials said launching airstrikes against the larger equipment, such as helicopters, has not been ruled out, but there is concern that would antagonize the Taliban at a time the United States’ main goal is evacuating people.
Another official said that while there are no definitive numbers yet, the current intelligence assessment was that the Taliban are believed to control more than 2,000 armored vehicles, including U.S. Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft potentially including UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones.
“We have already seen Taliban fighters armed with U.S.-made weapons they seized from the Afghan forces. This poses a significant threat to the United States and our allies,” Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, told Reuters in an email.
‘MORE LIKE TROPHIES’
The speed with which the Taliban swept across Afghanistan is reminiscent of Islamic State militants taking weapons from U.S.-supplied Iraqi forces who offered little resistance in 2014.
Between 2002 and 2017, the United States gave the Afghan military an estimated $28bn in weaponry, including guns, rockets, night-vision goggles and even small drones for intelligence gathering.
But aircraft like the Blackhawk helicopters have been the most visible sign of U.S. military assistance, and were supposed to be the Afghan military’ biggest advantage over the Taliban.
Between 2003 and 2016 the United States provided Afghan forces with 208 aircraft, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
In the last week, many of those aircraft were most useful for Afghan pilots to escape the Taliban.
One of the U.S. officials said that between 40 and 50 aircraft had been flown to Uzbekistan by Afghan pilots seeking refuge. Even before taking power in Kabul over the weekend, the Taliban had started a campaign of assassinating pilots.
Some planes were in the United States for maintenance and will stay. Those en route to Afghan forces will instead be used by the U.S. military to help in the evacuation from Kabul.
Current and former officials say that while they are concerned about the Taliban having access to the helicopters, the aircraft require frequent maintenance and many are complicated to fly without extensive training.
“Ironically, the fact that our equipment breaks down so often is a life-saver here,” a third official said.
Retired U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, who oversaw U.S. military operations in Afghanistan as head of U.S. Central Command from 2016 to 2019, said most of the high-end hardware captured by the Taliban, including the aircraft, was not equipped with sensitive U.S. technology.
“In some cases, some of these will be more like trophies,” Votel said.
FIGHTING AT NIGHT
There is a more immediate concern about some of the easier- to-use weapons and equipment, such as night-vision goggles.
Since 2003 the United States has provided Afghan forces with at least 600,000 infantry weapons including M16 assault rifles, 162,000 pieces of communication equipment, and 16,000 night-vision goggle devices.
“The ability to operate at night is a real game-changer,” one congressional aide told Reuters.
Votel and others said smalls arms seized by the insurgents such as machine guns, mortars, as well as artillery pieces including howitzers, could give the Taliban an advantage against any resistance that could surface in historic anti-Taliban strongholds such as the Panjshir Valley northeast of Kabul.
U.S. officials said the expectation was that most of the weapons would be used by the Taliban themselves, but it was far too early to tell what they planned to do – including possibly sharing the equipment with rival states such as China.
Andrew Small, a Chinese foreign policy expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said the Taliban was likely to grant Beijing access to any U.S. weapons they may now have control over.
One of the U.S. officials said it was not likely China would gain much, because Beijing likely already has access to the weapons and equipment.
The situation, experts say, shows the United States needs a better way to monitor equipment it gives to allies. It could have done much more to ensure those supplies to Afghan forces were closely monitored and inventoried, said Justine Fleischner of UK-based Conflict Armament Research.
“But the time has passed for these efforts to have any impact in Afghanistan,” Fleischner said. (Source: Reuters)
19 Aug 21. Russian Stealth Aircraft Could Stop Hypersonic Missiles Mid-Flight. Russia is developing a new defense against hypersonic missiles: MiG fighters armed with long-range, multiple-warhead missiles.
Here’s What You Need to Know: Most likely, if Russia’s MiG-based hypersonic defense works, it will work against tactical hypersonic missiles rather than ICBMs. While Russia claims its Avangard nuclear-armed glider has a reported speed of Mach 20-plus, tactical hypersonic missiles such as Russia’s Zircon anti-ship weapon, or a land-based U.S. hypersonic missile which may be fielded by 2023, seem to have speeds of Mach 8 to 10.
Russia is developing a new defense against hypersonic missiles: MiG fighters armed with long-range, multiple-warhead missiles.
But how feasible is the concept remains to be seen.
“The Ministry of Defense made a fundamental decision to develop for the MiG-31 fighter and the promising MiG-41 a multifunctional long-range interceptor missile system (MPKR DP) capable of hitting hypersonic munitions,” according to state-owned Russian newspaper Izvestia last yer. “Theoretical studies have already been carried out on an ultra-long-range air-to-air missile with a multiple warhead.”
The MiG-31 (NATO code name: Foxhound) is an air defense interceptor descended from the Cold War MiG-25 Foxbat. The MiG-41 is reportedly a developmental project to develop a MiG-31 replacement.
Using multiple warheads for missile defense is particularly interesting. Russia appears to be envisioning a single missile that will dispense several sub-missiles that will intercept hypersonic weapons, which travel faster than Mach 5. “Airborne heavy ammunition will deliver a warhead with several modern air-to-air missiles over a distance of several hundred kilometers,” explained Izvestia. “Then they will separate from the carrier and begin to search and attack targets on their own. An active homing head with its own radar will help them in this.”
“All warheads will be displayed at a pre-calculated point on the trajectory of a flying munition and attack it in the nose. The use of ultra-long-range missiles will expand the area of destruction of the interceptor.”
The theory seems simple enough: launch enough radar-guided warheads at a hypersonic target, and you’re bound to hit something. “An ordinary anti-aircraft missile has one warhead,” Russian defense expert Dmitri Kornev told Izvestia. “The probability of a miss on a hypersonic maneuvering target is very high. But if one ammunition carries several homing shells, then the chances of hitting a high-speed object increase significantly.”
The U.S. uses a similar approach for ballistic missile defense against ICBMs. Interceptor rockets will launch “kill vehicles” with multiple warheads, each equipped with sensors as well as thrusters for rapid maneuvering.
Which raises a question: if many critics doubt that ballistic missile defense is even feasible — “like hitting a bullet with another bullet,” as the saying goes — then what about hypersonic missiles?
Izvestia paints a scenario where the process works smoothly. “Especially effective is the use of the system during aircraft operations as part of a single information space. Aerial targets, cruise or hypersonic missiles can be detected by ground-based radars, early warning radars, or an attack warning system. The fighter will only need to launch an ultra-long-range missile in the desired area. At the same time, the interceptor will not have to risk itself entering into an air battle.”
Yet U.S. ballistic missile tests have experienced numerous failures: President Ronald Reagan’s grandiose vision of a “Star Wars” total missile shield has shrunk to a minimalist defense against a few North Korean ICBMs. Hitting Mach 20 with a warhead is no easy feat, especially when the warheads are accompanied by decoys to confuse anti-missile defenses.
Most likely, if Russia’s MiG-based hypersonic defense works, it will work against tactical hypersonic missiles rather than ICBMs. While Russia claims its Avangard nuclear-armed glider has a reported speed of Mach 20-plus, tactical hypersonic missiles such as Russia’s Zircon anti-ship weapon, or a land-based U.S. hypersonic missile which may be fielded by 2023, seem to have speeds of Mach 8 to 10. That’s slower than an ICBM warhead, but still quite fast: unlike ballistic reentry vehicles, hypersonic missiles can also maneuver within the atmosphere to avoid interception. An object streaking through the air at ten times the speed of sound doesn’t leave much time for reaction or detection.
All of which means that merely firing a salvo of air-to-air homing missiles, and hoping that one will hit the target, may be a bit of wishful thinking. (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org)
19 Aug 21. Contractor oversight was lacking in Afghanistan, IG says. As the U.S. presses ahead with its pullout of forces from Afghanistan, a new watchdog report details how the Defense Department’s reliance on contractors to fill capability and personnel gaps led to wasteful and fraudulent spending over the course of 20 years of war.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction issued a report Aug. 16 on lessons learned from the war and occupation that has cost $145 bn for rebuilding efforts and $837 bn from DOD on warfighting.
In its report, the SIGAR notes that because much contract work in Afghanistan went unsupervised, it left the government open to waste, fraud and abuse that typically showed up as new, contractor-built facilities [that] had to be repaired or completely rebuilt.”
One example of that was the construction of a $2.4 m compound that ultimately couldn’t be used because it was built outside the security perimeter of the base that commissioned it. The reason? “Contracting officials attributed the error to a lack of time and personnel needed for oversight,” according to the report.
SIGAR cited a 2012 Government Accountability Office report also found that contracting officers often lacked the time and subject area or technical expertise to evaluate new structures.
Those issues were compounded by significant personnel shortages. The SIGAR previously found that “government staff was inadequate to supervise the large number of contractors overseen by DOD, State, and USAID, particularly considering the size of the programs.”
DOD engaged contractors for several activities, including building construction linguistics, and maintaining weapons systems, often sending them to locations considered too dangerous for U.S. government employees, according to the report.
The more than 122-page report didn’t make any new recommendations for Congress and executive agencies, but reemphasized past suggestions, including creating a database of qualified personnel “to call up when necessary, build interagency doctrine for security sector assistance and establish anti-corruption offices within key agencies.”
“The nature and range of the investment necessary to properly prepare for these [reconstruction] campaigns is an open question,” the report states. (Source: Defense Systems)
19 Aug 21. The Taliban Has Seized US Black Hawk Helicopters – But Where Does The Rest Of Its Weapons And Money Come From?
How is the Taliban militant group funded and how has it secured weapons?
The Taliban in Afghanistan is said to be worth more than a bn pounds and has amassed a large cache of weapons over the years with some equipment stolen during raids on Afghan army bases or attacks on NATO convoys – and the militant group can now add even more hardware to its arsenal after taking control of the country following the withdrawal of Western troops.
The latest haul includes Black Hawk helicopters, vehicles and weapons that had either been supplied to the Afghan forces by the United States, or left behind by the US military.
Unverified posts on social media platforms such as Twitter purportedly show Taliban fighters posing alongside US-made Black Hawk helicopters and other equipment seized from the Afghan army as the militants showed off their takeover of Western and Afghan forces’ bases.
White House US national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed earlier this week that the Taliban was now in possession of American military equipment and weapons that they seized from Afghan security forces including Black Hawk helicopters and other aircraft but it is not yet clear how much military hardware is now in the hands of the militants.
Social media posts by several commentators including by Joseph Demsey, research associate at the British research institute, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, appear to show militants taking control of other equipment and aircraft as well as the Black Hawks.
But how has the Taliban raked in vast sums of money and what are its other sources of weapons?
Where Does The Taliban Get Its Money From?
It has been well documented that drug money forms a core income for the Taliban, from sales and exports of opium from poppies – the key ingredient for many narcotics including heroin and morphine – with an estimated 84 per cent of global opium production over the five years ending in 2020 reported to have come from Afghanistan.
The Taliban is said to have imposed a tax on each stage of the chain in drug production in the areas under its control.
However, research into the Taliban’s finances, most notably by the United Nations, has revealed that drug money accounts for much less of the militant group’s profits than once believed.
A 2009 report by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime suggested that opium exports accounted for only about 10 to 15 percent of the militants’ revenue, while a confidential report commissioned by NATO, and later obtained and reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in September 2020, suggested that the Taliban had brought in £1.1 bn (US $1.6bn) in the fiscal year that ended in March of that year, from a variety of sources.
The NATO report, as reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, suggested that the Taliban had achieved, or was close to achieving, financial and military independence by the end of 2020.
Afghanistan is rich in resources such as iron ore, copper, marble, zinc, gold and other minerals which is all said to have netted the Taliban almost £335 m, in the mountainous areas under its control.
A large percentage of the Taliban’s money comes from local taxes, raised in the parts of the country it has long controlled, including taxes on industries such as those involved in mining operations and other industries, as well as taxes on local populations known as an ‘usher’ – and this includes taxes on drivers for using roads and highways in Taliban-controlled regions.
A report to the UN Security Council in 2012 suggested foreign contractors had also paid a form of ‘protection money’ to the Taliban, or that the militant group frequently demanded a cut of development money, in order for firms to operate in militant-controlled regions.
Small Afghan businesses and shopkeepers have also had to pay the Taliban tax for permission to do business in areas controlled by the militant group.
The NATO report also suggested that the Taliban had boosted its financial might in recent years, increasing its profits from illegal mining, the drug trade, exports and even real estate as the militant group is reported to have built a property empire in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries, worth an estimated £58m.
Many exports of mineral resources are reported to have been smuggled over the border to Pakistan under a black market trade with groups sympathetic to the Taliban’s cause, including the Pakistani arm of the Taliban.
Donations from unnamed foreign sponsors and regional benefactors, said to be worth an estimated £174 m ($240m), have also contributed to the Taliban’s finances.
While the full extent of outside sponsorship is not clear, Iran is said to have provided financial and material support to Afghanistan’s militants, according to a 2019 report by the US Defense Intelligence Agency.
Individual sponsors from Saudi Arabia have also been accused of helping to fund the group, a charge denied by Saudi officials, while Pakistan is said to be one of the militants’ main sponsors – reportedly providing shelter and aid to Taliban fighters, again denied officially by the Pakistan state.
Where Does The Taliban Get Its Weapons?
As with financial support, foreign states and groups sympathetic to their cause are said to have donated weapons to the Taliban.
Officials in Pakistan reported in 2011 that some caches of weapons bound for US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan were being stolen en route and then supplied to militant groups in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Taliban militants were said to have also attacked NATO convoys passing through Pakistan on their way to supply soldiers in Afghanistan, seizing weapons and other supplies in the process.
Many of these weapons were thought to have been bought and sold through black markets in Pakistan’s tribal regions and ending up in the hands of both the Pakistani Taliban and their Afghan counterparts.
In 2008, the United States also accused Russia of providing aid and weapons to the Taliban. American General John Nicholson, the former commander of US and NATO Forces in Afghanistan, told the BBC that year that Russian guns were being smuggled into Afghanistan over the border from neighbouring Tajikistan – a former Soviet country with strong Islamist opposition groups.
Russia at the time denied providing weapons or funding the Taliban, saying it had only been involved in diplomatic talks with the militant group.
Now, as the militants have swept through the country over the last few months, while western troops withdrew, they are reported to have seized weapons and equipment that had been supplied to Afghan security forces and police by the United States.
Afghanistan expert Robert Crews, of Stanford University, told the Washington Post that one of the Taliban’s first moves as it moved into new territory was to head to government headquarters and bases, arrest and kill government figures, before seizing weapons, vehicles and equipment.
White House US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters earlier this week that US Black Hawk helicopters had also been seized, saying:
“’Those Black Hawks were not given to the Taliban. They were given to the Afghan national security forces to be able to defend themselves at the specific request of President (Ashraf) Ghani, who came to the Oval Office and asked for additional air capability.”
Analysts are now suggesting both China and Russia could develop stronger ties with the Taliban, seizing on an opportunity to exert power in the region following the withdrawal of US troops and following the Taliban’s declaration of victory when Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani fled the country to seek asylum in the United Arab Emirates. This is expected to empower the Taliban and boost their fortunes even further, into the near future. (Source: forces.net)
18 Aug 21. Dozens of Afghan Air Force aircraft flown out of Afghanistan. More than 40 Afghan Air Force (AAF) aircraft have been flown to Uzbekistan to prevent them from falling in the hands of the Taliban after the group regain control over Afghanistan on 15 August.
The arrival of the platforms at Termez Airport in southern Uzbekistan was reported by local media on 16 August, with commercial satellite imagery of the site subsequently confirming the relocation of a significant part of the AAF’s fleet. Nearly 600 Afghans were reported as being aboard the aircraft and to be seeking asylum in Uzbekistan.
Satellite imagery from Planet Labs appeared to indicate that about 26 helicopters and 21 small, fixed-wing aircraft were at Termez on 16 August: 11 C-208 utility aircraft and 10 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, along with up to 16 Mi-17, five Mi-25, and five UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. Social media imagery posted on 17 August appeared to confirm that at least three UH-60s were at Termez.
A day earlier, open-source aircraft tracking websites had indicated more than 10 Afghan aircraft including C-208s and Mi-17s had left Kabul heading into Uzbek airspace.
Local media reported on 15 August that one A-29 had been shot down by Uzbek air defence forces, although subsequent reports suggested it collided in mid-air with an Uzbek MiG-29s, with images emerging online showing the wreckage of the aircraft. (Source: Jane’s)
17 Aug 21. Billions spent on Afghan army ultimately benefitted Taliban. Built and trained at a two-decade cost of $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 U.S.-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 centers. 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 U.S. defense official on Monday confirmed the Taliban’s sudden accumulation of U.S.-supplied Afghan equipment is enormous. The official was not authorized 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 U.S. military as well as intelligence agencies — which in some cases chose to surrender their vehicles and weapons rather than fight.
The U.S. 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 Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, said Monday.
Doug Lute, a retired Army lieutenant general who help direct Afghan war strategy during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, said that what the Afghans received in tangible resources they lacked in the more important intangibles.
“The principle of war stands — moral factors dominate material factors,” he said. “Morale, discipline, leadership, unit cohesion are more decisive than numbers of forces and equipment. As outsiders in Afghanistan, we can provide materiel, but only Afghans can provide the intangible moral factors.”
By contrast, Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents, with smaller numbers, less sophisticated weaponry and no air power, proved a superior force. U.S. intelligence agencies largely underestimated the scope of that superiority, and even after President Joe Biden announced in April he was withdrawing all U.S. troops, the intelligence agencies did not foresee a Taliban final offensive that would succeed so spectacularly.
“If we wouldn’t have used hope as a course of action, … we would have realized the rapid drawdown of U.S. forces sent a signal to the Afghan national forces that they were being abandoned,” said Chris Miller, who saw combat in Afghanistan in 2001 and was acting secretary of defense at the end of President Donald Trump’s term.
Stephen Biddle, a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University and a former adviser to U.S. commanders in Afghanistan, said Biden’s announcement set the final collapse in motion.
“The problem of the U.S. withdrawal is that it sent a nationwide signal that the jig is up — a sudden, nationwide signal that everyone read the same way,” Biddle said. Before April, the Afghan government troops were slowly but steadily losing the war, he said. When they learned that their American partners were going home, an impulse to give up without a fight “spread like wildfire.”
The failures, however, go back much further and run much deeper. The United States tried to develop a credible Afghan defense establishment on the fly, even as it was fighting the Taliban, attempting to widen the political foundations of the government in Kabul and seeking to establish democracy in a country rife with corruption and cronyism.
Year after year, U.S. military leaders downplayed the problems and insisted success was coming. Others saw the handwriting on the wall. In 2015 a professor at the Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute wrote about the military’s failure to learn lessons from past wars; he subtitled his book, “Why the Afghan National Security Forces Will Not Hold.”
“Regarding the future of Afghanistan, in blunt terms, the United States has been down this road at the strategic level twice before, in Vietnam and Iraq, and there is no viable rationale for why the results will be any different in Afghanistan,” Mason wrote. He added, presciently: “Slow decay is inevitable, and state failure is a matter of time.”
Some elements of the Afghan army did fight hard, including commandos whose heroic efforts are yet to be fully documented. But as a whole the security forces created by the United States and its NATO allies amounted to a “house of cards” whose collapse was driven as much by failures of U.S. civilian leaders as their military partners, according to Anthony Cordesman, a longtime Afghanistan war analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The Afghan force-building exercise was so completely dependent on American largesse that the Pentagon even paid the Afghan troops’ salaries. Too often that money, and untold amounts of fuel, were siphoned off by corrupt officers and government overseers who cooked the books, creating “ghost soldiers” to keep the misspent dollars coming.
Of the approximately $145 bn the U.S. government spent trying to rebuild Afghanistan, about $83 bn went to developing and sustaining its army and police forces, according to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a congressionally created watchdog that has tracked the war since 2008. The $145bn is in addition to $837bn the United States spent fighting the war, which began with an invasion in October 2001.
The $83bn invested in Afghan forces over 20 years is nearly double last year’s budget for the entire U.S. Marine Corps and is slightly more than what Washington budgeted last year for food stamp assistance for about 40m Americans.
In his book, “The Afghanistan Papers,” journalist Craig Whitlock wrote that U.S. trainers tried to force Western ways on Afghan recruits and gave scant thought to whether U.S. taxpayers dollars were investing in a truly viable army.
“Given that the U.S. war strategy depended on the Afghan army’s performance, however, the Pentagon paid surprisingly little attention to the question of whether Afghans were willing to die for their government,” he wrote. (Source: Defense News)
17 Aug 21. South Korea, Australia prepare updated defence agreement. South Korea and Australia are negotiating an updated accord that will pave the way for deeper defence-industrial engagement between the two countries, Janes has learnt.
The restructured agreement could be aligned to support South Korean corporation Hanwha’s efforts to secure two major deals to supply the Australian Army with its Huntsman AS9 self-propelled howitzer (SPH) and Redback infantry fighting vehicle (IFV).
A spokesperson from the Department of Defence (DoD) in Canberra told Janes on 13 August that the updated memorandum of understanding (MOU) on defence industry co-operation would “modernise [the two countries’] existing arrangement to facilitate enhanced industry and materiel collaboration”. The spokesperson did not elaborate.
According to South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), the two sides discussed the updated agreement at a joint committee on defence industry co-operation in late July. This committee was formed under the existing MOU, which was signed by South Korea and Australia in 2001.
DAPA has indicated that it wants to finalise the updated agreement to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Australian-South Korean diplomatic ties in late October 2021.
In September 2020 Hanwha’s Australian subsidiary – Hanwha Defense Australia (HDA) – was named by the Australian DoD as preferred supplier under its Land 8116 Phase 1 programme, which is worth up to AUD1.3 bn (USD950m).
Under this contract, which is currently under negotiation, Hanwha will supply Australia with 30 Huntsman AS9 SPHs and 15 AS10 armoured ammunition resupply vehicles (AARVs): platforms based on Hanwha’s K9 Thunder SPH and K10 AARV. (Source: Jane’s)
17 Aug 21. Gorbachev, leader who pulled Soviets from Afghanistan, says U.S. campaign was doomed from start. Gorbachev, the leader who oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 after Moscow’s failed decade-long campaign there, said on Tuesday that NATO’s own deployment to the country had been doomed from the start.
Gorbachev, 90, regarded the Soviet presence in Afghanistan as a political mistake that was sapping precious resources at a time when the Soviet Union was living through what turned out to be the twilight of its own existence.
The Soviet-backed authorities in Afghanistan survived for three years after the withdrawal by Moscow of its main forces but never recovered from a Russian decision to cut aid to them after the Soviet collapse in January 1992 and fell later that year.
Gorbachev was cited by Russia’s RIA news agency as saying that NATO and the Americans had no chance of success and had badly mishandled their own Afghan campaign.
“They (NATO and the United States) should have admitted failure earlier. The important thing now is to draw the lessons from what happened and make sure that similar mistakes are not repeated,” Gorbachev told RIA.
“It (the U.S. campaign) was a failed enterprise from the start even though Russia supported it during the first stages,” he added.
“Like many other similar projects at its heart lay the exaggeration of a threat and poorly defined geopolitical ideas. To that were added unrealistic attempts to democratise a society made up of many tribes.” (Source: Reuters)
16 Aug 21. Australia confirms deployment for Afghanistan evacuation. The Department of Defence has confirmed that more than 250 personnel are departing Australia to support the Commonwealth’s endeavour to evacuate Australian citizens and visa holders from Afghanistan. The personnel departed onboard a KC-30A from Amberly on 16 August, and will refuel at Australia’s Middle East operating base before travelling onwards to Afghanistan. The mission is part of a wider US-led operation to evacuate nationals and visa holders. According to a statement by Defence, the mission will be continuously evaluated against ongoing developments in the country. The announcement comes as Taliban troops enter Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.
President Joe Biden recently authorised the mobilisation of US troops to ensure the safe evacuation of civilians.
“First, based on the recommendations of our diplomatic, military, and intelligence teams, I have authorised the deployment of approximately 5,000 US troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of US personnel and other allied personnel, and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance,” President Biden said.
“Second, I have ordered our Armed Forces and our intelligence community to ensure that we will maintain the capability and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.
“Third, I have directed the Secretary of State to support President Ghani and other Afghan leaders as they seek to prevent further bloodshed and pursue a political settlement. Secretary Blinken will also engage with key regional stakeholders.”
Earlier today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to comment on whether the Taliban’s rapid advancement had changed Australia’s plans to evacuate citizens and visa holders.
“I’m not going to go into the operations; it’s for the protection of those we’re engaged in seeking to provide for their safety,” PM Morrison said. (Source: Defence Connect)
14 Aug 21. The US Spent $83bn Training Afghan Forces. Why Did They Collapse So Quickly? The U.S. is rushing enough airpower to evacuate thousands as the Taliban advances on Kabul. U.S. Air Force cargo planes and contracted aircraft are headed to Afghanistan to evacuate potentially thousands of Americans and Afghans per day as the Taliban advances on Kabul, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday.
On Thursday the Taliban took Afghanistan’s second largest city, Kandahar, and advances by Taliban fighters have put the country’s capital at risk of falling.
“Time is a precious commodity here,” Kirby said. “Clearly from their actions it appears as if they are trying to get Kabul isolated.”
The need for the rapid departure has raised concern within the Pentagon: How could the U.S.-trained Afghan military collapse so quickly?
Biden’s Allies Defend Afghanistan Withdrawal Amid Taliban Surge
The United States has spent almost $83bn equipping and training the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces, or ANDSF, since 2002, including providing almost $10bn in aircraft and vehicles, according to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
“We have noted with great concern the speed with which they [the Taliban] have been moving and the lack of resistance they have faced” from U.S.-trained Afghan military units, and it was time for those units to fight back, Kirby said.
“They have an air force, which, oh, by the way, is flying more air strikes than we are everyday. They have modern equipment. They have organizational structure,” Kirby said. “They have the benefit of training that we have provided them over 20 years. They have the material, the physical, the tangible advantages. It’s time now to use those advantages.”
Some security experts say the United States should have seen this collapse coming. U.S. forces trained the Afghan army after its own image, with a centralized, national hierarchy and western style of fighting, even when it became clear that large U.S. Army operations in Afghanistan would have to adjust and adapt to insurgent attacks and asymmetric warfare.
“We thought things like Humvees and tanks and artillery pieces and helicopters made it strong,” said Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who has opposed Biden’s Afghanistan plan.
All that gear and national focus, instead of strengthening highly-localized units defending their own homes, did not inspire a will to fight, he said.
Systemic corruption and a weak Afghan government that failed to ensure Afghan forces were paid, or received proper care and compensation after getting wounded, made it worse.
“Are you going to expect people from the North to go fight and die in Helmand? Or Kandahar?” Roggio said.
Afghanistan’s commando forces were an exception to this, Roggio said.
Marine Corps veteran Dan Grazier, a fellow at the Project on Government Oversight, said when U.S. training of Afghan forces first began, there was no overall plan on how to build a successful Afghan Army that could sustain itself. That left the shaping to individual U.S. military units that frequently rotated out, losing progress or continuity of training.
“Because we didn’t have resident experts at the beginning, the Army and Marine Corps essentially defaulted to what they knew and tried to craft the Afghan Army in their own image,” Grazier said. “We trained them to capabilities and provided them with a bunch of equipment they couldn’t sustain on their own.”
Biden officials earlier this year had promised to continue equipping Afghan forces with cash and weapons as U.S. troops withdrew, but the Taliban’s advance—and the number of Afghan units flipping sides—has observers like Roggio asking whether U.S. logistical and equipment support should continue?
“It’s hard to recommend you pour any more war material into Afghanistan if Afghans are not going to use it to fight,” Roggio said.
In July, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found the Defense Department has spent $3.74bn on fuel for Afghan forces from fiscal year 2010 to 2020 and “plans to spend an additional $1.45 bn through FY 2025.”
“This fuel was required to operate more than $9.82bn in vehicles and aircraft DOD procured for the ANDSF, and to provide power to ANDSF bases and installations.”
Over the last 20 years the U.S. has given the Afghan Air Force more than 130 aircraft. In July, the Defense Department said it was providing the Afghan Air Force more aircraft—including 35 Black Hawks and three A-29 Super Tucanos—in a sign of continued commitment to the Kabul government even as U.S. forces withdrew. Three of the Black Hawks were delivered last month.
The Defense Department was not able to immediately respond to a request for comment on whether or not those additional aircraft would still be sent, or be held back, to keep them from falling into Taliban hands.
The Pentagon was also working on plans to provide future contracted maintenance support for the Afghan Air Force that would have been conducted remotely. On Friday, Kirby said that DOD is still planning to provide Afghan forces that resupply and maintenance support.
“We are focused on the security situation as we see it now,” Kirby said.
Congress has already put one block in place, with a stipulation in the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that would cut off that aid if Kabul falls. The bill directs that “none of the funds provided may be ‘available for the transfer of funds, supplies, or other items of monetary value to the Taliban or members of other terrorist groups.’”
The rapid collapse of the Afghan army across Afghanistan also increased concerns that the thousands of interpreters and others who aided Americans and are waiting for visas to exit Afghanistan could be left behind.
The United States is speeding additional aircraft and personnel to Kabul’s airport to keep the runways open to allow U.S. airlift to get people out safely.
Kim Motley, an attorney who has worked in Afghanistan since 2008, has been assisting Afghans with the special immigrant visa process. She said she’s been hearing from worried Afghans who do not understand why their visas have not been processed.
“I do think the sentiment is that the U.S. is abandoning them,” Motley said. “This is a human rights nuclear bomb and the international community lit the match.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense One)
16 Aug 21. Malaysia flexes missile capabilities of submarine, Kasturi-class corvettes in South China Sea. The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) has carried out a rare demonstration of its anti-surface capabilities in the South China Sea, with the firings of three Exocet missiles.
The firings, which also involved the first known launch of an anti-ship missile from the Kasturi (Type FS 1500)-class corvette, KD Lekir, since the ship completed its upgrade in 2014, was carried out on 12 August as part of Exercise ‘Taming Sari 20/21′.
KD Lekir and its sister ship, KD Kasturi, each fired an Exocet MM40 Block II missile against a surface target, while the Perdana Menteri (Scorpene)-class submarine, KD Tun Razak , launched an Exocet SM39 Block II anti-ship missile while it was submerged.
“The successful test firings of these missiles, which were all on target, is a clear demonstration of the navy’s professionalism, ability, and readiness to deploy our assets and defend the country,” said the RMN in a statement published via an official social media channel on 15 August.
Also involved in the six-day exercise include vessels and aircraft from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), and more than 1,080 personnel from the RMN, the MMEA, and the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), the service added.
Kasturi and Lekir are both German-built, 1,800-tonne corvettes that were commissioned by the RMN in 1984. The vessels each underwent an extensive ship life extension programme (SLEP) at Boustead Naval Shipyard in 2009, and the upgrades include a new combat management system, 30 mm guns, and new optronics and torpedo launchers. Kasturi. (Source: Jane’s)
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Home land Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company