Governments and Mercenaries

Images of appalling violence and humanitarian distress surrounding the recently completed crisis evacuations from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul have brought into sharp relief the failure of the Afghan Armed Forces to contain a Taliban insurgency mounted by inferior numbers of poorly equipped men. Despite being resourced with a decade or more of training and sophisticated military hardware valued at more than 100 billion US dollars, soldiers of the Afghan state succumbed to a fractionalised force of religious zealots driving pick-up trucks and wearing leather sandals.

The reasons for this failure are manifold, and no doubt will be subject to commentary, analysis and debate for years to come. Whilst it appears self-evident that President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to flee overseas rather than remain in Afghanistan and exhort his soldiers to hold out played a big part in the rapid collapse of state resistance to the Taliban’s advance, the bigger question is why, after so much investment in the country’s Armed Forces across such a protracted period, had the insurgents not already been effectively contained, or even defeated?

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