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CIA warned of rapid Taliban takeover

A Taliban fighter holding an M16 assault rifle stands outside the Interior Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. Stringer | Reuters


CIA warned of rapid Taliban takeover


Current and former US officials told NBC News that when the Taliban began taking regions throughout Afghanistan in recent weeks, the CIA’s intelligence assessments began to warn in increasingly severe terms about the possibility of a quick, total collapse of the Afghan military and government.

Classified assessments by American spy agencies over the summer painted an increasingly grim picture of the prospect of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and warned of the rapid collapse of the Afghan military, even as President Joe Biden and his advisers publicly stated that it was unlikely to happen as quickly.

Those warnings came after years of continuously negative evaluations of the Afghan military’s capacity and desire to battle Taliban insurgents. Three former intelligence officials claimed the CIA’s reports were frequently among the most pessimistic, and some of them contradicted more positive Pentagon evaluations of Afghan security forces.

According to a former CIA counter-terrorism head, US intelligence warned both the Trump and Biden administrations that an overly fast departure would cause the Afghan army’s fight to the Taliban to collapse “within days.”

According to a person familiar with the information, a July assessment outlined the rising threats to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, as well as the fact that the Afghan government was unprepared for a Taliban attack on the city.

In the end, one former official informed on the subject said, the CIA’s portrayal of a worst-case scenario “was pretty close to what happened.”


Intelligence services warned that if the Taliban took control of cities, a cascade collapse would occur quickly, putting Afghan security forces in jeopardy. It’s unclear whether other reports at the time painted a more hopeful image of the Afghan military and the Kabul government’s capacity to stave off the militants.

Questions regarding what the Biden administration was informed about realities on the ground as the US continued its military retreat have arose fast and vehemently, especially as a video of President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken making rosier declarations in recent weeks has surfaced.

According to recent press accounts of White House decision-making, Joe Biden was made to think that Kabul and Ashraf Ghani’s administration would fall in 18 months. It was widely reported last week that unidentified officials said it might take 30 to 90 days.

“There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army or this government in 11 days,” Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Wednesday.

“The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” Biden said in a speech to the country on Monday.

Former CIA counter-terrorism head for South and South-West Asia Douglas London said the president was being “misleading at best.”

London stated, “The CIA anticipated it as a possible scenario.”

The United States stated on Monday that it would only recognize a Taliban administration in Afghanistan provided it respected women’s rights and avoided extremist groups like al-Qaeda.

“Ultimately when it comes to our posture towards any future government in Afghanistan, it will depend upon the actions of that government. It will depend upon the actions of the Taliban,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters, “It will depend on the Taliban’s actions.”

President Joe Biden’s national security staff never gave him such a dismal prediction, according to the White House. The president appeared to refute intelligence that showed the Afghan military was on the verge of disbanding a month ago.

But it is this scenario that has emerged as one of the administration’s main justifications for the president’s decision to cease the US military mission in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country,” Biden told the nation Monday. “The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.”

The CIA and the director of national intelligence declined to comment on the evaluations provided to the White House through their spokespeople. Officials within the intelligence community, on the other hand, admitted that their agencies’ analyses had been somber and that their views had evolved in recent weeks and months.

Biden claimed that his government “planned for every contingency” in Afghanistan during his speech on Monday, but that the situation “did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.”

On July 8, Mr. Biden said it was “highly unlikely” that the Taliban would be “overrunning everything and owning the whole country.” In congressional testimony in June, Mr. Blinken said, “If there is a significant deterioration in security — that could well happen, we’ve discussed this before — I don’t think it’s going to be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday.”

“I would not necessarily equate the departure of forces in July, August, or by early September with some kind of immediate deterioration in the situation,” Blinken added.

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