we were working on it!
A Defense Department spokesperson said that a recently declassified government report casting doubt on the Afghan air force's ability to operate without U.S. support was based on old data and that the concerns it raised were "being actively addressed" in the months prior to withdrawal.
According to the report from Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Spoko, which was submitted to DoD in Jan. 2021, American forces in Afghanistan were aware the country's air force could not survive without American support. "In particular," The Associated Press reports, "the report points to U.S. failure to train Afghan support staff, leaving the air force unable to maintain its aircraft without American contractors."
Some commentators argue that, in light of this report, the likelihood of the Taliban rapidly seizing the country after American forces withdrew should have been obvious months in advance. At the time, top Biden administration officials expressed shock at the speed with which Afghanistan's government collapsed.
"Without an air force, the Afghan army was destined to collapse; without an army, the Afghan government was destined to collapse. In other words, just about everybody in the American government realized that a Taliban takeover was the most likely scenario ... except the man at the top," Jim Geraghty opined in National Review Wednesday.
In a press briefing Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby told reporters the SIGAR report "was from January 2021" and "included data that was well before that timeframe."
Kirby then claimed that, by the time of the August withdrawal, significant progress had been made in fixing the issues the report raised.
"[T]he specific challenges that were presented in this report were well known to us, in fact were being actively addressed by the department and our coalition partners," Kirby said. "As we were heading into the summer, it was an air force that we and our coalition partners helped make much more capable."