During a July 8 press conference, President Joe Biden estimated Taliban forces at approximately 75,000, and contrasted them to the 300,000 troops in the US-trained Afghan army. It now appears that those numbers were wildly off, by as much as double the estimate.
According to Biden, Afghanistan has “300,000 well-equipped [troops], as well-equipped as any army in the world, and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban,” and said at the time that a Taliban takeover was “not inevitable.”
According to a new report, the Taliban may have a fighting force of 150,000 to 200,000 in Afghanistan. Dr. Antonio Giustozzi, an international conflict and security studies professor at King’s College London, wrote a 2018 report that stated Taliban’s largest number of fighters, approximately 90,000, are recruited from local militias. Giustozzi estimated Taliban, including non-combatants, totaled 200,000.
Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote in 2018, “Based on press releases, the Defense and Interior Ministries claim that between 30 to 50 Taliban fighters are killed daily. If this is averaged out over the course of a year, the Taliban would incur 11,000 to 18,000 fighters killed each year.
“There are few fighting forces that could take such high levels of casualties and still remain a dominant player on the battlefield. Given these facts, the Taliban’s strength is likely to number well over 100,000 fighters.”
The Biden administration has also likely over-counted the size of the Afghan army, according to an Inspector General report released July 31. Though Biden cited 300,000, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley testified in June that the Afghan army and police numbered 325,000-350,000.
According to The Daily Caller, “…records show the Afghan army consisted of about 182,000 soldiers and the police forces numbered about 118,000.” Roggio told the outlet that those numbers are likely inflated, citing the prevalence of “ghost soldiers” which “exist on paper for the purpose of salaries and provisions, but have either died, deserted or never existed in the first place.”