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Afghanistan in the military-political dynamics of the United States (2001 - 2021)
Material posted: Publication date: 22-11-2022
The conflict in Afghanistan has become the longest-running US military company, for which more than one trillion dollars was allocated and cost the lives of approximately 2,461 American servicemen. The decision to start the company in Afghanistan was made by D. Bush in 2001 in response to the terrorist act committed in the United States by Al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001. The military operation, "Enduring Freedom", was aimed at destroying Al-Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for the terrorist act committed, and the Taliban regime, which gave it shelter.

The officially declared goals of the United States were: the overthrow of the Taliban regime, the liberation of the territory of Afghanistan from the influence of the Taliban, the capture and trial of Al-Qaeda members.

During the year, about 10,000 US troops were sent to Afghanistan, and already in 2008 their number reached 48,500 thousand people. As a result of the actions of the United States and its allies, the main elements of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban movement were eliminated.

The war in Afghanistan has become the longest in the history of the United States.  During the period of the US presence in Afghanistan, a number of major military operations were carried out, such as: "Anaconda" 2002, "Mongoose" 2003, "Mountain Breakthrough" 2006, "Medusa" 2006, "Mountain Rage" 2006, "Moshtarak" 2010, and finally the evacuation operation "Shelter for Allies" 2021

The history of the formation of the Afghan National Army (ANA) during the presence of NATO forces in the country began in 2002. At the same time, the leading role in the creation of the ANA belonged to the United States and was assigned to the Joint Central Command of the US Department of Defense.

From year to year, the number of ANAS was constantly growing. So, according to American sources, in March 2008, there were 55 thousand soldiers in the Afghan army, and by November 2015, the number of ANA was already 195 thousand soldiers. However, the efficiency and combat capability of these formations remained low. In Afghanistan, whole counties gradually came under the control of the Taliban and other illegal armed groups, with which the Afghan security forces maintained an unspoken truce. As of autumn 2019, the central government already controlled a little over 40% of the country's territory.

In the summer of 2015, the National Priorities Project, an American non-governmental organization, published studies that reported that in the period from 2001 to 2015 alone, the United States spent about $ 715 billion on military operations in Afghanistan. Despite this, the main goal of destroying the Taliban forces was not achieved.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking at a meeting of the US Congress in March 2015, said that more than 1 million Americans had served and worked in Afghanistan. At the same time, according to official data, 2,315 servicemen were killed and 20,000 were injured. During the entire period of the US presence (2001-2021), 2,461 people were killed.

The main external factor on the Afghan military-political scene until the summer of 2021 was the United States, which actually supervised the processes taking place in the country. The situation remained under their full control until 2014-2015, when about 100 thousand NATO troops were constantly in the country.

The development of the situation in Afghanistan was also significantly influenced by the fact that despite the presence of NATO forces led by the United States in the country, the main axis of all contradictions has always been present in the political space of Afghanistan, such as: "Pashtuns are not Pashtuns", and constant strife and internal clashes were also observed within these two groups.  Serious contradictions between various political forces and ethnic factions did not contribute to the consolidated efforts of the new Afghan political authorities to improve the situation in the country. All these factors testified that the probability of a political crisis in the country was always high and there was a danger of transition to the most acute phase.

After confirming in the spring of 2021 the intentions of the complete withdrawal of American troops, the Taliban, taking advantage of the reduction of the American contingent, launched an offensive against the positions of the Afghan army and by early August 2021 had already established control over most of the territory of Afghanistan, while the number of Taliban forces ranged from 50-70 thousand people, which was significantly inferior to the Afghan Armed Forces.

It should be noted that by 2021, the total number of the Afghan army, police and other law enforcement agencies has already been estimated at more than 300 thousand people. At the same time, in the armed forces, military equipment was mostly Soviet weapons, and then US weapons. However, desertion was widespread among the government forces, there were whole units of so-called "ghost soldiers" - that is, they exist on paper, but in fact do not exist.

In the armed forces of Afghanistan, the core of about 40-50 thousand servicemen was considered the most trained and motivated, and these are mainly special forces (SSO) and individual parts of the ANA, as well as security and police forces, which were trained by instructors from the United States and their other NATO allies.

During 2020 and until the summer of 2021, by transferring special forces to the most problematic areas, the Afghan government managed for some time to stop the Taliban's advance or regain control of the lost territories. However, it gradually became clear that these most trained 40-50 thousand people of government troops are clearly not enough for the country's leadership. The special forces and the most trained units of the Afghan army were exhausted and suffered significant losses over the past two years.

Throughout the spring and early summer of 2021, after the American authorities withdrew the bulk of their troops, the situation in Afghanistan began to deteriorate rapidly. The Taliban began to step up their offensive against government forces throughout the country.

Most counties and cities ended up in the hands of the Taliban not as a result of fighting, but after negotiations with government forces that simply refused to fight them, and those units that were ready for a clash with the Taliban sometimes began to receive strange orders from higher command not to engage in battle. Thus, the shortage and depletion of forces, receiving commands not to engage in combat with the Taliban, the low combat capability of most parts of the ANA, as well as the actions of the United States on the sudden surrender of the Kabul regime led in August 2021 to a catastrophic breakdown of the entire system of military control of the Afghan Armed Forces and the extremely rapid fall of the government of Ashraf Ghani.

The main reasons for the problems of the Afghan authorities and the United States (NATO) in ensuring security were:
  • lack of a specific military-political strategy to combat militants;
  • weak intelligence and operational control of the situation on the ground;
  • failure of the work of the civil administration on the ground and control over it;
  • the Taliban was weak by the standards of strong modern armies, but the militants developed, improved tactical techniques and schemes, improved the combat control system, which ultimately allowed them to win victories over the Afghan army.; 
  • the trained Afghan army was not capable enough to confront the Taliban forces on its own. As a result of the US's quick decision to withdraw its military contingents, the control system of the ANA Armed Forces was disrupted, which caused paralysis in Afghan units and formations, leading to the rapid fall of the Afghan regime and the capture of Kabul by the Taliban movement, the capital of the country.

However, at the moment, taking into account the prevailing internal and external factors, the probability of a socio-economic and further military-political crisis in the country is high. And at the same time, it underlines that the Afghan problem has not yet been resolved and retains for 2-3 years the danger of transition into a crisis state of civil or internecine war.


List of sources
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  2. Ganiev T.A. "The Taliban movement and its role in shaping the military-political situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: history and modernity". Collection of materials of the scientific conference of the Faculty of Foreign Languages. M. VU. 2021.
  3. Ganiev T.A. "The development of the military-political situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which led to the fall of the Kabul regime and the coming to power of the Taliban movement." Collection of materials of the interdepartmental scientific conference of the Faculty of Foreign Languages. M. VU. 2021.
  4. Ganiev T.A., Gorbenko K.A. Afghanistan in US Geopolitics: Military conflict and the Development of the Military-political situation (2001-2021). Collection of materials of the scientific conference of the Faculty of Foreign Languages. M. VU. 2022.
  5. Mendkovich, N. Analysis of the military situation in Afghanistan at the beginning of 2019. http://evrazklub.ru/analitik/analiz-voennoy-situatsii-v-afganistane-na-nachalo-2019-goda.html
  6. The new US strategy in Afghanistan. https://www.eurasian-research.org/publication / new strategy-USA/?lang=ru. Date of visit (28.09.2022).
  7. Ebrahim (2017). A war we will never win. Pretoria News. https://www.iol.co.za / pretoria-news/the war that-the-USA-will-never-win-118 38981. Date of visit (28.09.2022).
  8. R. Mohan (2017).  Pakistan and Trump: ready for a deal?.  Indian Express.: http:// indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/pakistan-u.s-pakistan-relations-washington-islamabad-relations-donald-trump-terrorism-4882400/. Date of visit (25.09.2022).
  9. Hannah (2017). Trump's Strategy in Afghanistan Can Really Work.Foreign Policy.: http:// foreignpolicy.com/2017/09/01/trumps-afghan-strategy-could-actually-work /. Date of visit (25.09.2022).

Kristina Gorbenko

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