Biden, Psaki, Kirby, and other officials all claimed no one predicted the Afghan military would rapidly collapse following the U.S. withdrawal. A newly declassified report from Jan. 2021 predicted just that. The declassified report warned the Afghan Air Force would collapse without U.S. support.
“[T]he potential absence of both military advisors and contractors before the [Afghan Air Force] and [Special Mission Wing] are able to staff, manage, fund, or maintain their forces puts at risk the entire U.S. investment in the Afghan air forces,” John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, wrote in the January 2021 report.
The Afghan Air Force flew a dozen different types of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Contractors played a large role in routine maintenance and heavy maintenance.
The U.S. military itself relies heavily on contractors for maintenance of its weapons, both stateside and overseas. The Afghan Air Force became even more reliant on contractor maintenance after U.S. lawmakers pushed the Pentagon to supply Afghanistan with UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters instead of easier-to-maintain Russian-made M-17s. As of September 2019, contractors did all Black Hawk maintenance, despite 152 Afghans being assigned to UH-60 helicopter maintenance crews.
The newly declassified report also talks about challenges contractors were having well before the U.S. withdrawal. In 2019, contractors lost access to Shindand Air Base in western Afghanistan because of a rule prohibiting contractors from working at bases not controlled by U.S. or coalition forces, the report states.
The Afghan Air Force collapsed in August 2021. As the Taliban made its push into Kabul, hundreds of Afghan Air Force personnel flew dozens of aircraft into Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Some of those aircraft have been returned to the United States.SHARE THIS: