US adversaries could exploit former Afghan commandos, Republicans say

Biden administration failed to prioritise removing US-trained elite Afghan units in shambolic August withdrawal, report says

Thirteen US soldiers died and hundreds of American citizens and tens of thousands of at-risk Afghans were left behind during the operation in August 2021. AFP
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“This is especially true given reports that some former Afghan military personnel have fled to Iran,” minority Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a report on the anniversary of the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

The administration of President Joe Biden, the report said, failed to prioritise removing US-trained Afghan commandos and other elite units in the shambolic August 14-30, 2021, troop pull-out and evacuation operation at Kabul airport.

Thirteen US soldiers died and hundreds of American citizens and tens of thousands of at-risk Afghans were left behind during the operation.

The Biden administration has called the operation an “extraordinary success”. The operation flew more than 124,000 Americans and Afghans to safety, but then resulted in an “endless” war in which about 3,500 US and allied troops and hundreds of thousands of Afghans died.

But hundreds of US-trained commandos and other former security personnel and their families remain in Afghanistan amid reports the Taliban have been killing and torturing former officials — allegations the militants deny.

Watch how people are being rescued from Kabul airport

Those former personnel “could be recruited or coerced into working for one of America’s adversaries that maintains a presence in Afghanistan, including Russia, China, or Iran”, the Republican report said.

It called that possibility a “major national security risk” because those Afghans “know the US military and intelligence community's tactics, techniques and procedures”.

Some US officials and experts say Mr Biden has sought to move on from Afghanistan without properly assessing the war's lessons and without accountability for the chaotic evacuation.

The Republican report wedded new details of the extraction operation with congressional evidence and military and news reports to show how the administration overrode US commanders' advice, failed to adequately plan and disregarded the Taliban's breaches of a 2020 pull-out deal.

In another finding, it said the administration waited until hours before the Taliban seized Kabul to make vital evacuation decisions. These included asking other countries to host transit centres for thousands of Afghan evacuees who worked for the US government during the 20-year American intervention and others at risk of Taliban retribution, the report said.

“Very little was done to prepare for a Taliban takeover of the country” or for the evacuation, it said.

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Updated: August 14, 2022, 4:37 PM