As U.S. combat ends if Afghanistan, worries of a military collapse grow

Afghanistan's police soldiers stand guard while civil society activists take part in a demonstration to protest against Thursday's suicide attack by the Taliban at the French Cultural Centre at a high school in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. A teenage suicide bomber attacked the French-run high school, walking into a packed auditorium during a theater performance and killing a German citizen, Afghan officials said. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

By Brett Gillin

Earlier this week, U.S. and NATO forces officially ended combat operations in Afghanistan. The flag lowering ceremony on December 8 spelled the end of official combat operations and the beginning of a “train and assist” role which is slated to begin next year. While President Obama has stated to the Associated Press that missions against Taliban and al-Qaida targets will continue, the majority of combat by U.S. and NATO forces is ending, and the Afghanistan military forces may be in serious trouble thanks to a number of other factors.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko, released a report on December 10 pointing out programs which were extremely vulnerable throughout the country. On that list was the Afghanistan National Security Force, which includes the army and police force. Sopko stated that due to widespread waste, fraud, and abuse, these forces were at great risk for collapse.

Sopko’s report goes on to proclaim that the Afghanistan economy will not be capable of sustaining the Afghanistan National Security Force after this year. The report claims that domestic revenues in Afghanistan are around $2 billion, but the budget expenses were more than $5.4 billion. He explains “Much of the more than $104 billion the United States has committed to reconstruction projects and programs risks being wasted because the Afghans cannot sustain the investment without massive continued donor support.”

According to the Associated Press, the Afghanistan military is undergoing a major overhaul. Provincial governors are being replaced and major military leaders are being swapped out as well. To this point, it’s doing little to help however. Casualties among the Afghanistan National Security Force have gone up over 6 percent this year.

Compounding this news is a little bit of history. As you read earlier on this website, these problems are far from unprecedented. In fact, after U.S. forces decreased combat operations throughout Iraq, ISIS forces have been mowing through Iraqi security forces. One of the major reasons is the extreme corruption prevalent in Iraq’s government and armed forces. Tens of thousands of soldiers have been dismissed from the Iraqi military after it was discovered that they were not showing up for duty and paying off their superior officers to not be reported.

The situation in Afghanistan may be even worse than what’s happening in Iraq. Azam Ahmed of the New York Times reports “The record casualties of Afghan forces are not sustainable, and neither are their astounding desertion rates… Political meddling, not intelligence, drives Afghan military missions. The police and the army do not work together.” It sounds like a recipe for disaster.


  • Brett Gillin is a journalist and fiction writer based in South Florida. Many of his friends and family members have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, as Police Officers, and first responders. Gillin is currently working on several screenplays, and his writings have been published in numerous national and international publications and websites.

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