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Watchdog: U.S. withdrawal mainly to blame for collapse of Afghan gov't

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Watchdog: U.S. withdrawal mainly to blame for collapse of Afghan gov't
Refugees are evacuated from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 26. File Photo by Hassan Majeed/UPI | License Photo

May 18 (UPI) -- A government watchdog that monitors Afghanistan said in a report Wednesday that the decisions by Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden to pull out American troops were the primary reasons the U.S.-supported regime there collapsed last year.

The factors in the Afghan collapse and subsequent Taliban takeover were outlined in the report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, titled, Collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces: An Assessment of the Factors That Led to Its Demise.

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The report spread blame for the Afghan government's fall in August 2021, including to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani for failing to develop a workable military strategy or trusting U.S.-trained security leaders.

Despite U.S. efforts to train the Afghan National Defense and Security Force for years, they depended too much on American forces for protection and keeping their government accountable for salaries, according to the SIGAR report.

President Joe Biden speaks about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in a speech at the White House on August 31. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
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Wednesday's assessment came about nine months after the Afghan regime collapsed following the U.S. withdrawal and Taliban troops swiftly overtook Kabul. Officials say Ghani had little faith in his defense forces and fled the country before the Taliban took over.

"The single most important factor in the collapse ... was the U.S. decision to withdraw military forces and contractors from Afghanistan through signing the U.S.-Taliban agreement in February 2020 under the Trump administration, followed by President Biden's withdrawal announcement in April 2021," the report states.

SIGAR added that morale among the Afghan forces had been "destroyed" by the U.S. withdrawal -- and especially by Trump's negotiating directly with the Taliban.

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The report added that although Afghan forces had a stockpile of U.S. weapons and supplies, the withdrawal of a maintenance contract in May of last year reduced their ability to use them. The forces also lacked food, water and other vital military equipment to fight off the Taliban's advances.

SIGAR also blamed Ghani for removing well-trained security forces from leadership positions and replacing them with loyalists. Those moves "weakened military chains of command, trust and morale," it said.

Trump's deal aimed to withdraw all U.S. troops by May 2021, but the deadline was pushed back to August after Biden took office. Biden on several occasions stuck with his plan to withdraw from the war-ravaged country, insisting that American forces can't simply stay in Afghanistan on an indefinite basis after 20 years of fighting.

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The evacuation ultimately became chaotic as the Taliban retook control of Kabul and a rival terrorist group, known as ISIS-K, launched attacks in the city. More than a dozen U.S. Marines were killed on Aug. 26 in coordinated bombings by ISIS-K fighters near the airport in Kabul. Biden later ordered a drone strike against ISIS-K targets in Kabul, which also killed several civilians.

Scenes from the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley deliver remarks about the end of the 20-year military mission in Afghanistan at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., on September 1. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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