Afghanistan-Taliban Crisis LIVE Updates: US President Joe Biden's approval rating dropped by 7 percentage points and hit its lowest as Taliban swept across Afghanistan despite years of US investments and intervention in efforts to turn that country into a democracy.
US intelligence agencies had warned of the prospect of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and a rapid collapse of the Afghan military, raising questions as to why the Joe Biden administration seemed "ill-prepared to deal with the Taliban's final push into Kabul", according to a leading American daily.
The New York Times said that according to classified assessments by American spy agencies over the summer, there was the grim prospect of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
The assessment warned of the "rapid collapse of the Afghan military, even as President Biden and his advisers said publicly that was unlikely to happen as quickly."
"By July, many intelligence reports grew more pessimistic, questioning whether any Afghan security forces would muster serious resistance and whether the government could hold on in Kabul, the capital.
The drumbeat of warnings over the summer raise questions about why Biden administration officials, and military planners in Afghanistan, seemed ill-prepared to deal with the Taliban's final push into Kabul, including a failure to ensure security at the main airport and rushing thousands more troops back to the country to protect the United States' final exit," the report said.
A CIA report in July noted that security forces and central government had lost control of the roads leading to Kabul and "assessed that the viability of the central government was in serious jeopardy," the NYT report said, adding that other reports by the State Department's intelligence and research division also noted the failure of Afghan forces to fight the Taliban and "suggested the deteriorating security conditions could lead to the collapse of the government."
The business of intelligence is not to say you know on August 15 the Afghan government's going to fall, a former staff director for the House Intelligence Committee Timothy Bergreen said.
But what everybody knew is that without the stiffening of the international forces and specifically our forces, the Afghans were incapable of defending or governing themselves, Bergreen said.
Further, the NYT said Afghanistan received little attention in the annual threat assessment released in April by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; "but the brief discussion was dire, noting the Taliban was confident it could achieve a military victory.
The Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield, and the Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support, the report said.
Even as President Biden said on July 8 that the Afghan government was unlikely to fall and there would be no chaotic evacuations of Americans, the NYT said according to one report in July, when Afghan districts were falling into the hands of the Taliban, "laid out the growing risks to Kabul, noting that the Afghan government was unprepared for a Taliban assault."
"Intelligence agencies predicted that should the Taliban seize cities, a cascading collapse could happen rapidly and the Afghan security forces were at high risk of falling apart.
It is unclear whether other reports during this period presented a more optimistic picture about the ability of the Afghan military and the government in Kabul to withstand the Taliban," it said.
The report noted that before July, consensus among intelligence agencies was that the "Afghan government could hang on for as long as two years, which would have left ample time for an orderly exit. On April 27, when the State Department ordered the departure of non-essential personnel from the embassy in Kabul, the overall intelligence assessment was still that a Taliban takeover was at least 18 months away, according to administration officials."
However, the report, citing a senior administration official, said that even by July, as the "situation grew more volatile, intelligence agencies never offered a clear prediction of an imminent Taliban takeover."
The official said their assessments were not given a high confidence judgment, the agencies' highest level of certainty, the report said.
It added that in recent months, assessments about the situation in Afghanistan became ever more pessimistic as the Taliban made larger gains.
"The reports this summer questioned in stark terms the will of Afghan security forces to fight and the ability of the Kabul government to hold power.
With each report of mass desertions, a former official said, the Afghan government looked less stable, the report added.