By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2021
“Who could have ever imagined that the Afghan military would collapse inside 11 days? After all those billions of dollars spent on arming them, all with new aircraft, helicopters, and weapons, all that training, the military just melted away, allowing the Taliban to take over the country…in the end, it all seemed pointless…while the U.S. and its allies have left Afghanistan, the violence is unlikely to end…war looks likely to linger on.”
— Alan Warnes, Group Editor at Large, Air Forces Monthly magazine, Oct. 2021.
In any nation, the most-complex, expensive, and sophisticated weapons of war are usually found within its air force, and the former, Afghan Air Force (AAF) was certainly no exception. The October 2021 edition of Air Forces Monthly (AFM) magazine, a fantastic, British publication for anyone seriously interested in military aviation, covers the recent, catastrophic, and unmitigated disaster of the unilateral, American (Biden administration) withdrawal from Afghanistan in shocking detail, highlighting the extensive array of U.S.-produced weaponry left behind for the radicalized, Taliban terrorists to use and exploit to their fullest advantage.
To ask, “Who could have ever imagined that the Afghan military would collapse inside 11 days?” is somewhat naïve in today’s uncertain world, because, as a retired, experienced, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer, I saw that one coming like a runaway freight train from miles away. We Americans are truly blessed to live in a country with the largest, most-powerful, and most-respected Armed Forces on the planet, but the unfortunate side effect is that wherever we go, whichever allied nations we support, there is a basic, human tendency to become overly reliant and overly dependent on U.S. military might to solve any problems or situations that may arise.
I saw this very clearly during a four-year assignment to Germany at the height of the Cold War, in the mid-1980s. The German military was great, and they took their jobs very seriously, but with 177 U.S. Army installations and 11 U.S. Air Force bases in their country at the time, they firmly believed that in the event of World War Three in Europe, they’d be playing only a very minor, supporting role, while the United States shouldered the bulk of the fighting. And now, nearly 40 years later, only 10 of the 30 NATO member nations are paying their two-percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) “fair share” in annual, military expenditures, with Germany proffering a mere 1.57 percent per annum, still too dependent on the U.S. to carry the NATO, military load.
In Afghanistan, sadly to say, the situation was no different. Despite all U.S. government assertions that the Afghans were “well-trained and well-equipped,” the actual, pervasive attitude, according to candid reports by U.S. Air Force pilots who trained them, was that the Afghans were somewhat lazy, inefficient, and complacent, relying far too heavily upon the U.S. war effort to solve their problems with the Taliban.
So, when push finally came to shove on August 20, 2021, and the massive, American evacuation began in earnest, lasting for exactly 11 days, the Afghan armed forces simply fell apart when tasked with taking the entire burden upon their own shoulders. That came as no real surprise to any realistic, veteran, intelligence officer.
AFM magazine began with comments by Alan Warnes, their Group Editor at Large, citing, “Afghanistan—more conflict to come?” The quote at the beginning of this article followed, and Warnes added that, “More than 3,000 allied troops (including 2,461 Americans) lost their lives (during the 20-year war)…there were 73 (supposedly-disabled, military) aircraft now discarded in Kabul alone, mostly AAF…this mass evacuation…saw 22 countries involved…(and) the largest non-combat evacuation in U.S. military history had been achieved.
“The vacuum will undoubtedly be filled by terrorist organizations such as Islamic State (ISIS-K), seeking a safer place to plot against the West. (Let’s remember that the entire reason for our war in Afghanistan in the first place was that al-Qa’ida, Osama bin Laden, and other terrorist groups and their leaders were using the destabilized, war-torn country as ‘a safer place to plot against the West.’ Sound familiar?)
“Ironically, we could now see the U.S. (Biden administration) working with the Taliban (vicious terrorists) to fight the Islamic State in a classic case of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ scenario, which will stick in the throats of the thousands who lost relatives either killed or wounded in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.”
In early July 2021, the AAF possessed 211 aircraft, of which 167 were in-country at the time. AFM states that, “They comprised 23 A-29B Super Tucanos (counterinsurgency, attack aircraft), 10 AC-208B Eliminators (armed, attack aircraft), 23 Cessna 208B Grand Caravans, three C-130H Hercules (transports), 32 Mi-8/17 Hips (utility helicopters), 43 MD530F Cayuse Warriors (helicopter gunships, pictured above), and 33 UH-60A+ Black Hawks (newer, utility helicopters)…(plus approximately) 18 Pilatus PC-12/47E signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft.
“The MD530Fs (were) armed with gun pods and Hydra (70mm) unguided rockets, together with the A-29B Super Tucanos, armed with Advanced, Precision-Kill Weapon System (APKWS) II, laser-guided, Hydra rockets, GBU-12/58 laser-guided bombs, and 250-lb., Mk. 81/500-lb. Mk. 82 general-purpose bombs.”
On July 8, 2021, President Joe Biden arrogantly and incorrectly assured Americans that, “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
But then, the insurgent, Taliban offensive swept the nation in early August 2021, resulting in the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Kandahar Air Base, and Shindand Air Base on August 13th and 14th. On August 15th, the U.S. Embassy staff was evacuated from Afghanistan, much of the Afghan senior leadership departed for exile in Tajikistan aboard AAF Cessna 208Bs, and one U.S. Air Force C-17A Globemaster III jet transport aircraft, specifically designed to carry 134 troops, airlifted a record number of 823 people out of Kabul in a single mission that evening, landing safely in Qatar! The U.S. Air Force called it Operation Allies Refuge, as the mass evacuations continued throughout the month, with the assistance of many NATO nations, plus support from Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates. By nightfall on the 15th, the Taliban had secured the capital city of Kabul.
AFM writes in various articles that, “In an effort to save some of its aircraft (from capture by the Taliban), Afghan Air Force pilots flew as many as possible out to neighboring countries. Satellite imagery on August 16…in Uzbekistan, showed 22 fixed-wing aircraft and 24 helicopters from the AAF that appeared to have made it there safely…seven UH-60As and 19 Mi-17s…six A-29Bs…up to 11 Pilatus PC-12NGs…at least 12 Cessna 208Bs…Additionally, at least three UH-60A+ Black Hawks and one Mi-17V-5 escaped to Panjshir, where they are in use by the anti-Taliban forces of the Northern Alliance.
“With the surrender of various corps within the ANA (Afghan National Army), a large number of U.S.-made weapons and equipment were captured by the Taliban, including 3,000 M1151 High-Mobility, Multipurpose, Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs or Humvees), M1152 HMMWVs, International M1224 MaxxPro Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles, Ford Ranger pickup trucks, M1117 Armored Security Vehicles (ASVs), and M113 Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs.)
“Former-AAF, fixed-wing aircraft left behind at Hamid Karzai (Airport in Kabul) that have been identified so far include nine A-29B Super Tucanos, four Cessna 208B Grand Caravans, two armed AC-208B Eliminator variants, one C-130H Hercules, and one Pilatus PC-12NG. Abandoned, AAF helicopters included 12 UH-60A+ Black Hawks, 10 Mi-8/17s, and nine MD530F Cayuse Warriors…seven U.S. Department of State (DOS) Air Wing CH-46E Sea Knights…were deliberately abandoned.
“The operational use of two Herat-based Mi-8MTV-1s (helicopters) by the Taliban on August 13 serves to mark the rebirth of its air force…around 40 operational, fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters have been captured by the Taliban…including five to seven fully-operational, MD530Flight attack helicopters…at least one A-29Blight attack aircraft…(and) at least three (UH-60A+) Black Hawks were left behind (at Herat) in an operational condition.”
Then, there’s the fully-operational equipment of the former Afghan National Army (ANA), which included tens of thousands of Colt M16A2 rifles, Colt Canada C7 rifles, Polish FB Beryl assault rifles, Colt M4 carbines, M24 sniper rifles, Beretta M9 pistols, Makarov PM pistols, Polish FB PM-63 submachine guns, M249 light machine guns, M240 and FN MAG medium machine guns, Browning M2HBheavy machine guns, DillonAero M134 Gatling guns, M203 grenade launchers, and a huge variety of other weapons of war and military hardware.
What remained unknown to the American public for the next few days after the frenzied and chaotic evacuation was completed was that, as reported by Dan Newman of the Truth News Network (TNN) on September 2, 2021, “Joe Biden…actually used his political power to make a maniacal deal with the former, Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani…the pair colluded with a plan to portray the details surrounding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in a light that is exactly opposite to how it played out…to deceive the world about the Taliban threat.
“The transcript of the last phone call between the two heads of state (originally obtained and released by Reuters news agency) shows that the U.S. president specifically asked the Afghan president to downplay the potential resurgence of the foreign enemy: ‘Hey, look, I want to make it clear that I am not a military man (Biden began)…and I need not tell you the perception around the world…that things aren’t going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban. And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.’
“The Biden call transcript…is a clear offer to deceive the American public and the international community about the Taliban threat. The false security of the country was the basis for the Biden military withdrawal after two decades of fighting…Ghani (who reportedly escaped with $169 million in cash, plus four cars) and Biden looked on and purposely hid the facts of those atrocities (the bloody, Taliban executions of surrendering, Afghan troops) from the citizens of both countries AND the world…After all, colluding with a foreign leader to make oneself look credible in the eyes of the U.S….certainly is grounds for impeachment…(But) he’s too proud to ever step down from what will surely be one of—if not THE—worst presidencies in American history. I’m just not certain Joe is mentally capable to discern these facts.”
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the U.S. withdrawal, which had a decidedly negative impact upon U.S.-U.K. relations, in an article on the website of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, bluntly stating that, “The abandonment of Afghanistan and its people is tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interests, and not in ours…(with Joe Biden) in obedience to an imbecilic slogan about ending ‘the forever wars’…The world is now uncertain of where the West stands, because it is so obvious that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in this way was driven not by grand strategy, but by politics.”
In direct, Congressional testimony on September 28, 2021, General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified under oath that Biden’s withdrawal plan was a “strategic failure,” while Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin accurately described the Biden strategy as “misleading at best, and dishonest at worst.”
This is the very same Joe Biden who thinks that it’s perfectly acceptable to abandon an estimated $65 billion in U.S.-produced, military weapons of war to savage, murdering, Taliban terrorists, and is willing to cooperate and cut deals with them, but simultaneously takes every conceivable opportunity to usurp and even overturn the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
He trusts radicalized, Islamic militants with American weapons, but NOT U.S. citizens in their own country. We must never, ever forget this staggering, duplicitous defeat at the hands of rag-tag, Third-World renegades, this horrific and intentional betrayal of America’s allies, and the enormously-negative impact of these actions on America’s trust and prestige around the world. We all deserve so much better than that.
Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism, and is an NRA member. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, and four college degrees, including a Master of Aeronautical Science degree, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author and historian. You may visit his web site at: warrengray54.vistaprintdigital.com.