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Earlier this month, President Biden announced that the United States would withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by 9/11, effectively ending a “war forever” spurred by the terrorist attacks of 20 years earlier. on September 11, 2001. His promise was met with backlash by both Republicans and moderate Democrats in Congress.
Republican Liz Cheney of Wyoming called him “fundamentally dangerous” while the Democratic senator is progressive. Elizabeth Warren praised the plan, saying that “our continued presence there does not make the United States or the world safer”.
The announcement also raised many questions: Will the Afghan government hold up once the US is gone? What’s the Taliban’s next move? What about women’s rights? And will this lead to more wars?
The Afghan Air Force is 100% dependent on contractors for the maintenance of their Blackhawk helicopters and C-130 cargo planes, and Gen. Frank McKenzie, chief of the US Central Command, has warned that the Afghan military will collapse without the support of the United States. But in an interview on NPR All things considered, Gen. Sami Sadat, commander general of the Afghan army, was more optimistic.
“The Afghan military is one of the most advanced armies that has learned from the best, from US forces,” he says. “To be honest, Afghan forces have held their position pretty well over the past year, I would say.”
Sadat spoke to NPR about what life looks like for him and his men in one of the most dangerous parts of the country: Helmand province, what is at stake for them once the United States pulls out their troops and whether United States won the war in Afghanistan.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Highlights of the interview
On the typical military operations in Helmand and on contacts with the Taliban
Usually, we start our day by digging a lot of IED places on the roads, and then [we engage in firefight] contacts with the Taliban. The Taliban try to set up illegal checkpoints and load traders and passengers as they pass. We are also conducting major offensive operations against the Taliban as the peace talks have unfortunately failed. I am one of the commanders who has never believed in the talks and still do not believe them. And I was prepared for this day, so I pushed all my units – about 11,000 Afghan soldiers – and every 24 hours in my region of operation I conducted about 170 military operations. You know, patrols, raids, night raids, day raids. He’s pretty busy here.
On Gen. Frank McKenzie’s warning that the Afghan military will collapse without US support
I mean, I understand the American context. The concern is correct. In Afghanistan we are grateful for what the United States has done for us. They came to our aid on one of the darkest days in our history. But in the past 20 years together, Americans and Afghans have laid the deep foundations for a lasting system. So I’m not worried about any kind of collapse scenario. However, you know, people have their own minds and opinions. The Afghan Air Force is a modern air force, but it is mainly US technology, so we will continue to depend on the technical and financial support of the US military, especially the Afghan Air Force … I think UH-60 and C – The 130 are the two large transport fleets used by the Afghan Air Force that will require ongoing contractual support, but it will all depend on the US rules of engagement and how politicians play and allocate the money from Congress when it is sent to help us.
On the question of whether US money is enough to help the Afghan military remain stable
Let me give you an example. Last week we conducted the night raid on Musa Qala. Musa Qala is the Taliban’s operational center of gravity in Afghanistan after Quetta, Pakistan which is their strategic center of gravity, Musa Qala is the second. I went there for eight hours, conducted the night raid, freed up to 50 prisoners, killed a group of Taliban. We occupied the Musa Qala bazaar for seven hours and it was all an Afghan plane, Afghan intelligence, the Afghan Air Force and one of our special forces units. So such is the capability of the Afghan forces. It has been a challenge for a year, but also an experience for us. Because now suddenly we have seen that the US forces are not at our table every morning, it was alone. To be honest, the Afghan forces have held their position pretty well over the past year, I would say.
About his training with the Americans
One of the things I am grateful for when the United States leaves – there are two reasons. One is for a selfish reason: I will miss them because I have some of my best friends in there. Plus, you know, working together as a team across different countries in a complex environment, like Afghanistan in the midst of gunfight, in the midst of blood and pain, actually gives you a new perspective: how to adapt, how to build a team. , how to lead a team and how to fundamentally win. So I am grateful. I feel very honored and privileged.
That the United States won the war in Afghanistan
Win the war? No. Did the United States help create an environment capable of lessening war and defeating terrorists? Yes. You and I will probably talk next year … and beat the odds. We always have. And this is the legacy of the United States, especially the United States military, which leaves behind a democratic, open-minded system, a society that is transforming and hopefully will last and become an example in our region. . Now, call me an optimist, but this is who I am. This is why I serve. This is why I have chosen the worst place in Afghanistan to take the lead and lead my men.
Sam Gringlas, Ashish Valentine and Courtney Dorning produced and edited the audio interview. Mano Sundaresan adapted it for the web.