How big is the Taliban army in Afghanistan?
The Taliban has swept across Afghanistan and captured the Presidential Palace in the capital of Kabul, but how many fighters can it call upon?
The situation in Afghanistan escalated significantly on Sunday as it was reported that President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country amid an ongoing offensive from the Taliban. Fighters had already swept through all major cities in the country before being pictured in the Presidential Palace in the capital city of Kabul on Sunday.
The speed at which the Taliban has retaken the country after the United States announced its intention to withdraw in April has shocked observers and threatens to disrupt the region.
How were the Taliban able to retake the capital in a matter of months, and how many fighters are they able to call upon?
How many fighters do the Taliban have at their disposal?
The latest figures available suggest that the Taliban have around 80,000 troops in Afghanistan, although they are thought to have relied on support from portions of Afghan society in their efforts to retake the country.
In comparison, the Afghan government has a nominal 300,699 active fighters but the country has been completely overran, with military leaders surrendering without a fight in the face of Taliban advances. Despite the army’s numerical advantage the highly motivated Taliban forces were able to overpower the better-equipped Afghan government forces.
The Afghan army has been reliant on the United States for funding, training and direction for much of the last two decades. The US entered the country in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Center after the Taliban administration in Afghanistan was suspected of harbouring Al-Qaeda terrorists.
The US aid spending watchdog has estimated that up to $88.3 billion was spent on supporting the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan but these efforts have been quickly undone by the Taliban. The watchdog had previously warned that the US military had no way of knowing how the Afghan National Defense and Security forces (ANDSF) would act after American forces had withdrawn.
Referring to the $88.3 billion of spending, a report from the watchdog said: “The question of whether that money was well spent will ultimately be answered by the outcome of the fighting on the ground, perhaps the purest monitoring and evaluation exercise.”
To follow all the latest developments from Afghanistan as the Taliban looks to regain control, check out our live feed: Afghan government collapses as Taliban enters Kabul | Live updates