The Washington Post this week blew a big fat hole in Biden’s claim that there were 300,000 troops in Afghanistan. They say that’s an inflated number, which looks to be an understatement:
Ever since the president announced his plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, he has emphasized how the Afghan security forces totaled more than 300,000. He made this claim when he announced his plan April 14, when he reaffirmed his decision July 8 and again Aug. 10 when the situation deteriorated in the country.
On Monday, after Kabul fell to Taliban forces, Biden once again used the figure and favorably compared the “Afghan military force” to the military might of NATO allies.
This obviously raises the question — how could such a large, “well-equipped” military fall apart so quickly?
Here’s a few highlights from their explanation:
But in the 2021 report, IISS shows Afghanistan with an active force of only 178,800 — 171,500 in the army and 7,300 in the air force. “Reports suggested that already high losses and high levels of desertion further increased in 2020,” the report said. “There was reported 22% personnel shortage in mid-2019, and there are problems in retaining key specialists including pilots and special-operations troops.”
IISS also notes Afghanistan has 99,000 “paramilitary” forces — members of the Afghan National Police. But NATO countries do not have such forces and so it does not make sense to include them as part of the total. NATO countries also have reserve forces — Turkey, for instance has 355,200 active troops and 378,700 reserve troops — but no reserves are listed for Afghanistan.
In other words, Biden comes up with the 300,000 troops by including police, not regular army or air force. The police report to the Interior Ministry, not the Defense Ministry. They guard the border, staff security checkpoints and try to hold territory that the army has cleared of insurgents.
Here’s the bottom line:
The Pinocchio Test
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.
This is good reporting from Glenn Kessler and I’m glad he exposed Biden’s lies about this. We heard CNN repeating this reporting yesterday, but I wanted you to have the details.