Ata Mohammad Noor, leader of Jamiat-e Islami party and a key U.S. ally in the 2001 defeat of the Taliban blames a fractious Afghan government and an “irresponsible” American departure for the insurgents’ recent rapid territorial gains across the north.
Ata Mohammad Noor told The Associated Press that the Afghan military is badly demoralized. He said Washington’s quick exit left the Afghan military logistically unprepared for the Taliban onslaught.
He said that even he had not expected the Taliban’s rapid wins, particularly in nearby Badakhshan province in the country’s northeast corner.
“It was surprising for me that in 24 hours, 19 districts of Badakhshan were surrendered without a fight,” said Noor.
He said in some areas the Taliban were small in number, perhaps even too few to capture a district, yet the military handed over their weapons and left.
Mr. Noor was harsh in his criticism of the fractious Afghan leadership, saying it often left the army without reinforcements in battle or even food and erratically paid soldiers’ salaries. He said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani rules with a coterie of four people, a reference to the president’s increasingly reduced inner circle.
Still, leader of Jamiat-e Islami said the signs of a dispirited military predated Biden’s mid-April announcement that the U.S. was ending its “forever war,” noting that Afghan army recruitment was already down by 60% and corruption was widespread.
“We advised the government then that they had to work on the morale of the military, they had to be unified, but they did not listen,” he said.
Noor also criticized the Afghan government’s fighting strategy, saying the Afghan National Security and Defense forces’ leadership has overused its elite commando units. He said this included sending them into battle without proper preparations for reinforcements and re-supplies, as well as ordering them to hold checkpoints, a job they are not meant to do. Commandos were also not given proper rest, he said.
Though the Afghan air force has well-trained pilots, Noor said the fleet was overused and under-maintained. As a result, “most of the planes are back on the ground. They cannot fly and most of them are out of ammunition,” he added.
US irresponsible departure
Ata Mohammad Noor also slammed the quick U.S. departure as irresponsible. While Afghanistan appreciated the money and manpower America invested in the country, it did nothing to make Afghanistan self-sufficient, he said.
“We needed factories to produce our own ammunition and workshops to repair the aircraft and other vehicles that were given to the Afghan forces,” said Noor. “But the international forces did not work to build a foundation, a self-sufficiency in Afghanistan.”
Earlier this year as the Taliban gained momentum, Noor was one of the first to press for the creation of new militias, calling it a “people’s uprising.” Last month, the government launched a mobilization program, helping arm and finance volunteers under local commanders.
Noor said the new uprising forces are needed as much to help bolster army morale as fight the Taliban.
“There is a real possibility of a civil war. This is a very dangerous possibility,” he said. He warned it would be stoked by Afghanistan’s neighbors — Pakistan, Iran, Russia and India — all of whom use Afghan factions to advance their interests.
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