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Why did the Afghan National Army give up the fight for Afghanistan?

Air Cdre (Retd) Jamal Hussain talks about the sudden fallout of the Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani and ANA surrender to the Taliban despite having the best weapons given by the US. He suspects that the Taliban must have struck a deal with ANA in exchange for their surrender noticing how quickly the army gave up despite being so well equipped.

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Barring the timeline factor, events in Afghanistan are unfolding according to the script posted earlier. The Afghan National government under Ashraf Ghani was expected to survive for at least six months following the completion of US troop withdrawal, but it fell even before the drawdown was completed.

The capitulation of around three hundred thousand soldiers of ANA armed with the most lethal modern weapons supported by the fearsome airpower of the USA capitulated within days to about seventy-eight thousand advancing Taliban fighters has taken the world by surprise. That the Taliban foot soldiers were armed with rudimentary light weaponry with no air cover makes the ANA surrender even more implausible.  The low morale of ANA defense forces and endemic corruption of the Afghan political ruling elites by themselves are not enough to explain this unexpected debacle. Something is amiss.

Read more: Has the time come to accept the Taliban as the new sovereign of Afghanistan?

How did the Taliban achieve victory?

Have the Taliban taken a leaf off the US strategy during the 2003 Iraq invasion? The Iraqi National Guards, a professional military outfit, considered the cream of the Iraqi military, was positioned to defend Iraq, especially it’s capital Baghdad. In the event, the US advancing forces faced little resistance from them and practically breezed past Basra and reached Baghdad, which fell in just two more days.

It has since been revealed the USA and top Iraqi military commanders had met secretly, where it was decided the National Guards would melt away without giving a battle. The USA, in turn, promised no reprisal against them and after the fall of the Saddam regime, the Iraqi military would be reinstated, when the new setup takes over.

Read more: Indian govt should learn from foreign forces defeat in Afghanistan: Chairman IPP

The National Guards kept their part of the bargain but the imbecile Coalition Provisional Authority head, née viceroy, disbanded the Iraqi military on 23rd May 2003, blatantly disregarding the US pledge. The infuriated Iraqi military commanders organized an insurgency with the help of thousands of well-trained and heavily armed ex-soldiers, an uprising that continued to haunt the US military, forcing them to withdraw the combat troops in 2011.

Did the Taliban make a deal with ANA in exchange for their surrender?

Is it possible that the Taliban had struck a similar deal with the senior commanders of the Afghan National Army, promising them amnesty and perhaps reinstatement, after the overthrow of the Afghan National Government? Given the incompetence, impotence and extreme corrupt practices of the Ashraf Ghani led government, did the ANF agree to lay down arms and surrender to the advancing Taliban troops without a fight?

Perhaps this understanding was reached with the tacit understanding of the Americans if in the bargain the Taliban had agreed to allow a peaceful exit of all American and foreign persons from the country once they (the Taliban) assume command. It would explain the almost bloodless take over of all provincial capital cities and finally the capital city of Kabul.

Read more: Economic future of Afghanistan: Linked with CPEC, Pakistan and the region

The ANA must have kept their part of the bargain, and so far the Taliban also appear to honor their pledge. This is one theory that could connect the dots and partially explain the events that have transpired up till now. For the sake of Afghanistan and the region, particularly Pakistan, one hopes there is no repeat of the mayhem and madness one witnessed in 1996.

Air Cdre (Retd) Jamal Hussain has served in Pakistan Air Force from 1966 to 1997. He was awarded Sitara-e-Basalat for his services in the year 1982. He regularly contributes articles on defense issues in the Defence Journal from Pakistan, Probe Magazine (Dhaka – Bangladesh), and national newspapers including Dawn, The News, and The Nation. He is the author of two books on ‘Air Power in South Asia’ and ‘Dynamics of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia’. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.