On July 8, President Joe Biden assured the American people that it was “highly unlikely” the Taliban would take control of Afghanistan. That is exactly what happened five weeks later. And the catastrophic scenes in Kabul this week beg the obvious questions: How did the Biden administration get this so wrong? Why is the president now facing his own Saigon moment?
The Taliban were technically outnumbered and outgunned by Afghan government forces. Biden and his administration frequently have emphasized that the U.S. has spent $83 billion training Afghan security forces that on paper, at least, numbered roughly 300,000 including police and the Afghan air force.
But the reality on the ground undermined any purely numbers-based assessment. An analysis of Afghan security forces found that of the 352,000 soldiers and police counted as members of the security forces, only around 254,000 could be confirmed as actively serving. The remainder were so-called ghost soldiers who padded unit payrolls and allowed local commanders to skim pay.