The $83 billion the United States spent over two decades to train and build Afghan security forces has ultimately proved to benefit the Taliban, after Afghan forces crumbled in the face of Taliban fighters.
The Taliban has captured a vast array of modern military equipment including military aircraft, ammunition, and guns after they overran Afghan forces that failed to defend district centers, the capital, and military bases, according to the Associated Press.
A US defense official speaking on conditions on anonymity told the AP that the Taliban's gaining of US-supplied equipment is "enormous."
The AP notes that this reveals this misjudgment by the US military and intelligence agencies of the viability of the Afghan forces they trained, which reportedly in some cases chose to surrender their equipment rather than fight off the Taliban.
While the US military armed Afghan forces with excellent equipment and training, military leaders and officials say that the forces lacked will and moral factors.
"Money can't buy will. You cannot purchase leadership," said John Kirby, chief spokesman for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, on Monday.
Retired Army lieutenant general Doug Lute who helped direct Afghan war strategy during the Bush and Obama administrations, said that what the Afghans received in physical resources they lacked in the more important intangibles ideologies.
"The principle of war stands — moral factors dominate material factors," he said. "Morale, discipline, leadership, unit cohesion are more decisive than numbers of forces and equipment. As outsiders in Afghanistan, we can provide materiel, but only Afghans can provide the intangible moral factors."
In contrast to the Afghan forces, the Taliban proved to be a superior force despite lacking in numbers and sophisticated equipment.
When President Joe Biden announced the US withdrawal of troops in April, intelligence agencies did not force the force that would become the Taliban, according to the AP.
"If we wouldn't have used hope as a course of action, ... we would have realized the rapid drawdown of US forces sent a signal to the Afghan national forces that they were being abandoned," said Chris Miller, who was acting secretary of defense during the Trump administration and saw combat in Afghanistan in 2001.
A professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University and a former adviser to US commanders in Afghanistan named Stephen Biddle, said that Biden's April announcement set the events of the last few days in motion.
"'The problem of the US withdrawal is that it sent a nationwide signal that the jig is up — a sudden, nationwide signal that everyone read the same way,' Biddle said. Before April, the Afghan government troops were slowly but steadily losing the war, he said. When they learned that their American partners were going home, an impulse to give up without a fight 'spread like wildfire,'" wrote the AP.
According to the congressionally created watchdog the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, about $83 billion Of the approximately $145 billion the US government spent trying to rebuild Afghanistan went towards building and sustaining the country's army and police forces.