Defence analysts have argued that the removal of air support for Afghan forces was a critical error that signficiantly increased the speed at which the Taliban were able to take over the country.

The claims were made in the latest episode of the popular defence podcast whiched discussed the fall of Afghanistan, the failures in the US and NATO responses and the implications for the future.

The podcast is typically hosted by well respected ‘Open Source Intelligence‘ analysts @Osinttechnical@skywatcherintel@air_intel and @DefenceGeek.

The following is a transcript of the relevant section:

@Osinttechnical said:

“So you just have this situation where the media environment was very unreliable, but there was this general idea among Taliban fighters and ANA forces that once the US is gone, it’s over. And the cessation of US air support earlier in the summer definitely, I think honestly, I spent some time looking back today before the podcast at the turning point events that we were absolutely sure, that if you could locate one event, one decision, that would change the outlook, the outcome of what’s happening today. The decision I had to look at was the decision to stop air support for the Afghan army. That just caused, if we had kept supporting the Afghan army, through to now, the situation would be a lot more different.”

@DefenceGeek responded:

“It’s fair to say as well that without US air support the Afghan air support capabilities were much weaker. We saw very quickly after the Taliban started to sort of move across the country that Afghan air army assets started to capitulate or flee.”

@Osinttechnical replied:

“It was additionally, the Afghan Air Force, I know Biden tried to claim that the Afghan Air force was built up and was strong, and ended up being useless in the fight. But they had 12 useable attack aircraft at any one time. The ground attack assets they had were for liaising with on the ground forces, but the issue was, ground forces weren’t adequately trained. They didn’t have tactical air controllers, they weren’t trained to tell aircraft how to hit targets.”

The below links enable you to listen on Spotify or YouTube.

You can access previous episodes here or by visiting them on Twitter.

You can also visit our dedicated ‘The OSINT Bunker’ page here.

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farouk
farouk
10 days ago

Personally I feel , the yanks leaving in the dead of night from Bagram on the 9th of July without telling anybody was the defining moment which shocked the Afghan government into despair and left the Taliban in awe at how the country had been handed to them on a plate.

Peter S
Peter S
10 days ago
Reply to  farouk

Absolutely. In theory, Bagram was under the command of Afghan forces. In reality the US still had a base suitable for mass evacuations and easier to defend than Kabul International.
Why give it up?

Frank62
Frank62
9 days ago
Reply to  Peter S

Imbicility in action. What did they think would happen?

Chris
Chris
6 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

Biden Admin gave the army a cap of 5,000 troops and the assigned responsibility of covering the diplomatic withdrawal in Kabul. The Army had to make a choice of one or the other as 5,000 is not enough to cover both Kabul and Bagram.

Biden wanted a political victory photo op on 9-11, he got himself a Vietnam disaster.

Mark B
Mark B
5 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Whilst these are all interesting & valid points the overwheling issue was that the Afghan people did not want freedom western style and consequently enough of them did not want to fight for it. If there had been the will on the Afghan side the west would have found a way to support them with or without the Americans.

Garrett
Garrett
1 day ago
Reply to  Chris

Increasing troop numbers to cover the withdrawal actually violated the Trump/Taliban Peace Accord. Trump drew down troops to 2.5K troops and the peace agreement did not allow for new troops. Biden, apparently, made a new agreement with the Taliban to get more troops in country.

Ultimately, Biden needed the Peace Accord to secure the Taliban wouldn’t attack retreating troops and that meant sticking with the parameters of the Trump/Taliban Peace Accord.

https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Agreement-For-Bringing-Peace-to-Afghanistan-02.29.20.pdf

Garrett
Garrett
1 day ago
Reply to  Peter S

The Trump/Taliban Peace Accord required giving up all bases (including Bagram) by April, 2021. Biden extended it to July, 2021 since there was inadequate planning, but ultimately the only way to pull out of Afghanistan was to make sure the Peace Accord stood and the Taliban didn’t attack retreating troops.

https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Agreement-For-Bringing-Peace-to-Afghanistan-02.29.20.pdf

Rob
Rob
10 days ago
Reply to  farouk

I agree. Stunning foolishness.

Darren hall
Darren hall
9 days ago
Reply to  farouk

Sadly too true… Regardless of who set up what ever agreement, the Biden administration are in charge right now. They have shown the schoolyard bully and all his friends that all you have to do is wait… and the West (USA) will abandon their allies. So the resurgent Taliban will grow more daring, they have already spread into Pakistan and other local areas, how long before the Maoist terrorists in India and Nepal ”feel” emboldened and link up? After all… The CPC has said it will not support any sanctions against the Taliban… And what about ISIS-K? They look down… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
9 days ago
Reply to  Darren hall

Well said.

Rob
Rob
9 days ago
Reply to  Darren hall

Good post, thanks.

Deep32
Deep32
10 days ago

“ground forces weren’t adequately trained” ??? So what did the training budget of billions get spent on then????

DRS
DRS
10 days ago
Reply to  Deep32

Corruption. The fact the old president left with 167million in cash tells you enough about state of affairs. Ghost armies being paid etc etc.

Also you have people in the army that can’t read write etc due to 40 years of war and you just don’t have the human capacity to learn it all. The rampant corruption is why you had strong Taliban support as at least they were “fair” and could not be bought off.

Finally it is all tribal alliances, and the western army model of mix it all up doesn’t really work.

Rob
Rob
10 days ago
Reply to  Deep32

If we knew the ANA was not ready, then why leave $85Bn of gear behind to be captured by Taliban and ISIS? I just saw a video of the Taliban flying a Blackhawk. They can fly them.

Nicholas Wood
Nicholas Wood
4 minutes ago
Reply to  Rob

CNN reported that most of the military equipment left behind by the US and at the Kabul Airport was immobilized in some way, like missing vital instruments. What the Taliban captured that was serviceable will soon run out of spare parts and technical knowledge to repair and service it

Rob
Rob
10 days ago

My 13 year old nephew said to me the other day “Why did we close the US Airbase first Uncle?” I was lost for words. If a child can pickup on this massive mistake – it certainly begs the question – why didn’t our billion dollar military intelligence??? We need to reopen a second airport far away from Kabul – I head there are 10 decent strips that the West built. Now is the time for decisive action.

Deep32
Deep32
10 days ago
Reply to  Rob

The problem is Rob, we don’t know what was going on behind the scenes leading up to this month! I can’t believe we didn’t anticipate this as a likely outcome? As you say, if your nephew can pick up on this I’m sure our intel people did.
Begs the question what were the politicians doing? Perhaps they were trying to get the US to change things, who knows? What it does show is that the US are in it for themselves, so in future we should tread v wearily when dealing with them, not very reliable partners…….

Rob
Rob
9 days ago
Reply to  Deep32

Completely agree. We are far too trusting of American politicians. The US troops are just caught up like we are. Don’t blame them one bit.

Last edited 9 days ago by Rob
AlexS
AlexS
10 days ago
Reply to  Rob

I am afraid a lot of incompetent people have been promoted by political, and bureaucracy reasons. And with current education system in Anglosphere world i expect to get much worse.
from Politico
U.S. officials provided Taliban with names of Americans, Afghan allies to evacuate“Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list,” said one defense official.

Rob
Rob
9 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

The
World has literally gone mad, well America for sure.

Phil
Phil
10 days ago

Where does this leave our forces as we appear so dependent on US forces to make up for our shortages? What if the yanks just take their ships and aircraft home one night whilst our carrier sails through the South China Sea? It feels like we simply cannot trust them anymore. And without them we aren’t in any position to do many things we do, such as holding an airport. This feels like a real change in our relationship with them. I certainly hope to never see UK forces go anywhere alongside them again.

Challenger
Challenger
10 days ago

Not sure how much value Bagram would have been for the kind of messy evacuation we’re seeing now given that it’s 60km from Kabul where most of the foreign nationals and vunerable Afghans are based.

Symbolically though the Americans fleeing Bagram without any notice was a disastrous decision.

Without indefinite boots on the ground and heavy air support it seems likely the Taliban would have always wretched control of the country eventually but the lack of planning around the withdrawal has been deplorable!

Ron Stateside
Ron Stateside
8 days ago
Reply to  Challenger

Finally a post that makes sense. A long way to scroll! Another reason Bagram being 60km North of Kabul is not ideal is that it would’ve been much easier for the Taliban to setup checkpoints leading to Bagram than to take Kabul entirely.

I’ll also add that given what happened to several divisions of the Iraqi Army circa 2014 that directly led to Operation Shader, the fall of Afghanistan being even more stunning is absolutely stunning.

Rob
Rob
9 days ago

American political decision, BIDEN, that cost lives and will likely cost more.

Douglas Newell
Douglas Newell
8 days ago

Even i could have foreseen that. It would have made absolute sense to leave a NATO (rather than US) special forces support, and air support mission in Afghanistan. Teams could have been rotated among NATO countries including the US.

Western politicians are short term thinking idiots whose primary aim is get their noses in the trough.

TheRef11
TheRef11
6 days ago

Pulling air support wasn’t the problem. It was providing it in the first place. That allowed a corrupt and inept military with no desire to support their government to avoid fighting an enemy that never had an option of air support. Afghanistan never has been a country in the sense we think of it. Lines on a map do not convey loyalty. Afghanis belong to family and tribe…..not some central government created by outsiders. We never seemed to grasp that. The Afghan government was always going to fall whenever we stopped propping it up whether that was 10 years ago… Read more »

Meirion x
Meirion x
6 days ago
Reply to  TheRef11

Well the ANA did hold up well when direct combat by US troops was ended in 2016, with mainly air support by the US provided up to this year.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/how-and-why-did-the-afghan-army-fall-so-quickly-to-the-taliban/

TheRef11
TheRef11
6 days ago
Reply to  Meirion x

Have you ever asked yourself why air support was even necessary? A military with 20 years of American money, equipment and training somehow required American air support to survive more than a week against an enemy with zero air capability. The rot ran very, very deep. Another 20 years and another trillion dollars would only have served to make even more tribal warlords wealthy with the same end result. Once the Afghan military understood that the west wasn’t going to remain much longer they immediately began negotiating the surrender of the whole place. They had no intention of fighting for… Read more »

Dom Winslow
Dom Winslow
6 days ago
Reply to  TheRef11

I’m not sure the South Koreans would stand up to the nuclear armed North if we removed our troops. Kim Jong Un could just threaten to level Seoul with his gun and rocket artillery. The South might be a little soft from their high standard of living. NATO would alsp probably collapse if we pulled out.

Last edited 6 days ago by Dom Winslow
TheRef11
TheRef11
5 days ago
Reply to  Dom Winslow

I’m not terribly worried about the ROK being able to handle North Korea. I was stationed over there for 2 years working closely with them. Neither the north or south want to destroy the other’s land since both are Korean. They both want to rule over the other but that is not the same as wiping it out. As for NATO, in my opinion it SHOULD collapse! It was created to oppose the Soviet Union. They ceased to exist some 30 years ago. Now we are deliberately provoking Russia by moving NATO into former Warsaw Pact nations like Poland and… Read more »

Meirion x
Meirion x
4 days ago
Reply to  TheRef11

The former Warsaw Pact countries were either asked or invited to join NATO. NATO did Not force them to join, unlike the former Warsaw Pact which did apply force in 1956 and 1968 to force two countries to comply with the Soviet Union’s demands.

It was the Ukrainian people that brought down the former president Yanukovych in 2014. Just the same as mass potasts have brought Western governments down in the past.

Last edited 4 days ago by Meirion x
TheRef11
TheRef11
4 days ago
Reply to  Meirion x

I completely agree that they wanted in NATO who then accepted them. What I am saying is that it was a mistake to take them. You do know that NATO is a military defense pact right? Are you really willing to go to war with Russia to protect Estonia? Why? I understand what Estonia gains but what does your country gain? Why does NATO even still exist? It was formed as a military alliance against the Soviet Union. There is no Soviet Union anymore and hasn’t been one for 30 years. NATO was a success but now it’s just a… Read more »

Meirion x
Meirion x
4 days ago
Reply to  TheRef11

NATO continued to exist Post Cold-War because other threats emerged in the 1990’s like the Balkan Wars, which were brought to an end by NATO intervention by the end of the 90’s.

The former WP countries had the foresight to see the Russian threat re-emergence so most had joined NATO by 2005.

Because NATO is a defence pact, is
precisely why Russia won’t invade
Estonia. Other NATO members will help to defend each other under threat, like a union or even the Mafia! NATO’s role is mainly to defend, Not invade Russia.

Last edited 4 days ago by Meirion x
David Bevan
David Bevan
13 hours ago

Withdrawal is the most difficult of military practises. It is complicated. It is a dynamic process which requires both good planning but also active management and the ability to change the plan when the plan inevitably starts to fail. However just because it is difficult that in no way explains the complete disaster that occurred in Afghanistan. There was no impending military imperative which required immediate withdrawal. The US was in control up until the point they voluntarily gave up that control. How the US withdrew and when the US withdrew was entirely up to them. They could have chosen… Read more »