Background to the Afghanistan withdrawal: a quick guide

26 August 2021

PDF version [518KB]

Nicole Brangwin (with assistance from Thea Gellerfy)
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security


You have the watches, we have the time

This Taliban mantra has been widely quoted in media reports and commentary over the last 20 years of war in Afghanistan.[1] It denotes the Taliban’s strategy to wait for the withdrawal of foreign military forces from Afghanistan. Now, as the United States, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and allied nations complete their military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban has advanced its strategy to full effect, occupying the Afghan capital Kabul on 16 August 2021.

This quick guide aims to provide a recent timeline showing the impetus for, and trajectory of, the rapidly changing security situation in Afghanistan, starting with the Trump administration’s agreement with the Taliban.

US-Taliban agreement

The Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America (US-Taliban Agreement) was made on 29 February 2020. The US-Taliban Agreement was the impetus for the withdrawal of US and allied forces from Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (the Afghan Government) did not participate in these talks.

The terms of the agreement were contingent on a number of factors, including a reduction of violence by the Taliban, and an initial drawdown of US and allied forces from Afghanistan within 135 days of the agreement. This was to be followed by a complete withdrawal of US and allied forces by May 2021.

The agreement also stipulated the commencement of intra-Afghan peace negotiations leading to a ceasefire; prisoner releases (Afghan Government to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the Taliban to release 1,000 prisoners); and the US to commence diplomatic representations to the UN Security Council to remove Taliban members from the sanctions list.

It was also agreed:

The United States and its allies will refrain from the threat or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Afghanistan or intervening in its domestic affairs.[2]

On the same day the agreement was signed, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani held a press conference to address the next steps in peace negotiations.[3] Despite the exclusion of the Afghan Government from the US-Taliban talks and subsequent agreement, President Ghani remained positive about upcoming intra-Afghan peace talks.[4] During the press conference the US affirmed its ‘right to self defense and the right to protect our Afghan partners’ throughout the drawdown. Stoltenberg reiterated that NATO’s mission in Afghanistan remained the same:

We are in Afghanistan because it is in our security interest to provide -- to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. That's the reason why we are committed and that's the reason why any withdrawal -- any reduction of force levels will be conditions-based.[emphasis added]

Esper also stated that US military operations against terrorist groups such as Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) in Afghanistan would continue.[5] Al-Qaeda—the terrorist organisation responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US that were the original impetus for the war in Afghanistan—was not mentioned.

Having secured US agreement to withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban reportedly issued a religious decree in early March 2020 that outlined its intent to establish an Islamic government in Afghanistan led by the Taliban’s emir, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. The decree, or fatwa, declared the violence would continue until the emir was ruler of Afghanistan.[6]

Intra-Afghan peace talks

It was not until 12 September 2020 that the first intra-Afghan peace talks commenced in Doha, Qatar, between representatives from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban.[7] Initial progress was very slow as both sides struggled to reach agreement on the agenda for peace talks.[8]

Some months later, after the Biden administration took office in January 2021, President Biden reportedly became frustrated at the lack of progress and urged US diplomats to help broker an intra-Afghan agreement. In March 2021 Afghan news agency ToloNews published an undated draft letter from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Afghan President Ghani that strongly encouraged an accelerated peace process towards a negotiated settlement and ceasefire. The draft letter included proposals for inclusion in an intra-Afghan peace agreement, such as developing:

a) The foundational principles that will guide Afghanistan’s future constitutional and governing arrangements,

b) a roadmap to a new, inclusive government; and

c) the terms of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.

Intra-Afghan negotiations were intermittent and continually stalled on many issues, such as the Taliban’s refusal to agree to a ceasefire and the Republic’s refusal to agree to the Taliban’s version of Sharia law.[9]

Despite the protracted efforts to negotiate a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, recent remarks by the Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby suggested the Taliban’s ultimate agenda was to govern all of Afghanistan through armed conflict rather than agree to a political settlement:

It is clear from what they [the Taliban] are doing that they have governance designs certainly of a national scale. It is clear from what they are doing that they believe there is a military solution to the end of this conflict.[10]

US and allied military withdrawal

United States

In November 2020 President Donald Trump ordered a drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan.[11] By January 2021 US forces had reduced to 2,500 personnel.[12]

On 13 April 2021 the Biden administration announced all remaining US personnel would withdraw from Afghanistan before the 20th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.[13] The following day President Biden made his official remarks about the ‘way forward in Afghanistan’.[14] On 8 July 2021 President Biden confirmed that the US military mission in Afghanistan would conclude on 31 August 2021.[15] By 20 July 2021 US Central Command reported that more than 95 per cent of the withdrawal process was complete.[16]

On 13 July 2021 the US military formalised the change of mission in Afghanistan by transferring command responsibility from General Scott Miller—who commanded the NATO Resolute Support Mission (RSM) and US Forces-Afghanistan in-country—to the Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM), General Frank McKenzie, headquartered in Florida. To continue ongoing support for Afghanistan, McKenzie established a new organisation, US Forces-Afghanistan Forward, which was to be based in Kabul and supported by CENTCOM’s forward headquarters in Qatar.[17] The focus of US Forces-Afghanistan Forward was to:

  • protect America’s diplomatic presence in Afghanistan
  • enable Kabul international airport to operate safely (the US was negotiating with the Turkish Government on this matter)
  • continue providing ‘appropriate advice and assistance’ to the ANDSF and
  • support US-led counterterrorism activities.[18]


On 14 April 2021 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Resolute Support Mission (RSM) in Afghanistan commenced a full withdrawal towards a 1 May 2021 deadline.[19] Around that time there were approximately 9,500 personnel from 36 contributing countries assigned to NATO’s RSM; 2,500 of whom were US military personnel and 80 of whom were Australian military personnel.[20]

While the in-country military activities under the RSM ceased, NATO had plans to continue the ‘train, advise and assist’ activities from outside Afghanistan. At the time there were no specific details about where and how these activities would be conducted but Jane’s reported on 30 July 2021 that Afghan Special Forces had been taken to Turkey as part of an ongoing military training program.[21] In addition, NATO had pledged to continue providing financial support to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), with NATO retaining a diplomatic presence in Kabul via a Senior Civilian Representative Office.[22]


On 15 April 2021 the Australian Government announced the Australian Defence Force (ADF) withdrawal from Afghanistan, stating:

While our military contribution will reduce, we will continue to support the stability and development of Afghanistan through our bilateral partnership, and in concert with other nations. This includes our diplomatic presence, development cooperation program, and continued people-to-people links, including through our training and scholarship programs. Australia remains committed to helping Afghanistan preserve the gains of the last 20 years, particularly for women and girls.[23]

All ADF personnel had reportedly withdrawn from Afghanistan by mid-June 2021.[24]

On 25 May 2021 the Australian Government announced its embassy in Kabul would close on 28 May 2021. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, anticipated this would be an interim measure and said that Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officials planned to regularly visit Afghanistan from a post elsewhere in the region.[25] Australia was the first coalition partner to withdraw all diplomatic representation from Afghanistan.[26]

The Government expected to re-establish a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated on 21 July 2021:

… as soon as we’re able to have Australians in Afghanistan in a diplomatic capacity to support our efforts there, and when it’s safe to do so, it’s a matter I’ve discussed with other leaders, particularly when I was at the G7, and I hope we’ll be able to do that at an early opportunity. But, only if it’s safe.[27]

Appendix A contains a snapshot of Australia’s military contribution to the war in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021.

Taliban resurgence

The exact number of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan is difficult to determine. Estimates range from 60,000 to 80,000 fighters. Previous studies suggest the Taliban’s ‘total manpower exceeds 200,000 individuals, which includes around 60,000 core fighters, another 90,000 members of local militias, and tens of thousands of facilitators and support elements’.[28]

With the US-Taliban Agreement in February 2020 ensuring a withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan and the April 2021 announcement by US President Joe Biden confirming the full withdrawal of international forces by September 2021, the Taliban advanced its strategy to retake Afghanistan.[29]

The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) and ToloNews reported Taliban seizures of key border crossings into Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan.[30] The Taliban took control of customs activities at the crossings and began collecting millions in Afghanis a day, depriving the Afghan Government of revenue.[31]

By 21 July 2021 US military officials believed ‘a Taliban automatic military takeover’ was ‘not a forgone conclusion’, while also acknowledging the ‘strategic momentum appears to be sort of with the Taliban’.[32]

By 15 August 2021 Taliban fighters had reached the gates of the Afghan capital, Kabul, and met little to no resistance from the ANDSF as they entered the city.[33] The President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country (only to resurface days later in the United Arab Emirates) while the Taliban continued talks in Doha, Qatar on future government arrangements.[34]

What happened to the ANDSF?

As the Taliban made steady progress across the country, surrounding provincial capitals and quickly seizing control, questions emerged about the lack of resistance from the ANDSF.[35] A number of theories have been put forward that suggest the ANDSF had poor senior leadership, was rife with corruption and was heavily dependent on NATO support, all of which led to the rapid disintegration of the ANDSF in the face of the Taliban advance.[36] Regional outposts were reportedly so poorly equipped, with limited weapons and logistics support, lack of food supplies and problems with pay, it took little encouragement from the Taliban to solicit the surrender of ANDSF members.[37]

In January 2021 the US Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported that for many years the ANDSF authorised strength was 352,000 personnel. However, this number was never reached, so the authorised strength was reduced to 344,000.[38] Broken down by sector this meant the Ministry of Defense (MOD)—army, air force, special operations and civilian personnel—had an authorised strength of 208,000 and the Ministry of Interior (MOI)—policing, security and civilian staff—had approval to fill around 136,000 positions.[39] SIGAR noted:

Because MOD forces have been able to maintain an end strength in the low- to mid-180,000 range, this keeps the MOD in the high 80% range of its authorized strength, so they will not have to continue trying to recruit to a much higher authorized strength as in the past.[40]

SIGAR questioned whether the ANDSF could be adequately manned and sustained at these levels and was advised by the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A) that ‘both MOD and MOI forces are staffed at sustainable levels given current attrition and recruitment trends’.[41] Retention continued to plague the ANDSF:

… with one estimate suggesting that Afghan National Army attrition stood at 2 percent per month, or roughly 24 percent per year in the mid-to-late 2000s. By 2020, Afghan security forces were still replacing a quarter of the force annually, which the U.S. military has come to view as normal.

As the violence in Afghanistan increased, the training time schedule for ANDSF recruits decreased, which resulted in a ‘training deficiency’ that ‘hamstrung the force as it tried to combat the insurgency’.[42] Over the last 20 years of the war it is believed around 66,000 Afghan military personnel were killed.[43]

According to the most recent US Department of Defense Lead Inspector-General report to Congress on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan (covering 1 April to 30 June 2021), the Afghan National Army (ANA) lacked the capacity to mount an effective response to Taliban attacks:

The DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] stated that the ANA likely lacks the capability to carry out its missions without coalition support and remains heavily reliant on support from the ANA Special Operations Command (ANASOC) and the Afghan Air Force (AAF). These special operations and aviation units are the ANDSF’s primary offensive elements, and they continue to be overextended and misused by ANA corps commanders, according to the DIA. Since at least October 2017, the ANA has increased its reliance on ANASOC to assist in conventional force functions, such as clearing and holding territory. The DIA cited media reporting indicating that the ANA has been unable to respond effectively to Taliban assaults in rural areas or large-scale assaults against district centers, demonstrating that the ANA is unable to defend large portions of the country independently without coalition support.[44]

The fledgling Afghan Air Force (AAF) was already stretched thin and responsibility for aircraft maintenance had been transferred to the AAF when contractors performing that work withdrew along with US forces. Due to high operational tempo, AAF aircraft were not receiving the maintenance required to keep the aircraft fully operational.[45] In the days just prior to the Taliban’s advance on Kabul, a number of AAF aircraft and ANDSF personnel reportedly flew from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan.[46] The AAF possibly operated up to 284 aircraft (mainly helicopters), of which the majority are reportedly still on the ground in Afghanistan.[47]

Afghan National Army Trust Fund

Since 2007 NATO administered the ANA Trust Fund to financially support the:

… transportation and installation of donated equipment, to purchase equipment and services for ANA engineering projects, and to support in and out-of-country training. Over time, the scope of the ANA Trust Fund was expanded to also support the sustainment of the Afghan National Army, to support literacy and professional military education and capacity building activities – including those to strengthen good governance within the Afghan security structures - and to enhance women’s meaningful participation within the relevant Afghan Ministries and security institutions.[48]

According to NATO data (see Table 1 below), as of February 2021 more than US$3.4 billion worth of contributions had been made to the ANA Trust Fund. Australia was the second largest contributor with US$80 million per year (around A$105 to A$107 million per year, depending on the exchange rate, from the Department of Defence), totalling US$680 million.[49]

NATO very recently froze the ANA Trust Fund.[50]

Table 1: Afghan National Army Trust Fund contributions

Table 1: Afghan National Army Trust Fund contributions

Source: NATO, ‘Afghan National Army (ANA) Trust Fund’, media backgrounder, 5 February 2021.

Ongoing terrorist threat

The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has consistently reported on the enduring ties between the Taliban and al-Qaeda, stating:

… al-Qaeda provided nominal military training and support to the Taliban without directly claiming credit for attacks, and the Taliban continued to provide safe haven for al-Qaeda fighters despite publicly denying the terrorist group’s presence in Afghanistan.[51]

The DIA warned:

… the Taliban is “very likely” requesting that al-Qaeda restrict its activities and downplaying the longstanding relationship between the groups as a means of ensuring the complete withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops. U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) Commander General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., said if “left unmolested [al-Qaeda] are certainly going to rebuild, re-strengthen themselves, and we have no reason to doubt they…want to attack us in our homeland.”[52]

Civilian casualties

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has compiled regular reports on civilian casualties since 2009.[53] Figure 1 below shows the number of civilian deaths and injuries by year (note that the figures for 2021 represent only half the year). UNAMA reported that civilian casualties increased significantly following the April 2021 announcement of the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan. UNAMA stated that the number of civilian casualties between ‘May-June 2021 was the highest on record for those two months since UNAMA began systematic documentation in 2009’.[54]

Figure 1: total civilian casualties in Afghanistan from 1 January 2009 to 30 June 2021

Figure 1: total civilian casualties in Afghanistan from 1 January 2009 to 30 June 2021

Source: UNAMA, ‘Afghanistan: protection of civilians in armed conflict: mid-year report: 1 January to 31 June 2021’, report, 26 July 2021.

The main cause of civilian casualties throughout the last 20 years of war in Afghanistan was what UNAMA refers to as Anti-Government Elements’ use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). In the first six months of 2021, IEDs ‘caused 38 per cent of all civilian casualties’, which was ‘nearly triple the number of civilian casualties from these devices compared with the same period in 2020’. Ground engagements between the Taliban and ANDSF also significantly increased during this period resulting in 33 per cent of civilian casualties. Targeted killings by Anti-Government Elements were responsible for 14 per cent and airstrikes attributed to the AAF caused eight per cent of civilian casualties, which more than doubled due to fewer airstrikes by international forces.[55]

Appendix A

Australia’s contribution to the war in Afghanistan

Australia’s military involvement in Afghanistan began with the announcement by Prime Minister John Howard on 14 September 2001 that Australia would invoke Article IV of the ANZUS Treaty in response to the terrorist attacks against the US on 11 September 2001.[56]

Australia’s military involvement in Afghanistan ended on 15 April 2021 with the announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison that Australian forces would withdraw.[57]

During the almost 20 years in between, the ADF lost 41 personnel and more than 260 personnel were wounded or injured as a result of operations in Afghanistan.[58]

At its peak Australia’s military deployment comprised a personnel strength of 1,550, and overall more than 39,000 ADF personnel deployed to Afghanistan.[59]

Financial cost of Australia’s military contribution

The ADF’s involvement in the Afghanistan war was conducted under Operation Slipper from November 2001 to December 2014 and Operation Highroad from January 2015 until mid-2021, when the last ADF personnel withdrew.

Table 2 lists the actual costs (where available) and authorised personnel strength for ADF operations in Afghanistan by financial year. The cumulative cost of Operation Slipper was $7,312 million and the cumulative cost of Operation Highroad up to 2019–20 was $526.4 million (this figure excludes 2020–21 and 2021–22 budget estimates).[60] In addition, Defence received supplementation totalling $540 million for Enhanced Force Protection measures in Afghanistan from 2009–10 to 2013–14.[61] The total cost of operations from November 2001 to mid-2020 equates to around $8,378.4 million.

Table 2: costs and personnel strength of ADF operations in Afghanistan by financial year

(actual, $ million)

(authorised strength)

2021–22 (estimate) 40.6 0
2020–21 (revised estimate) 85.3 80
2019–20 76.7 200
2018–19 86.7 300
2017–18 82.4 300
2016–17 223.0 270–300
2015–16 228.5 270
2014–15 293.0 400
2013–14 735.3 1,030
2012–13 1,006.5 1,550
2011–12 1,006.7 1,550
2010–11 1,088.9 1,550
2009–10 1,125.3 1,550
2008–09 701.9 1,200
2007–08 394.9 1,080
2006–07 223.3 840
2005–06 91.0 550
2004–05 - 1
2003–04 - 2
2002–03 176.0 2
2001–02 320.0 1,100

Sources: Defence annual reports, various years; Defence portfolio budget statements, various years; and NATO in Afghanistan placemats, various years.

Note: 2003–04 and 2004–05 figures were combined with Operation Catalyst (Iraq) and cannot be distinguished for those years. Figures in this table reflect funding allocated against Operations Slipper and Highroad and do not take into account peripheral but contributory expenditure (for example, Operation Manitou—Middle East Region Maritime—sustainment, personnel costs, training costs).

Appendix B

Library publications on Afghanistan

Date Title
2 August 2021 From Vietnam to Afghanistan: humanitarian visas for staff assisting Australian forces
3 September 2020 The Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force Afghanistan Inquiry (Brereton Inquiry): a quick guide
2 June 2017 Afghanistan: the elusive endgame
8 October 2014 Security arrangements in Afghanistan from 2015 and beyond
17 July 2014 Afghanistan: case for a ‘lessons learnt’ study?
20 December 2013 Lost in translation: resettling locally engaged Afghan staff
16 December 2013 Afghanistan: drawdown and future prospects
16 December 2013 Uncertain future: Australian aid to Afghanistan
13 December 2013 Australia at war in Afghanistan: updated facts and figures
6 November 2013 Australia’s drawdown in Afghanistan
12 September 2012 Australia at war in Afghanistan: revised facts and figures
25 November 2011 Progress towards transition in Afghanistan
18 July 2011 Australian aid to Afghanistan
10 June 2011 Australia’s military involvement in Afghanistan—update
25 October 2010 Parliamentary Library vital issues seminar—Australia’s role and commitment in Afghanistan
19 October 2010 Seeking asylum from Afghanistan
15 October 2010 Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan: frequently asked questions
16 September 2010 Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan
16 July 2010 Australia’s military involvement in Afghanistan since 2001: a chronology
10 December 2002 Afghanistan: a year after
15 November 1993 Afghanistan: the politics of disintegration

[1].   S Jones, ‘Op-ed: Take the war to Pakistan’, The New York Times, 3 December 2009; A Saikal, ‘Will the US withdrawal from Afghanistan put the Taliban in power?’, The Strategist, blog, 13 August 2020.

[2].   Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America, 29 February 2020.

[3].   M Esper (US Secretary of Defense), J Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General) and A Ghani (President of Afghanistan), News conference by Secretary Esper, Secretary Stoltenberg, and Afghanistan President Ghani, transcript, 29 February 2020.

[4].   Ibid.

[5].   Ibid.

[6].   B Roggio, ‘Taliban religious decree calls for its emir to rule “Islamic government” in Afghanistan’, FDD’s Long War Journal, 8 March 2020; Editorial, ‘Taliban defends its chief as “legal” rule of Afghanistan’, Voice of America, 7 March 2020.

[7].   ‘TOLOnews 6pm news 12 September 2020’, ToloNews, 12 September 2020.

[8].   S Amiry, ‘No significant progress in Doha talks in past 9 days’, ToloNews, 21 January 2021.

[9].   Editorial, ‘High-stakes talks between Afghan gov’t, Taliban as fighting rages’, Al Jazeera, 17 July 2021.

[10]. J Kirby, ‘Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby holds a press briefing’, US Department of Defense, transcript, 12 July 2021.

[11]. C Miller (Acting US Defense Secretary), Acting Secretary Miller announces troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq, transcript, 17 November 2020.

[12]. US Department of Defense, Statement by Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller on force levels in Afghanistan, media release, 15 January 2021.

[13]. White House, Background press call by a Senior Administration Official on Afghanistan, press briefing, 13 April 2021.

[14]. J Biden (President of the United States), Remarks by President Biden on the way forward in Afghanistan, White House, speech, 14 April 2021.

[15]. J Biden (President of the United States), Remarks by President Biden on the drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan, White House, speech, 8 July 2021.

[16]. US Central Command (US CENTCOM), ‘Update on the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan July 20, 2021’, US CENTCOM website, 20 July 2021.

[17]. US CENTCOM, US Forces-Afghanistan and Resolute Support transition of authority ceremony July, 12 2021, US CENTCOM, transcript, 13 July 2021.

[18]. Ibid.

[19]. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), NATO allies decide to start withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, media release, 15 April 2021.

[20]. NATO, ‘Resolute Support Mission (RSM): key facts and figures: troop contributing nations’, February 2021.

[21]. G Dominguez, ‘NATO starts training programme for Afghan special forces in Turkey, says report’, Jane’s, 30 July 2021.

[22]. NATO, ‘NATO-Afghanistan relations’, media backgrounder, June 2021.

[23]. S Morrison (Prime Minister), M Payne (Minister for Foreign Affairs) and P Dutton (Minister for Defence), Australian troops to drawdown in Afghanistan, media release, 15 April 2021.

[24]. P Dutton (Minister for Defence), Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News, transcript, 11 July 2021; A Greene, ‘Final Australian troops leave Afghanistan as 20-year mission draws to a close’, ABC News, 1 July 2021.

[25]. S Morrison (Prime Minister) and M Payne (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Statement on the Australian Embassy in Afghanistan, media release, 25 May 2021.

[26]. Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Official committee Hansard, 3 June 2021, p. 56.

[27]. S Morrison (Prime Minister), Press conference: Canberra, ACT, transcript, 21 July 2021.

[28]. J Schroden, ‘Afghanistan’s security forces versus the Taliban: a net assessment’, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, CTC Sentinel, 14(1), January 2021.

[29]. B Roggio, ‘Mapping Taliban contested and controlled districts in Afghanistan’, FDD’s Long War Journal.

[30]. K Clark, ‘Menace, negotiation, attack: the Taleban take more district centres across Afghanistan’, Afghanistan Analysts Network, 16 July 2021.

[31]. Editorial, ‘Customs revenue declines amid increased Taliban attacks’, ToloNews, 7 July 2021; Z Jahanmal, ‘Government stops budget to development projects’, ToloNews, 13 July 2021.

[32]. US Department of Defense, Secretary of Defense Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Milley press briefing, transcript, 21 July 2021.

[33]. Editorial, ‘Taliban says it will not enter Kabul by force’, ToloNews, 15 August 2021.

[34]. Editorial, ‘President Ashraf Ghani leaves Afghanistan’, ToloNews, 15 August 2021; Editorial, ‘Taliban discussing future govt in Doha’, ToloNews, 16 August 2021; M Ansar, ‘Ghani, family “welcomed” in UAE: statement’, ToloNews, 19 August 2021.

[35]. A Lieven, ‘Opinion: why Afghan forces so quickly laid down their arms’, Politico, 16 August 2021; P Wintour, ‘A tale of two armies: why Afghan forces proved no match for the Taliban’, The Guardian, 16 August 2021; J Landay and I Ali, ‘Taliban surge exposes failure of U.S. efforts to build Afghan army’, Reuters, 16 August 2021.

[36]. Wintour, ‘A tale of two armies’, op. cit.; A Basit, ‘Why did the Afghan army disintegrate so quickly?’, Al Jazeera, 17 August 2021.

[37]. D Zucchino and N Rahim, ‘A wave of Afghan surrenders to the Taliban picks up speed’, The New York Times, 27 May 2021.

[38]. Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), SIGAR quarterly report to Congress, report, 30 January 2021, p. 60.

[39]. Ibid.

[40]. Ibid.

[41]. Ibid.

[42]. SIGAR, What we need to learn: lessons from twenty years of Afghanistan reconstruction, SIGAR August 2021, p. 67.

[43]. Ibid., p. VII.

[44]. US Department of Defense, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel: Lead Inspector General report to the United States Congress, Lead Inspector-General of OFS, 1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021, p. 22.

[45]. Ibid., pp. 23–24.

[46]. C Hoyle, ‘Concerns grow over Afghan air force assets seized by Taliban’, Flight Global, 18 August 2021; Editorial, ‘Uzbekistan says hundreds of Afghan soldiers flee over border with dozens of aircraft’, Reuters, 17 August 2021; J Trevithick, ‘Dozens Of U.S.-bought Afghan Air Force aircraft are now orphaned at an Uzbek airfield’, The Drive, 17 August 2021.

[47]. Ibid.

[48]. NATO, ‘Afghan National Army (ANA) Trust Fund’, media backgrounder, 5 February 2021.

[49]. Ibid.; Australian Government, Defence annual report 2016–17, Department of Defence, November 2017, p. 138.

[50]. NATO, ‘NATO and Afghanistan: financial sustainment of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces’, NATO website, updated 19 August 2021.

[51]. US Department of Defense, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, op. cit., p. 18.

[52]. Ibid., p. 2.

[53]. United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), ‘Reports on the protection of civilians in armed conflict’, UNAMA website.

[54]. UNAMA, ‘Afghanistan: protection of civilians in armed conflict: mid-year report: 1 January to 31 June 2021’, report, 26 July 2021, pp. 1–2.

[55]. Ibid., p. 3.

[56]. J Howard (Prime Minister), Application of ANZUS Treaty to terrorist attacks on the United States, media release, 14 September 2001.

[57]. S Morrison (Prime Minister), M Payne (Minister for Foreign Affairs) and P Dutton (Minister for Defence), Australian troops to drawdown, op. cit.

[58]. Department of Defence (DoD), ‘Operation Slipper: Afghanistan: Vale’, DoD website; K Andrews (Minister for Defence), ‘Ministerial statements: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Operations in the Middle East’, House of Representatives, Hansard, 16 September 2015.      

[59]. S Morrison (Prime Minister), M Payne (Minister for Foreign Affairs) and P Dutton (Minister for Defence), Australian troops to drawdown, op. cit.

[60]. Australian Government, Defence annual report 2016–17, Department of Defence, November 2017, p. 56; Australian Government, Defence annual report 2019–20, Department of Defence, November 2020, p. 72.

[61]. Australian Government, Defence annual report 2013–14, Department of Defence, November 2014, p. 79.


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