U.S. Spent $8.5B on Afghan Air Force, Training Holes Doomed Them Against Taliban: Report

In a report declassified on January 18, it was revealed the U.S. spent $8.5 billion "to support and develop" the Afghan air force; however, training fails left them unprepared for the Taliban takeover.

President Joe Biden announced the complete withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan last year, but months prior, Washington's watchdog warned the Afghan air force would collapse without the U.S.'s aid, maintenance and training.

The report from Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko was submitted to the Department of Defense in January 2021. The report states the Afghanistan air force was not capable of surviving after the U.S. withdrawal and points to failure by the U.S. in the training of Afghan support staff.

Without the proper training, the Afghan air force was unable to get the needed qualified personnel. Without U.S. contractors, the air force would be unable to maintain the aircraft needed.

The swift rate of takeover the Taliban exhibited is due in part to the removal of U.S. aid and support, which the Afghan air force was unable to fill. Over the rest of the months, the air force was unable to support itself, as Afghan officials warned. The fleet is overused and undermaintained, Ata Mohammed Noor told the Associated Press. Mohammed is a powerful warlord in northern Afghanistan.

"Most of the planes are back on the ground," he said. "They cannot fly and most of them are out of ammunition."

The report also states the elite unit of the Afghan air force, which also received support and funding, was ill-prepared as well. Sopko also stated the removal of the U.S. led to Afghan being unable to obtain independence, as the training had been focused on pilots but not for the 86 percent of Afghanistan air force personnel.

The Taliban invaded Kabul after President Ashraf Ghani fled the capital. By mid-August, according to The Diplomat, over 1000 Afghan air force and Special Wing personnel, as well as their families, were evacuated.

Afghan Air Force
Taliban fighters check the cockpit of a damaged Afghan Air Force helicopter at a hangar at the airport in Kabul on September 14, 2021. Karim Sahib/Getty Images

According to Intelligencer, there was no "institutional backbone" set up to help Afghans after the U.S. began removing itself in May 2021.

According to Yaroslav Trofimov from The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. military pulling its support and intelligence and contractors servicing Afghanistan's planes and helicopters meant the Afghan military "simply couldn't operate anymore."

The Afghan air force pilots who have been evacuated are looking for new lives in the U.S. and are hoping to regain their piloting licenses, as well as considering working for the U.S. Air Force.

"When you become a pilot, you think the sky is your home," Captain Safia Ferozi told the Air Force Times. "You do not belong to earth anymore."

Afghan Evacuees
California families described running from gunfire, with a dad recounting how he was beaten by the Taliban during the U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan. In this photo, refugees disembark from a U.S. air force aircraft after an evacuation flight from Kabul at the Rota naval base in Rota, southern Spain, on August 31, 2021. Cristina Quicler/AFP via Getty Images