Attending an Afghan National Army graduation ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 2019
Omar Sobhani / Reuters

The United States’ effort to strengthen the Afghan security forces has come to an ignominious end. The U.S. military spent 20 years and $83 billion building up a force that melted away in a matter of weeks, ceding the country to the Taliban over that period with barely a shot fired.

The swift collapse of the Afghan security forces is not an outlier. In fact, it is closer to the norm for local security forces built up with U.S. military assistance. The United States’ three largest efforts to build partner militaries—in Vietnam, Iraq, and now Afghanistan—have all failed

Finish reading this article for free.

Enter your email and we'll send a paywall-free link directly to your inbox.

In addition to your unlocked article, you will receive our flagship weekly newsletter Foreign Affairs This Week, as well as occasional updates and offers from Foreign Affairs. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, visit our user agreement and privacy policy.


Get unlimited access to all Foreign Affairs. Subscribe now.

Are you already a subscriber? Sign in.