Ex Soldier Says Afghan Government And Military Was A Fabrication
KABUL - Graham Platner, An ex U.S. soldier who served in Iraq as well as Afghanistan and then as a security contractor later has reportedly told the Jerusalem Post in an interview that the Afghan government and military were both a fabrication, a sham existing in name only and to put money in people's pockets.
"They believed it because they had to; they couldn’t bring themselves to admit that this might not be real, it was just a sham. Military officers are not trained to admit that maybe we can’t do this." he said.
During the interview, Platner detailed the level of corruption that went on in the Afghan government and described how all of the money the U.S. government was giving the Afghan 'government' was being wasted and embezzled. He also explained why the Afghan army fell to the Taliban so quickly.
"My unit was deployed in November 2010 as part of the Obama surge to move troops into the country to conduct counter-insurgency the right way. I believed it before I left." he stated.
"And as an infantry sergeant who believed counter-insurgency could work, I wanted to do this, and I was excited to go and fight in an army that was going to take seriously this strategy that I had fully bought into."
After he was deployed to Afghanistan he saw firsthand how things were in reality. He said that the generals said the right things and the officers below the generals believed what the generals said and attempted to carry out their orders, "everyone in between doesn’t want to do any of this".
"How do you quantify making Afghans happy? It is immeasurable and you need metrics, like killing this many enemy, and spending this much money, and this many combat patrols. It doesn’t matter what you did."
He said that while the U.S. army wanted to see great 'stats' on events to pass up the chain of command, the Afghan military and Afghan police were really only officially an army on paper.
"We were pretending that we were preparing them to do this on their own. But since they were utterly incapable of doing it on their own, we were going on combat patrols and dragging along some Afghan cops to pretend they were doing a mission. So we operated basically as a US rifle company”.
So the "advise and assist" part of what the US military believed it was doing, or the "by, with and through" approach that the United States later used in Iraq after 2014 was mostly a myth as the local units simply wouldn't lead the way.
Platner said that it was a "delusion". "We had two platoon interpreters". He said that in the district that he was in, the US company, squad and brigade commanders had their own ideas about what a successful deployment was.
"so they could say they oversaw a battalion that did this many patrols and spent this much on reconstruction and did this to the enemy. So what we were doing was taking orders from the military structure that was to operate as a counter-insurgency structure and engage the enemy and shoe-horn the Afghan component into it." he stated.
This resulted in a situation where the local Afghans who were supposed to be leading had no interest in doing any combat missions. "They didn’t want to do anything, except steal from people".
Platner spoke of how underpaid the police were, saying "In the summer of 2011 at the height of the fighting season, the Afghan police I was advising had two magazines per man, and the entire district had one RPG round, one round for their one RPG tube, and they had no gas for their Ford Rangers we had bought them".
He said that the poor state of the afghan military and police was worsened by their small paychecks and petty cash being stolen from them by higher level officers and commanders, noting that police would sometimes throw people in jail just to get a ransom from their families to raise money."
"They did that because they weren’t getting paid" he stated. He said that it was called "Afghanistanization" which is a word that was carried over from the experience the US had in Vietnam when the U.S. military attempted to give sectors over to the Vietnamese ARVN forces to prep for leaving.
Platner said that the idea was to put "Afghans in the lead and weaning them from the American logistic teat", which meant that US infantry was not able to give their partner forces ammo or gas.
"Everyone knew the reason they didn’t have gas or ammo or money is because their leadership was stealing it. All the money came from Department of Defense coffers. There was no tax structure or civil authority outside of Kabul. So all the money was dumped in at the top and siphoned from the highest levels like a kleptocracy and there was nothing left" he said.
He also said that there was a huge incentive to inflate costs for things due to the fact that everyone was making money hand over fist. Development projects would opt for the most expensive bid so that ranking officers could seem like they were spending more money.
It did not matter however, if nothing was built (talking about wells, roads, schools and more), what mattered was whether or not officers or people in charge of certain areas were able to say that they had a successful combatant command experience.
"How do you show you were better than everyone else and make colonel or general and move up the chain of command?" Platner asked. You spend more money than your fellow officers.
"The military was incapable of change,” he says. “Amusingly, we were doing the same thing but calling it something else, like VSO (Village Stability Operations)."
The Afghan military had fallen into the middle management trap with no real incentives to do things properly, or get anything done at all. However, unlike in a business where there are consequences to such a thing, "the money is not going to shut off. The US military isn’t going to go out of business if they get it wrong" he said.
If the soldiers that were on the ground had any say about what might happen to the Afghan military, they would have predicted a collapse 10 years ago, but those in charge were calculating using the "key leader engagements [KLEs]" without actually being on the ground to see what was really going on in the field.
"If you sit down with dudes in a village and they say they want a road built and say they will tell you when the Taliban will come and they say they love America, but you know it’s a sham, and no one wants to say they failed and suck at their job, so instead of lying, you choose a metric that is kind of vague that you can reach conclusions from." Platner said.
The real problem was that the Afghan government never really existed in the first place. While they have buildings that have the labels 'defense' or 'taxation', the reality is that the 'departments' never really existed. They were nothing more than an empty shell. He said that US Inspector General reports verify this.
"No one wanted to say anything.... Everyone was a coward, from executive leadership down to the company level where the cowardice stopped. Everyone above that was a coward. They believed it because they had to, they couldn’t bring themselves to admit that this might not be real." he stated.
Platner said that the Afghan government couldn't have collapsed as they say it did. It never really existed, how could something that had never existed, collapse?
"The Afghan army wasn’t real. The Afghan Civil Authority was never real. They never collected taxes. There were no courts outside of police robbing people. None of it ever existed... it was just a big jobs program funded by American money, and the moment it looked like the money would go away, everyone went home." he said.
Platner said that Kabul was an exception, as well as Charikar and a few other places but that the Afghan government never really controlled a whole lot beyond a few highways and cities, which was why it fell so quickly to the Taliban once the United States pulled its military funding and officers salaries.
Most of them were never in it for their country, they were in it for the free money given to them by the U.S .government, paid for with tax dollars straight out of the pockets of United States citizens.