Afghanistan: People and soldiers 'have lost faith' in government', former US soldier says

'People just don't believe' in the 'predatory' Afghan government, Chris Kolenda explains the situation in the warring country

Afghan soldiers and the general public no longer believe in their "predatory" and "kleptocratic" government, leading many to desert their posts, a former American commander who fought against the Taliban has said.

Chris Kolenda led US troops to fight against the Taliban in 2007-8 and then participated in diplomatic talks with them in 2010-13.

In the past six days, the Taliban have captured nine key cities and it is now in control of almost two-thirds of Afghanistan's territory. US intelligence officials have reportedly said they believe the capital Kabul could fall within 90 days.

Colonel Chris Kolenda has put Afghan prime minister Ashraf Ghani's failure down to the fact that people have lost faith in him.

He told ITV News: "Part of the reason why the security forces are not fighting well is what one elder told me this morning, people just don't believe.

"Soldiers just don't believe in their leaders right now, whether it's the military or political, and so a lot of them are deserting their posts."

He explained: "(The government) has been predatory and it's been kleptocratic and the government has been on drift for well over a decade, probably 15 years.

"It's been drifting into this predatory kleptocratic state where people have lost faith in the government."

Internally displaced Afghan women from northern provinces, who fled their home due to fighting Credit: AP/Rahmat Gul

Describing the situation in Afghanistan as a "rapid deterioration" and a "potentially catastrophic growth on the side of the Taliban", he said the government needs to raise morale by implementing a strategy that can work.

He said: The Afghan government is going to have to sideline the toxic leaders that are spending more time warring with one another than they are fighting the Taliban.

"Second, they're going to have to make their soldiers and people into believers that they're serious, that they've got a strategy that can work.

"Right now, there's not that faith that there's a strategy that can work. The strategy is fairly obvious for them but they've got to implement it and they've got to get the leaders on the ground who are going to implement that strategy and be able to fight the Taliban to a stalemate."

People were filmed on Aug 8, 2021, fleeing the Taliban's advance in Kunduz city, Afghanistan. Credit: UGC

The situation in the country began to get worse in April when President Joe Biden announced the final withdrawal of US troops from the country.

And the US shows no sign of reversing its decision, with Mr Biden's insistence on Tuesday that the Afghans "have got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation".

Colonel Kolenda said: "I think it's very legitimate for the US government, for the UK government, to ask: Why should we send ground forces to fight for the Afghan government it its own military and people aren't willing to fight for it?

"So that's where I think we are and why it's incumbent on the Afghan government to get the right leaders in position with the right strategy and fight back effectively."

'I think it's very legitimate for the US to ask: Why should we send ground forces to fight for the Afghan government it its own military and people aren't willing to fight for it?'

He said the Afghan government will be in a better place to ask for more support from other countries if it can regain the support of the people.

Mr Biden said the US would keep its commitments, that is to provide close air support, make sure Afghanistan's air force is functioning, supply its forces with food and equipment and paying salaries for its army.

Three provincial capitals in Afghanistan - including the capitals of Badakhshan and Baghlan provinces to the northeast and Farah province to the west - are the latest cities to be captured by the Taliban.

On Wednesday, Afghan forces also lost a key military base in Kunduz, another important city that has fallen to the Taliban in recent days.