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Thomas Gallatin / January 20, 2022

Biden Was Warned Months Before Pullout of Taliban Takeover

A newly released SIGAR report shows Team Biden was warned of an Afghan military collapse following a U.S. withdrawal.

Joe Biden just put some spit and polish on the steaming pile that is his first year in office, but arguably his biggest failure was surrendering Afghanistan to the Taliban. And on that front, we have new and more confirmation that the Pentagon knew and warned the Biden administration back in January 2021 that the Afghan air force would collapse following a U.S. troop withdrawal. According to a newly declassified report submitted by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko to the Department of Defense, the Afghan air force lacked the necessary number of trained personnel to maintain the aircraft without American help.

Furthermore, Sopko wasn’t the only one sending warnings. A key U.S. ally and warlord in northern Afghanistan, Ata Mohammed Noor, observed regarding the Afghan air force: “Most of the planes are back on the ground. They cannot fly and most of them are out of ammunition.”

The Associated Press reports: “The newly declassified SIGAR report says that between 2010 and 2019, the U.S. spent $8.5 billion ‘to support and develop’ the Afghan air force and its elite unit, the Special Mission Wing. But the report warns that both are ill-prepared. It also warns against removing the hundreds of U.S. contractors who maintained the aircraft fleet.”

Sopko noted NATO’s decision in 2019 to transition from building the Afghan air force to training it to maintaining its longterm survival, an effort for which he gave a failing grade. The disastrous Afghan exit results proved his assessment to be right on the money. The big problem, as Sopko saw it, was that the vast majority of U.S. and NATO’s efforts and focus went toward training new pilots while little serious effort was given to training support personnel. Sopko said that while the Pentagon boasted of the Afghan air force gaining “in combat operation capabilities, pilot and ground crew proficiency, as well as air-to-ground integration,” he warned that our allies continued “to struggle with human capital limitations, leadership challenges, aircraft misuse, and a dependence on contractor logistic support.”

What’s most frustrating about this latest revelation is the fact that the Biden administration was telling the American people just the opposite. A mere six months after this SIGAR report, Joe Biden told the public, “I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more … competent in terms of conducting war.” But it went even further than that, as Biden denied that U.S. intelligence had warned of an Afghan collapse following a U.S. pullout.

At the time, Biden was asked, “Mr. President … your own intelligence community has assessed that the Afghan government will likely collapse.” Biden quickly responded, “That is not true.” A followup question was asked: “Can you please clarify what they have told you about whether that will happen or not?” Biden: “That is not true. They did not — they didn’t — did not reach that conclusion.”

Biden then added his now infamous comment: “The Taliban is not the South — the North Vietnamese army. They’re not — they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.” Well, it was comparable and it did happen, almost as if choreographed.

And this was no “honest mistake,” as those defending Biden have suggested. The administration had full knowledge of this report and took efforts to suppress the report by dubiously classifying it. “The inspector general’s office told The Associated Press on Monday that it is rare for SIGAR reports to be classified but when they are, a declassified version is issued by the Pentagon in under two months,” the AP said. “The office said it did not know why it took the Defense Department more than a year before declassifying this particular report, or why it did so now, five months after the Taliban took power.”

The blame here does not lie with U.S. military intelligence, as it was clearly and repeatedly communicated that withdrawal would lead to the likely collapse of the Afghan military and government. Biden and his administration bear the totality of blame for this colossal failure. Willful ignoring of warnings led to the Taliban’s complete takeover, the deaths of 13 U.S. military personnel and more than 100 Afghan civilians, the stranding of hundreds of American citizens behind enemy lines (of which at least 80 still remain), and the as yet unknown consequences from a display of American weakness before the watching world.

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