The Afghan National Army (ANA) would not last more than six months, and the Kabul government would collapse, if the United States were to withdraw its financial and military support, declared Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Afghanistan has received an estimated $121 billion in American taxpayer funds for nation-building efforts alone since 2001.
Asked by CBS News’ 60 Minutes about alleged comments from the Afghan people that “if the U.S. pulled out, your government would collapse in three days,” Ghani responded, “From the resource perspective, they are absolutely right. We will not be able to support our army for six months without U.S. support, and U.S. capabilities.”
CBS News pressed again, “Did you just say that without the U.S. support your army couldn’t last six months?”
“Yes,” replied the Afghan president. “Because we don’t have the money.”
His comments come after the United States has already invested nearly $1 trillion on the war effort in Afghanistan since fiscal year (FY) 2002, including $121 billion on reconstruction efforts alone.
The Afghan war started on October 7, 2001, soon after the start of FY 2002 (October 1, 2001, thru September 30, 2002).
“More than 60% [$73.5 billion] of the approximately $121 billion in U.S. funding for reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2002 has gone to build up the ANDSF [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces],” reported the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog agency.
U.S. military troops have also suffered more than 2,260 deaths and nearly 20,290 injuries since they deployed to Afghanistan to combat the Taliban and al-Qaeda more than 16 years ago, in response to the 9/11 attacks.
Despite billions in U.S. taxpayer funds invested in the ANDSF, which includes military and police units, the forces continue to suffer from capability lapses and the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance continues to pose a threat.
The ANDSF does have a will to fight—they have suffered the brunt of the casualties in recent years.
“Afghan losses have been the greatest of all: more than twice as many ANDSF members were killed in the single year of 2016 than U.S. forces in Afghanistan have lost since 2001,” revealed SIGAR at the end of April 2017.
“The [U.S.] contributes around 90 [percent] of Afghanistan’s [defense] budget and observers in Washington say that in 16 years the [U.S.] and its allies have only made some moderate gains. They claim that the Taliban still control large chunks of land in the Pashtun belt and the government in Kabul has so far been unable to dislodge them,” noted Dawn, citing the CBS interview.
“The protection [for Afghanistan] is nearly all paid for by American taxpayers, who foot 90 percent—more than 4 billion a year—of the Afghan military budget,” stressed CBS News.
According to the latest independent and U.S. government assessments, the Taliban, the most prominent terrorist group in Afghanistan, controlled or contested about 45 percent of Afghanistan as of the end of September 2017.
However, declining to participate in peace talks with the Kabul government in 2016, arguing that they were winning at the time, Taliban jihadists have approved Pakistan-based negotiations, Reuters learned from anonymous sources.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has been using the power of the purse to pressure Pakistan to stop harboring the Afghan Taliban and use the influence it has over the jihadists bring them to the negotiation table.
Referring to the impact of Trump’s Afghan war strategy at the time, U.S. Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, told Pentagon reporters in November 2017, “In the face of this pressure, the Taliban cannot win. Their choices are to reconcile [with Kabul government], live in irrelevance, or die.”
Also interviewed by CBS News, Nicholson struck a more positive note than Ghani.
“This is the end game. This is a policy that can deliver a win,” declared Nicholson, alluding to Trump’s South Asia strategy, which primarily focuses on the war in Afghanistan.
Ghani acknowledged that the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is home to 21 jihadist groups, which the Pentagon recently deemed as “the highest regional concentration of terrorist groups in the world.”
The Afghan leader told CBS, “21 international terrorist groups are operating in this country. Dozens of suicide bombers are being sent. There are factories … producing suicide bombers. We are under siege. And conditions of siege require protective responses.”