The Taliban is training and operating with U.S. military equipment including rifles, trucks, and helmets with night vision mounts since the Biden administration withdrew American troops from Afghanistan last year. Taliban forces even held a military parade with dozens of U.S.-provided armored vehicles and Mi-17 helicopters flying overhead, according to a federal audit documenting the collapse of the American-funded Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). For two decades the U.S. government spent a mind-boggling $90 billion to help the ANDSF develop into a self-sustaining force capable of combatting terrorist groups like the Taliban. It never happened.
When the Biden administration withdrew U.S. troops in August 2021 the ANDSF crumbled and the Taliban took over, generating images and videos of soldiers wearing U.S.-provided clothing and brandishing U.S.-provided rifles. “Taliban units now patrol in pickup trucks and armored vehicles likely procured by the U.S. and provided to the ANDSF,” reads the report published by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which was created by Congress to provide independent and objective oversight of Afghanistan reconstruction projects and activities. “Taliban special operations troops, known as Badri 313 units, wear helmets with night vision mounts likely provided by the United States, and carry U.S.-provided M4 rifles equipped with advanced gunsights.” The report continues. “Khalil Haqqani, a senior Taliban leader, carried a U.S.-provided rifle as he attended prayers at a mosque in Kabul following the collapse.” The examples show that the terrorist group is now equipped with material that was supplied by the U.S. to defeat it, the watchdog writes.
The 43-page report, which has 17 pages of endnotes, was released to the public earlier this year and determined that the single most important factor in the ANDSF’s collapse was the U.S. decision to withdraw military forces and contractors from Afghanistan. Since 2002, the United States deployed military and civilian personnel to train, advise, and mentor Afghan soldiers, police, and ministry officials, the report reveals, adding that Uncle Sam provided the ANDSF over 600,000 weapons, 300 aircraft, 80,000 vehicles, communication equipment, and other advanced material, such as night vision goggles and biometric systems. As part of its probe SIGAR reviewed hundreds of government and academic reports related to the development of Afghan forces and its subsequent collapse. Investigators also conducted more than 40 interviews with former Afghan government officials, former ANDSF members, and current and former U.S. government officials, including commanders of U.S. forces and the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A), the unit responsible for the ANDSF’s development. Ambassadors and advisors were also interviewed.
Though quite lengthy, the report leaves a lot of unanswered questions so Judicial Watched filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records that could shed light on the SIGAR probe and provide answers for the American taxpayers that financed the 20-year boondoggle. In its request Judicial Watch asked for emails, interviews, memoranda, reports, and briefings with former Afghan government officials, former ANDSF members, and current and former U.S. government officials, including former commanders of U.S. forces, CSTC-A commanders, ambassadors, and advisors responsible for the development of the Afghan army, air force, special forces, and police, as they relate to the report. A few weeks later Judicial Watch received a letter acknowledging receipt of the FOIA request and several weeks later SIGAR followed up with a letter rejecting the public record request. The watchdog claims only 27 records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request were located but they are exempt from disclosure under measures that protect attorney-client privilege, personal privacy and information compiled for law enforcement that could reasonably be expected to constitute an invasion of personal privacy. The exemptions have official government codes that were cited in the rejection letter.
SIGAR’s refusal to provide the records means the public will never know the entire truth behind the U.S.’s massive failure in Afghanistan and the abrupt demise of the American-funded ANDSF. In the name of transparency the watchdog should provide the information. Ironically, SIGAR recently blasted the State Department for withholding records necessary to investigate how billions of dollars in Afghanistan reconstruction money is being spent. The watchdog condemned the stonewalling in a letter to Congress and the Secretary of State that explains “American taxpayers deserve to know why the Afghan government collapsed after all that assistance, where the money went, and how taxpayer money is now being spent in Afghanistan.”