American training and weapons and tactics would surely build a lasting force capable of holding off a numerically inferior, far-less-equipped group of Taliban fighters -- or so our generals and successive presidential administrations thought (or were told).
But as it turned out, the fighting force built by American taxpayers melted away ahead of advancing Taliban troops like ice cream on a hot summer day. But not only did America lose face, so, too, did we lose billions of dollars worth of military equipment -- everything from older M-16 rifles and body armor to some state-of-the-art air assets.
"Built and trained at a two-decade cost of $83 billion, Afghan security forces collapsed so quickly and completely — in some cases without a shot fired — that the ultimate beneficiary of the American investment turned out to be the Taliban. They grabbed not only political power but also U.S.-supplied firepower — guns, ammunition, helicopters and more," The Associated Press reported this week.
"The Taliban captured an array of modern military equipment when they overran Afghan forces. Bigger gains followed, including combat aircraft, when the Taliban rolled up provincial capitals and military bases," the AP continued.
A video posted online by a military contractor at the international airport in Kabul shows a plethora of personal gear and weapons that have simply been abandoned by the Afghan military which will fall into the hands of the Taliban once the U.S. military has completely withdrawn from the country, which will happen sooner rather than later.
In addition to small arms and other equipment, the Taliban have managed to get their hands of fleets of up-armored Humvees and MRAPs -- mine-resistant armored vehicles U.S. and Afghan troops used to traverse the countryside to protect themselves from roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The AP noted that on Monday, defense officials confirmed that the Taliban was now in possession of "enormous" caches of U.S.-supplied weapons.
"The reversal is an embarrassing consequence of misjudging the viability of Afghan government forces — by the U.S. military as well as intelligence agencies — which in some cases chose to surrender their vehicles and weapons rather than fight," the newswire reported.
In fact, according to a Washington Post report, the latter (surrender) was the norm rather than the exception, which explains why the Taliban, at about 75,000 men, were able to overrun the 300,000-strong Afghan National Army.
“The spectacular collapse of Afghanistan’s military that allowed Taliban fighters to walk into the Afghan capital Sunday despite 20 years of training and billions of dollars in American aid began with a series of deals brokered in rural villages between the militant group and some of the Afghan government’s lowest-ranking officials,” the paper reported.
“The deals, initially offered early last year, were often described by Afghan officials as cease-fires, but Taliban leaders were in fact offering money in exchange for government forces to hand over their weapons, according to an Afghan officer and a U.S. official.”
Reporting further, the Post said that these negotiations began about 18 months ago, beginning at the district and then the provincial levels, "culminating in a breathtaking series of negotiated surrenders [our emphasis] by government forces," multiple interviews with Afghan troops, special operations soldiers, police and military officers revealed.
In other words, the fix was in: There was never going to be a "fight" for control of Afghanistan; the Taliban was always going to be back in charge.
We don't have all the details yet, but there are reports emerging that U.S. military and political leaders knew this years ago. When those details become available, as we know they will, we'll report them.
In the meantime, the American empire most of us never wanted is collapsing.