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US will repeat mistakes of Afghanistan war: Congress-appointed inspector

Afghan security forces sit in a Humvee vehicle in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on May 19, 2020. (File photo by AFP)

An inspector general appointed by the US Congress to examine the war in Afghanistan has enumerated Washington’s failures in 20 years of war in the Asian country and says the US will repeat those mistakes.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), said on Thursday that Washington had shifted its goals and set unrealistic timelines, among other mistakes, in the Afghanistan war.

“Don’t believe what you’re told by the generals, or the ambassadors, or people in the administration saying we’re never going to do this again. That’s exactly what we said after Vietnam,” Sopko said at a Defense Writers Group discussion with reporters. “We will do it again.”

Sopko also said that US officials “knew how bad the Afghan military was.”

“But the average American, the average taxpayer, the average congressman, the average person working in the embassy wouldn’t know how bad it was,” he said.

The inspector general made the remarks after his office submitted its latest quarterly report to the US Congress, which provided a grim view of the war in Afghanistan.

The report came as the US military has withdrawn most of its troops from Afghanistan under a deal with the Taliban militant group that was reached last year.

The US’s 2001 invasion of Afghanistan ousted the Taliban from power, but it worsened the security situation in the country. The invasion, which has led to the longest war in US history, has left the nation “poor, aid-dependent, and conflict-affected,” according to the SIGAR report.

The document also said that the Afghan military appeared “surprised and unready, and is now on it back foot” in the fight against the Taliban militants.

“Civilian casualties hit a record high in May and June... the overall trend is clearly unfavorable to the Afghan government, which could face an existential crisis if it isn’t addressed and reversed,” the report said.

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley had claimed last week that he had confidence in the ability of Afghan forces to fend off a Taliban takeover of the country. “I don’t think the end game is yet written,” Milley said then.

The Taliban, who have intensified attacks across Afghanistan, now control about 212 of the country’s 419 district centers, according to the US military. The US is also blamed for the surge in the Taliban violence, as it has failed to stabilize the security situation in Afghanistan after two decades of war and occupation.

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