On the afternoon of August 15, the day Kabul fell to the Taliban, Ahmad Javid, a 37-year-old soldier in the Afghan security forces, was preparing to head north to test a new weapon system that his unit had finished training on the day before.
“It was specialised training given to a chosen few of us on new equipment acquired by the military. It was supposed to help us get an upper hand in the battle against the Taliban,” he told The National, speaking from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan.
“But then our commander came and told us to hand over all our weapons and uniforms. He said the Taliban had taken over Arg [the presidential palace] and the president had fled the country. We had lost the war,” Javid said, his voice quivering with emotions.
With a sense of disbelief and betrayal, Javid, along with some of his colleagues, refused to accept defeat. They handed over their weapons but kept their uniform and flags, and left their base towards an uncertain future in hiding.
“I told my commander that neither you nor I have been trained to surrender. We are trained to fight till the last drop of blood in our veins,” he said.
Final Taliban offensive
Similar scenes were unfolding across the country. As the Taliban completed their takeover of Afghanistan, thousands of soldiers were being asked to surrender. Their erstwhile foreign allies were completing a chaotic withdrawal from what had become America’s longest war.
US President Joe Biden appeared on national TV the following day, announcing that the Afghan military had collapsed.
“American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves,” he said, adding that the US did everything they could to support the Afghan forces but they failed anyway, “sometimes without fighting”.
“We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future,” he said.
In April 2021, Afghan forces controlled 129 of the nearly 400 districts in the country, but their area of control plummeted to a mere 73 districts by July 23, according to Long War Journal, a US defence analysis website.
As President Biden suggested, many of these districts were indeed handed-over to the Taliban without a fight.
However, many former soldiers, commanders and security experts strongly disagree with President Biden’s assessment that blames Afghan soldiers for their defeat.
“The ANDSF [Afghan National Defence and Security Forces] did not wholly collapse in a matter of days,” Johnathan Schroden, director of CNA’s Countering Threats and Challenges Program, pointed out in a recent paper, which analysed the four months of security breakdown, influenced by various internal and external factors.
Read full report on The National