President Joe Biden is being accused of inflating the number of Afghanistan’s military in the wake of the Taliban’s take over.
During remarks at the White House on Monday on the collapse of Afghanistan, Biden apparently overstated the strength of the Afghan military. He said, “We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong — incredibly well equipped — a force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies.“
In an article titled, “Biden’s bogus claim that Afghanistan’s military was larger than ‘many of our NATO allies,” The Washington Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler disputed Biden’s statistic.
Kessler noted that Biden repeated that statistic several times before the withdrawal and added, “This obviously raises the question — how could such a large, ‘well-equipped’ military fall apart so quickly?”
“It’s because this is an inflated number,” Kessler said.
He explained that if the Afghanistan military had 300,000 troops, it would be “bigger than every NATO ally but Turkey.”
According to Kessler, “The gold standard is The Military Balance, an annual report issued by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) that methodically lists the size and capabilities of the world’s armies.”
The 2021 IISS report found that Afghanistan only had an active force of “178,800 — 171,500 in the army and 7,300 in the air force” with high levels of desertion. Additionally, the report found, “There was reported 22% personal shortage in mid-2019, and there are problems in retaining key specialists including pilots and special-operations troops.”
While the report found that Afghanistan has “99,000 ‘paramilitary’ forces — members of the Afghan National Police,” Kessler points out that NATO members do not have such forces, and it “does not make sense to include them as part of the total.”
Anthony Cordesman of the Center for the Strategic and International Studies noted in the report, “Only a small fraction of the 182,071 personnel supposedly in the Army and Air Force could be used effectively, and the total force suffered a 25% annual turnover rate due to losses and desertions by 2020.”
The fact-checker also cited a 2017 report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) that concluded the U.S. “designed a force that was not able to provide nationwide security, especially as that force faced a larger threat than anticipated after the drawdown of coalition military force.”
“The latest SIGAR report said that the United States also encouraged the formation of militias, known as ‘Afghan Local Police,’ which sometimes included Taliban fighters who had agreed to stop fighting the government. So it’s little wonder they would quickly switch sides again,” Kessler added.
Finally, he wrote, “This is an inflated number. The president is including police forces, which are not part of the military and have often heightened insecurity with their tactics. Even among the active military, there is high turnover and only a small core of professionals which could be expected to fight professionally against the Taliban. In other words, the number is not 300,000 — and probably not even 30,000.”
“By repeatedly using this figure, the president is misleading Americans about the capabilities of the Afghan military — which has now demonstrated it could not defend Afghanistan from the Taliban offensive. He does not quite earn Four Pinocchios because ‘security forces’ sometimes is broadly defined to include the police. But it’s close, especially when making a ridiculous comparison to the militaries of NATO allies,” he added.
Kessler gave Biden three “Pinocchios” for his statement.
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