Was It Intelligence Failure or a Policy Decision That Disregarded the Intelligence?
Aug. 16, 2021 (EIRNS)—President Joe Biden is being slammed from all sides for the chaos in Kabul and the decisions leading to it. In a comment that is being widely quoted, Biden himself said on July 8 that “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.” One of the questions, therefore, being argued is whether or not his administration’s decisions leading to the U.S. military withdrawal were based on faulty intelligence or on policy decisions to ignore accurate intelligence assessments as to what was happening in Afghanistan. If the intelligence was accurate, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t also fakes and lies about what the assessments said that were being spread around.
In a report posted yesterday, ABC News stated that just days ago a U.S. military analysis predicted that Kabul could fall within 90 days but not by the weekend. “This is a crisis of untold proportions,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) told NBC News Sunday, Aug. 15, as Taliban militants swept into Kabul. “This is an intelligence failure. We underestimated the Taliban and overestimated the resolve of the Afghan Army.”
But unnamed U.S. officials are saying that in fact key intelligence assessments had consistently informed policymakers that the Taliban could overwhelm the country and take the capital within weeks—essentially repeating the 1975 fall of Saigon. “[U.S.] leaders were told by the military it would take no time at all for the Taliban to take everything,” an anonymous U.S. intelligence official told ABC News. “No one listened.” Other intelligence sources said that Biden and his team of advisers had reached their decision about the U.S. military’s withdrawal—which was all but completed on July 4—based on a variety of factors that went beyond Kabul’s fate.
In addition, a senior congressional official, who asked not to be named in order to discuss sensitive briefings, told ABC News that intelligence officers had warned U.S. leaders about a swift and total victory by the fundamentalist militants who had held power in Kabul during the late 1990s until after the Sept. 11 attacks. “The intelligence community assessment has always been accurate; they just disregarded it,” the official told ABC News, speaking about the Biden administration.
Blinken reportedly foundered when asked about the collapse on ABC’s Sunday program “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” He insisted that “this is manifestly not Saigon”—even as live video from Kabul showed helicopters ferrying American officials out of the U.S. embassy compound to the military side of Kabul’s airport.
But Blinken also let the cat out of the bag when he said that it was not in American interests to devote more time, money and, potentially, casualties, to Afghanistan at a time when the United States was also facing long-term strategic challenges from China and Russia. Blinken said American forces will remain in the region only to confront any terrorist threat against the United States at home that might arise from Afghanistan.
“What is happening in Afghanistan is not the result of an intelligence failure,” former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell tweeted on Aug. 15. “It is the result of numerous policy failures by multiple administrations. Of all the players over the years, the Intelligence Community by far has seen the situation in Afghanistan most accurately.”