Pentagon leaders repeatedly praised Afghan army that collapsed in days

Sen. Cotton on Afghanistan falling to the Taliban

Sen. Tom Cotton says Afghanistan has been taken over by an ‘outlaw, criminal gang’ that threatens the lives of Americans.

The Afghan military caved to Taliban pressure, losing control of the country in a swift and devastating fashion that undermined the praise American military leaders have heaped on them over the years.

For years, American generals have claimed that Afghan forces were improving and developing their ability to handle themselves against the Taliban.

“The Afghan army is increasingly effective,” Gen. James Mattis told Congress in July 2010 at his confirmation hearing when he was nominated for commander of U.S. Central Command. He added that the Afghan military – alongside U.S. forces – were “the worst nightmare for the Taliban.”

In December of that year, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters that Afghan troops were “responsible for security in Kabul,” “performing well” and would “continue to improve.”

Cut to 2012, and Gen. John Allen, then the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, told the House Armed Services Committee, “We remain on track to ensure that Afghanistan will no longer be a safe haven for Al Qaida and will no longer be terrorized by the Taliban.”

Allen went on to say that “as the potential unifying influence in Afghanistan, the Afghan forces are better than we thought they were, and they’re better than they thought they were when tried in combat.”

In November 2014, Gen. John Campbell told NPR, when asked if Afghan forces could fight with assistance, that “whenever the [Afghan security forces] get involved with the Taliban, the Taliban cannot hold ground, they can’t hold terrain.”

“I’m telling you what I’ve seen,” Campbell continued, “the change from a couple of years ago to today. They do have the capability to protect themselves. They are the strongest institution in Afghanistan.”

Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates at a hearing of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 2, 2011. 
(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

That same month, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson touted the success and capability of the Afghan military.

“The Afghan National Security forces are winning, and this is a hugely capable fighting force who have been holding their ground against the enemy,” he said during a press briefing.

Despite these words of praise, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko told NPR on Sunday that he’s been warning the government about the Afghan military since 2012.

“I mean, we’ve been warning – my little agency – for the last almost 10 years about issues with the ANDSF, that’s the Afghan security forces’ capabilities and sustainment. All the signs have been there,” he said.

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