"Never trust a friend, who leaves you saying that he would be back"— Vietnamese Proverb
The whole world is surprised as to how the Afghan army of 3-3.5 lakhs soldiers, trained and equipped by the USA with sophisticated US weapons has given in to the motley crowd of 75000 Taliban fighters. It is more devastating to know that collapse has taken place within a fortnight. Nobody could anticipate this collapse so fast. Most intelligence Agencies of the USA were giving the Taliban minimum of 90 days to the overrun whole of Afghanistan because they doubted the capability of the Afghan Army to stand and fight. But it has taken not even a week after this CIA report was made public.
There is something fishy. At the centre of this collapse is the sudden withdrawal of US troops, after a likely secret deal in DOHA, between USA and Taliban, before President Joe Biden set the date for withdrawal of US troops. Initially, it was set at September 11, 2021, and then preponed to 31 August 2021.
Notwithstanding the withdrawal of US troops, it is shocking to know that the Afghan Army could not give a stand for a fortnight. It is evident that there were some other reasons. The foremost question is to know the answer as to who was providing logistic and monetary support to the Taliban? Where were the Taliban getting modern weapons from, such as Tanks and Artillery guns, and being trained on them? It is not sufficient to say that they had captured US weapons.
It is surmised that corrupt military leaders and warlords like Ismail Khan of Herat, have been bought over by the Taliban with Chinese money. China is the only country that has recognised Taliban victory and is prepared to have good relations with Afghanistan. A month and a half back Taliban delegation had visited China.
The corruption of the Afghan army officers and their lack of will to fight is evident from the sources in Indian military training institutes where they had been officer cadets. One of the sources disclosed that the Afghan cadets were all “sifarshi” children of the High society of Afghanistan and they hated to do physical exercise. They used to sleep out during training. The Afghan army led by such leaders had no gumption to fight. Poor soldiers were made to surrender and killed by the Taliban.
Whatever President Joe Biden might say now but the sudden pull-out of US troops, may be as part of a secret deal and Taliban not interfering with it, do raise a question on the military capabilities of a superpower, if it was not deliberately done. What's more, as soon as the last elements of US troops left Afghanistan, the Taliban launched its offensive and within 10 days the whole country has fallen.
A view is gaining ground that top Afghan Army leadership was part of this deal. And it was compromised before the Taliban began its offensive. Why has the Afghan army behaved like cowards? The soldiers are Pushtoons too. Probably, they were instructed not to resist. Afghan Army Chief’s sacking, some 4-5 days back, by Ashraf Ghani suggests that Army Chief was on board of the deal. But it was a misfired attempt.
Besides, corruption and poor motivation of its officer leadership, it was also a lack of proper training of soldiers by the USA. Afghan soldiers were trained on American lines — which is an improper way to fight unconventional wars. Technology and money can not beat regimented minds. You need equally regimented soldiers, if not more.
Israeli General Moshe Dayan’s words about US Army in Vietnam resonate in my ears. He had predicted that Helicopters, gunships and road-bound soldiers would not defeat Vietcong. And the same thing was repeated in Afghanistan.
Most of the Afghan soldiers were city-bred softies. 75% of the Afghan population comes from cities. Taliban are basically rural youth, who are unaware of modern amenities of life and religiously motivated. The USA trained these city-bred soldiers with high tech equipment — which proved useless against determined Taliban fighters.
It seems the Taliban had known about the withdrawal of US troops and prepared for its operation. The sacking of the Afghan army Chief provided a trigger to the Taliban to expedite its operations before Army could regroup and organise itself to resist the Taliban. A day before the collapse, President Ashraf Ghani had talked of the “Regrouping” strategy. But it was not to be so. Apparently, President Ashraf Ghani was betrayed by the army and the people he had trusted the most.
“Minus Ashraf Ghani” proposal, as a settlement had existed for quite some time on the table. But it was not openly accepted by the USA to show its solidarity with Ashraf Ghani. The USA also tried Pakistan to get around the Taliban to include Ashraf Ghani as part of the settlement. As usual, Pakistan played a double game and did not want Ashraf Ghani, who had held Pakistan for Afghan quagmire, which is though not without substance.
The deal was worked out at Doha some time back. The deal catered for an interim council without President Ghani and his Vice President Amaraulla. Hamid Karzai, ex Afghan President, & Abdulla Abdulla, present Foreign Minister and prime Negotiator of the Afghan Govt with Taliban were part of this deal. The announcement of the interim council by the Taliban, inclusive of these two names. leaves no doubts. The overall assessment is that the Afghan Govt collapse was a part of a secret deal, brokered by the USA with the Taliban and the Afghan Govt.
The main clause of the deal was to seek the ouster of President Ashraf Ghani and his Vice President — the two hardliners against Taliban and anti-Pakistan.
US betrayal was evident when it did nothing to provide relief to the troubled Afghan Government. After the initial facade of airstrikes by the USA, there were no effective strikes on Taliban hordes as they made a beeline to Kabul, Kandhar, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif. Taliban were using the roads as if they were going on a picnic. If these Taliban columns on highways were strafed by USAF, there would have been nothing left of the Taliban. Airstrikes remained a smokescreen to hide the contents of US - Taliban Deal. The way the Taliban closed on to Kabul after Kandhar, left no doubts with Ashraf Ghani that he has been betrayed and he had no choice but to quit.
Interim Council, headed by Mulla Abdul Brather, which includes Hamid Karzai and Abdulla Abdulla, justify the existence of this secret deal. Taliban had briefly halted on the outskirts of Kabul to allow, Ashraf Ghani and Amaraulla to escape. It is believed it was Abdulla Abdulla who had convinced Ashraf Ghani to leave before the Taliban entered Kabul. There are reports which suggest that Mulla Abdul Gani Brather of the Taliban had spoken to Ashraf Ghani and gave him the offer to leave before the Taliban enter Kabul.
- Mulla Abdul Gani Brather of Taliban had a telephonic conversation with Prez Ashraf Ghani for 30 Mins. Ashraf Ghani agreed to leave Afghanistan.
- It was Mulla Brather’s instructions to Taliban fighters not to enter Kabul.
- Abdulla Abdulla organised Ashraf Ghandi’s departure to Tajikistan — who refuses Ashraf’s presence. It seems Ashraf Ghani went to an undisclosed place.
- Abdulla Abdulla is a key player. He had probably helped work out a deal of Taliban with the USA too. Pakistan is critical of him. Abdulla is a Tajik from the Northern alliance.
India has some satisfaction that the Taliban wants it to continue with development work. Abdulla Abdulla and Hamid Karzai, members of the Interim Council wants it to stay though Pakistan would want India out immediately. Mulla Abdul Brather is a Pakistani sympathiser. But India has its own lobbyists to work for its interests. The Indian embassy in Kabul is in watch and wait mode. The game is on the Chessboard of Afghanistan.
Thus, betrayed by its primary ally and more particularly its army, President Ashraf Ghani had no choice but to flee. What had happened to ex-President Nazeebulla, a few decades back was very well known to Ashraf Ghani. So, he put in practice his Plan B to flee, though in his latest statement he claims that he had quitted to avoid bloodshed. Politicians always have alibis to explain their undesirable acts. It must not be forgotten that he has fled to fight another day. Peace and harmony still are elusive in Afghanistan.
About the Author
Col. Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, commissioned into 3 Bihar. He is a battle-hardened veteran who served in ’71 War & has operated extensively in various insurgency environs across the country. He is a renowned author, and a highly respected defence & national security expert writing for several reputed publications such as ‘Defence and Security Alert’ (DSA), the ‘Indian Defence Review’ (IDR) among others. You can reach him on Twitter: @RajeeKushwaha, Email ID: [email protected]
(Views expressed are the authors own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')