NEW YORK: US intelligence agencies have warned of the possibility of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and a rapid collapse of the Afghan military, raising questions about why the Joe Biden administration was “unprepared to deal with the Taliban’s final push into Kabul”. Had been. , according to a leading American daily.
The New York Times said that according to classified assessments by US spy agencies over the summer, there was a serious possibility of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.
The assessment warned of a “rapid collapse of the Afghan military, even as President Biden and his advisers publicly said it was unlikely to happen so quickly.”
“By July, many intelligence reports became more pessimistic, questioning whether any Afghan security forces would put up serious resistance and whether the government could hold on to the capital, Kabul.”
The brutality of warnings over the summer raises questions about why officials in the Biden administration, and military planners in Afghanistan, were unprepared to deal with the Taliban’s final push into Kabul, including a failure to ensure security at the main airport and A crowd of thousands was involved to guard the final exit of the United States military back to the country,” the report said.
A CIA report in July noted that security forces and the central government had lost control of roads leading to Kabul and “assessed that the viability of the central government was in grave danger,” the NYT report said. Adding to other reports from the State Department of Intelligence and Research, the Department of Intelligence and Research also noted the failure of Afghan forces to fight the Taliban and “suggested that the deteriorating security situation could lead to the downfall of the government.”
“The intelligence job is not to say that you know the Afghan government is going to fall on August 15,” said Timothy Bergreen, a former staff director on the House Intelligence Committee.
“But everyone knew that without the hardening of international forces, and especially our forces, Afghans were unable to defend or govern themselves,” Bergreen said.
In addition, the NYT said the annual threat assessment released in April by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence paid little attention to Afghanistan; “But the brief discussion was serious, given that the Taliban were confident it could achieve a military victory.
“The Taliban is likely to have an advantage on the battlefield, and the Afghan government will struggle to stop the Taliban if the coalition withdraws support,” the report said.
As President Biden said on July 8 that the Afghan government was unlikely to fall and there would be no chaotic evacuation of Americans, the NYT said a report in July, when Afghan districts were falling into the hands of the Taliban, Kabul. Given the growing risks to the US, given that the Afghan government was unprepared for a Taliban attack.”
“Intelligence agencies predicted that if the Taliban took over the cities, a widespread collapse could be rapid and there was a high risk of Afghan security forces breaking out.
“It is not clear whether other reports during this period presented a more optimistic picture about the ability of the Afghan military and government in Kabul to confront the Taliban,” it said.
The report said that prior to July, there was a consensus among intelligence agencies that “the Afghan government could hang on for two years, which would have left enough time for an orderly exit.”
On 27 April, when the State Department ordered the release of non-essential personnel from the embassy in Kabul, the overall intelligence assessment was that the Taliban takeover was at least 18 months away, according to administration officials.
However, the report quoted a senior administration official as saying that as of July, “with the situation becoming more volatile, intelligence agencies never made a clear prediction of an imminent takeover of the Taliban.”
The report said the official said his assessment had not been given a “high confidence” judgment, the agencies’ highest level of certainty.
It said that in recent months, assessments about the situation in Afghanistan have become more pessimistic as the Taliban have made huge gains.
This summer’s report questioned the Afghan security forces’ willingness to fight and the Kabul government’s ability to seize power.
“With each report of mass deportations, a former official said, the Afghan government seemed less stable,” the report said.
Pentagon officials said Tuesday that US forces are coordinating with the Taliban while accelerating airlift of Americans and Afghan allies from Kabul airport, and adding additional US troops to complete the evacuation in two weeks. is bringing
At the airport overnight, nine Air Force C-17 transport aircraft arrived with equipment and about 1,000 soldiers, and seven C-17s evacuated 700–800 civilians, Army Major General William Taylor told a Pentagon news release. 165 Americans were involved. the seminar.
The total includes Afghans who have applied for special immigrant visas and third country nationals, he said.
The goal, Taylor said, is to ramp up to one evacuation flight per hour by Wednesday, Taylor said.
The airlift was temporarily suspended on Monday after Afghans desperate to flee the country breached security and landed on the tarmac.
Seven people died in several incidents.
Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby said US commanders at the airport are in direct contact with Taliban commanders outside the airport to avoid security incidents.
He did not give details but indicated that the communication was in line with arrangements made by the head of US Central Command on Sunday, General Frank McKenzie, when he met with Taliban leaders in Qatar and agreed to “protest” forces and allow a The safe US evacuation.
Kirby said there had been no hostile action by the Taliban, and there were now several hundred members of the defeated Afghan military at the airport assisting with the evacuation.
He said US forces plan to end their surveillance of the evacuation by August 31, with President Joe Biden set to officially end the US war role in Afghanistan.
On Monday, a defiant Biden shrugged off blame for the chaotic scenes of Afghans glued to US military planes in Kabul, in a desperate bid to flee his country after the Taliban’s easy victory over an Afghan army that has been threatened by the US and NATO allies had spent two decades trying to make up. .
Biden called the suffering of the trapped Afghan civilians “gut-wrenching” and acknowledged that the Taliban had taken over the country faster than his administration expected.
The US sent troops to Kabul airport to protect its own evacuation diplomats and others.
But the president expressed no second thoughts about his decision to stick to the American commitment made during the Trump administration to end America’s longest war, no matter what.
“I stand behind my decision” to eventually withdraw US combat forces, Biden said, acknowledging the Afghan collapse played out far more quickly than his administration’s most pessimistic public forecasts.
“It came out much faster than we anticipated,” he said.
Despite declaring “the buck stays with me”, Biden surprisingly swiftly placed almost all the blame for the Taliban victory on the Afghans.
His serious remarks were his first in the world since the biggest foreign policy crisis of his still-young presidency.
Excited by the US withdrawal, Taliban fighters infiltrated across the country last week and captured the capital Kabul on Sunday, prompting US-backed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to flee the country.
Biden said he had warned Ghani, who had been appointed Afghanistan’s president in a US-negotiated deal, to be ready to fight a civil war with the Taliban after the US military left.
“They failed to do any of them,” he said.
Internationally, the spectacle of the Taliban takeover and the chaos of the evacuation effort was raising doubts about America’s commitments to its allies.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was “bitter” to see an utter collapse in a war that Germany and other NATO allies had followed the USINTO after the September 11 attacks, which were plotted from Afghanistan.
The outrageous scenes were comforting to American enemies.
At home, this all draws sharp criticism from members of Biden’s own political party, who asked the White House to do more to rescue fleeing Afghans, especially those who fought the two-decade US military effort. assisted in.
Jason Crowe, a Colorado Democrat and military veteran from Iraq and Afghanistan, said, “We didn’t have to see the scenes we’re seeing at Kabul airport with our Afghan friends boarding a C-17.”
That’s why he and others called for evacuations to begin months ago, he said.
“It could have been done deliberately and systematically,” Crowe said.
“And we think it was a missed opportunity.”
In addition to the life-and-death situation in Kabul, the time of crisis was unfortunate for Biden’s domestic efforts at home.
It may well undermine his political position as he works to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and Congress’s support for a USD 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and a major expansion of the social safety net. do construction.
Still, the focus at home and abroad was on Kabul’s airport, where thousands of Afghans trapped by a sudden Taliban takeover rushed to the tarmac and clinging to US military planes deployed to evacuate US personnel.
Embassy, which closed on Sunday, and others.
At least seven people died in the chaos, including two who were glued to the wheels of a C-17 and fell into the tarmac as it took off, and two others were shot by American forces.
The Americans said they were armed but there was no evidence that they were the Taliban.
Pentagon spokesman Kirby said during television interviews Tuesday that plans are being made to house 22,000 evacuated Afghans and their families at three US military installations in the continental United States.
He did not give the names of the places.
Kirby said the US was in charge of air traffic at Kabul airport, where military and some commercial flights had resumed after fearful Afghans were briefly suspended on Monday amid a stampede on the runway.
The US expects to secure evacuations once the full deployment of 6,000 US troops is carried out for 5,000 people a day, and once more transport planes can land, he said.