SIGAR: Ashraf Ghani’s ethnic favouritism and politicisation led to army collapse

The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in its new report has said that the collapse of the Afghan Security Forces was caused by the ethnic favoritism and politicisation by former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, which paved the way for the Taliban’s return to power.

The US Afghanistan watchdog said in its report released on Tuesday that “Former President Ashraf Ghani frequently changed ANDSF leaders and appointed loyalists, often based on ethnicity, which politicized the ANDSF.” The report referred to the former Afghan forces as the ANSDF, which stands for the Afghan National Security and Defence Forces.

According to SIGAR, the decision by both the Trump and Biden administrations to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan laid the foundation for subsequent decisions that contributed to the collapse of the Afghan army.

The release of SIGAR’s report coincides with National Soldier’s Day on February 28, which was celebrated during the previous Afghan government. On this occasion, Masoom Stanekzai, a former Afghan intelligence chief, stated that the Afghan security forces’ achievements were lost due to the mistakes made by Afghan political leaders and their political differences.

Indirectly pointing to the Taliban’s crackdown of former security forces, Stanikzai said in a tweet that Afghan forces and their families were facing many problems nowadays.

According to SIGAR’s report, the Afghan forces heavily relied on the US military presence to resist losses against the Taliban and viewed the US as a means to hold their government accountable for paying their salaries. The report clarified that the US-Taliban agreement signed under the Trump administration in 2020 made it clear that this was no longer the case, which resulted in a sense of abandonment within the ANDSF and the Afghan population. This weakened the morale of the Afghan forces.

SIGAR found that other factors that led to the collapse were the limitations on US airstrikes after the US-Taliban deal, the Afghan Air Force’s dependence on US forces, and the Taliban’s exploitation of the weaknesses of the Afghan forces.

The US’s unrealistic commitment to building a self-sustaining security sector, the lack of a stable organization tasked with developing the ANDSF, the inadequate and inexperienced foreign advisers of the Afghan forces, the lack of effective interagency oversight, and corruption within the ANDSF were the five other “underlying and systemic factors” that the US Afghan watchdog found to have contributed to the army’s collapse.

SIGAR said that the US spent nearly $90 billion for developing an independent and self-sustaining Afghan security force between 2001 and 2021.