New review shows that although multiple reports were produced by four intelligence agencies on Afghanistan’s future, none of them foresaw the Taliban’s lightning march or predicted Kabul’s quick collapse.

  • Summary of multiple intelligence reports on Afghanistan shows how agencies failed to predict the rapid collapse in Kabul
  • The Wall Street Journal has received assessments back to April 2020
  • These documents provide insight into the advice that Presidents Biden & Trump received as they considered bringing back U.S. troops from the twenty-year conflict.
  • They claimed that the Kabul government would not survive without foreign troops
  • However, no one predicted that the Taliban would seize Kabul by August’s middle. 

A review published on Thursday found that four U.S. intelligence agency reports on Afghanistan, which were produced in the period leading up to the withdrawal of foreign troops, failed to predict how fast the Taliban would capture Kabul.

Instead they offered ‘scattershot assessments’ of the staying power of the Afghan military and government, reported the Wall Street Journal.

They extrapolated from Taliban advances between spring 2020 and July, and predicted that Kabul’s government would not survive after U.S. troops had left. 

They differed on how long it would take. And no one predicted that the Taliban would enter the capital by August 15th, while American forces were still on ground.

The chaotic scenes at Kabul Airport and the deaths in a suicide attack on 13 U.S. personnel have left many questions about whether anyone could have predicted the collapse and whether President Biden should have extended his deadline of Aug. 31 for leaving the country.

The Central Intelligence Agency released a report in May entitled “The Central Intelligence Agency’, one month after President Biden had announced his decision to withdraw.”After the U.S., Government at Risk of Collapsing Withdrawal.

President Joe Biden ordered troops out of Afghanistan by the end August, but the operation ended in chaos as the Taliban stormed into the capital Kabul before U.S. soldiers had left

President Joe Biden ordered troops from Afghanistan to withdraw by the end of August. However, the operation ended in chaos when the Taliban stormed into Kabul capital before U.S. soldiers could leave.

Taliban gunmen are now a common sight in Kabul, replacing troops of the government of Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country in the middle of August

Taliban gunmen are now a common sight at Kabul. They have replaced the troops of Ashraf Khani’s government, which fled the country in August.

According to the newspaper, it was estimated that President Ashraf Gani’s administration would collapse by the end of this year.

A month later, another forecast was issued by the agency. It was called “The Forecast”.Afghanistan: Assessing the Prospects for a Complete Taliban Takeover within Two Years. 

Summary: A Defense Intelligence Agency report dated June 4, predicted that the Taliban would continue its strategy of isolating rural areas in Kabul for 12 more months. 

These summaries give an overview of the advice given to Biden by his predecessor Donald Trump when they considered how to safely bring troops home after a two-decade-long conflict.

It was a bit of a blame game, as politicians and military officials claimed that they were not warned about a sudden collapse.

For example, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley stated days after Kabul’s collapse that he hadn’t been warned that the Afghan army would crumble in the face of Taliban advances.

During a Pentagon briefing, he stated that ‘there was nothing that I or anyone else had seen that indicated a collapse in this army and government in 11 days’.

Intelligence chiefs have stood by their work, claiming they could offer a variety of outcomes.  

The rapid takeover by the Taliban took policymakers by surprise leaving U.S. intelligence agencies to explain why they didn't see it coming

The Taliban’s rapid takeover caught policymakers off guard, and U.S. intelligence agencies had to explain why they didn’t see it coming.

William Burns, CIA Director, has defended the performance of the agencies, but admitted that things moved much faster than expected.

‘There’s a very sobering picture that we painted of some very troubling trend lines,’ he said at a Stanford University appearance last week, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

“So does that mean we can, with mathematical precision, say that former President Ghani of Afghanistan is going to flee his office, and not tell his senior-most advisers on the 15th August? No.

Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor, has promised a hotwash’ of withdrawal to highlight failings. 

Representatives of the CIA and the DIA, State Department, and the Office of Director of National Intelligence all declined to comment on the newspaper. 

But Afghan watchers saw the rapid collapse coming. 

Bill Roggio is a senior fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He repeatedly warned that the Taliban was moving fast and said that intelligence agencies and policy-makers should be held responsible for being blindsided. 

He stated that the intelligence community must take a hard look at how it provides assessments for senior leadership.