US intelligence officials had been warning of a quick Taliban takeover in Afghanistan — even as President Biden was publicly downplaying the threat, a new report says.
A number of classified intelligence assessments in recent months questioned whether Afghan security forces would try to resist the Taliban, sources told the New York Times.
The reports also expressed doubts as to whether the Afghan government could remain in control of Kabul.
Some of the assessments were handed down last month as the Taliban’s rapid onslaught was gaining momentum amid the withdrawal of US troops, the sources said.
It came at a time when Biden was continuing to downplay the Taliban threat, saying as recently as July 8 that it was “highly unlikely” that insurgents would overrun the country.
In the aftermath of chaotic and deadly scenes at Kabul airport on Monday, Biden was forced to concede that the Taliban had achieved a much faster takeover of the country than his administration had expected.
The administration is facing mounting questions as to how US forces were unprepared for the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul given the intelligence warnings.
Some of the reports came from the CIA and units within the State Department.
But a senior administration official claims intelligence agencies never actually gave a clear estimate for when the Taliban could take over even as the situation escalated last month.
Agencies had still not offered a prediction a week ago, the official claimed.
They said a Taliban takeover was estimated to be at least 18 months away when nonessential personnel from the embassy in Kabul were ordered to leave in April, which they argued would have been ample time to withdraw.
Trump administration officials told the Times that agencies had given them warnings about the strength of Afghan security forces but there was no timeline given for a total collapse.
The US was forced to rush in additional troops Monday to help secure the Kabul airport and protect Americans still trying to evacuate after thousands of Afghan stormed onto the tarmac and tried to climb onboard US military planes.
Shocking videos showed masses of Afghans chasing after a plane as it taxied down the runway, with some managing to cling on as it took off.
At least two people plunged to their deaths moments later as the plane rapidly gained altitude over the city.