The Afghan government’s biggest policy mistake leading up to the US withdrawal was its failure to grasp that the US was planning to leave no matter what, according to a former national security adviser to ex-president Ghani.
“I think not seeing that writing on the wall probably was one of the biggest” mistakes Afghani President Ashraf Ghani could have made as the end of the US occupation approached, former national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday.
“We should have understood that the United States had made its decision and would withdraw under any circumstances. That probably is one of the reasons we were unable to secure another outcome.”
Asked, however, if the ousted Afghan government had actually believed the US would have stayed in the country longer if the situation on the ground had been different, Mohib said “no.”
Nevertheless, he blamed the US and other coalition partners for not putting more effort and resources into the maintenance of a “democratic Afghanistan.”
I felt that our partners, the US included, believed in a democratic Afghanistan, a place where we were going to preserve the gains of the last 20 years
“I thought those gains meant something,” he added.
Kabul fell almost instantaneously to the Taliban once the Biden administration made its hasty exit, with some comparing chaotic evacuation scenes that followed to the US’ tail-between-the-legs rush departure from Saigon after losing the Vietnam War. Similar to the iconic images of people clinging to a helicopter lifting off from the roof of the US Embassy, the final days of the Afghan occupation saw Afghans who had worked with the US attempting to cling to the wings of a plane as it left the war-ravaged country.
While the Biden administration’s effort to end the ‘endless war’ in Afghanistan initially had bipartisan support, the chaotic manner in which it was executed – leaving hundreds of Afghan civilians who had collaborated with coalition troops behind – drew criticism from across the aisle. The Taliban, which at the time of the US’ departure controlled more territory than it had at the start of the US invasion, quickly routed the Afghan military. The withdrawal was plagued by apparent miscommunication between Afghan and US troops, with the new commander of Bagram Air Base claiming that the US military even failed to notify him of their departure from the base which once was the linchpin of the US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan.
President Joe Biden pushed back against allegations of incompetence at the time by blaming the Afghan military for refusing to stand and fight, noting that the US military had “trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces.” The US had lost thousands of service members in the quagmire of nation-building, the president argued, calling for the Afghans to “fight for themselves, fight for their nation.”