Afghan Troops Sought Safety in Numbers – Igniting a Cascade of Surrender

Afghan Troops Sought Safety in Numbers

Taliban fighters stand in a vehicle along the road in Kandahar on August 13, 2021. the fast collapse of the Afghan army in recent days took many by surprise in the US. including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In the months after the death of President Joe Biden April 2021 announcement of the withdrawal of troops, intelligence reports warned that the Afghan armed forces might not fight on their own, paving the way for a Taliban takeover after the withdrawal of US forces.

Yet few expected the Taliban to succeed so quickly. On August 10, a US intelligence assessment. predicted a Taliban takeover in 90 days. It only took five.

My research on what game theorists and academics call “commitment issues”Identify the problem, and it is not one that most experts are talking about, such as poor planning or corruption. The patterns of the collapse of the Afghan army indicate that it was the collective result of individual soldiers making rational decisions about their own situations and deciding not to fight.

Looking for the right cause

Throughout the conflict, the perennial emphasis on America “escape strategy”It meant that American politicians were always focused on whether it was time to leave yet. For 20 years, US efforts focused on short-term thinking and problem solving that changed so much military and political goals over time, rather than spending time and effort on develop a comprehensive long-term strategy for the war. It could be said that lukewarm US engagement it constantly created many of the underlying conditions for the collapse of the Afghan army. However, it did not fully determine the outcome.

Biden claimed that the Afghan army missed the will to struggle. Others have blamed possible training problems, incompetent or corrupt Afghan soldiers, and too much trust in private contractors to shore up the Afghan forces.

According to my research and analysis, the root cause of what happened in the Afghan army is neither of those, nor was it a lack of character. Instead, the soldiers were met with a “commitment problem,” seeing rapidly changing conditions that changed your mind from being willing to fight to realizing that it was now a bad and dangerous idea.

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A waterfall of surrender

Soldiers look for strength in numbers. When soldiers fight in battle, they are only successful if they fight as a unit. However, individual decisions to fight or flight depend on mutual expectations. If they expect most of their comrades to fight, the best thing for the soldiers is to fight too.

But if they expect most of their comrades to surrender, soldiers may find it more attractive to surrender, leading to a “collective action problem. “If soldiers find out that other units have surrendered, they expect their own comrades’ resolve to below and they are less likely to fight. A few initial surrenders or desertions can spark a few more, and then more and more until all an army collapses.

This is precisely what happened to the Afghan army. When the US withdrawal began in May, the Taliban began to gain territory. As they advanced, the Taliban too negotiated with groups of Afghan forces stationed at outposts and in cities and convinced some troops to surrender. Once the first episode of surrender occurred and the news began to spread, others quickly followed, facilitating the accelerated momentum of the Taliban as they advanced without facing great resistance. In the end, the Afghan soldiers chose safety in numbers by surrendering together.

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