What intelligence was there about Afghanistan?


When the Washington Post mentioned This week, CIA Director William Burns infiltrated Afghanistan on Monday to meet Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, billed as the highest face-to-face meeting between the Taliban and the Biden administration. WaPo cited anonymous sources for information and the CIA did not provide any immediate comment on the report. If the reports are accurate, they don’t answer any immediate questions about why the president would send the director of the CIA to such a meeting.

What we do know is that the unexpected Taliban advance that has dominated headlines for the past week and a half was initially blamed on an intelligence failure by many. Early on, Cipher Brief Expert and former acting director of the CIA John McLaughlin chirp The drumbeat of “intelligence failure” has begun. People should be careful about the charge if they don’t already see/read the intelligence…”

So, what intelligence does the US have that would lead to a different outcome in Kabul and across the country?

  • New York times mentioned Last week, “Secret assessments by US spy agencies over the summer painted an increasingly bleak picture of the prospect of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and warned of the rapid collapse of the Afghan military, even as President Biden and his advisers said publicly that it was unlikely to happen as quickly as possible.” Citing current and former US government officials, the newspaper said, “By July, many intelligence reports had become pessimistic, questioning whether the Afghan security forces would face serious resistance, and whether the government could hold out in Kabul, the capital.”
  • On August 15, The Wall Street Journal mentioned That administration officials said they knew that “total surrender to the Taliban was a possibility, and they planned their withdrawal efforts accordingly.” But they also cited an administration official, saying, “It was not a major intelligence failure on which the administration based its decision, but a change in circumstances that resulted from the rapid U.S. withdrawal.”

But private analysts have been watching as well. Here’s an inside look at what The Cipher Brief has been publishing since January with key snippets from the Cipher Brief Expert Tim Willacy Willsey:

Brief: January 25, 2021

The Afghans themselves are also watching the Washington News Feed with forensic detail and will be encouraged by Sullivan’s statement. Recently, there has been a lot of conversation in Kabul about when to leave and which route to take. Some rich Afghans already have their money in Dubai and children in foreign universities. Some even have passports and property in the US, UK or Germany. For those less fortunate, discussions revolve around which way to go. The borders of Uzbekistan are preferred because the visa costs only $30 and there are a variety of routes coming through Turkey or Russia to the West while the routes through Iran or Pakistan are more restricted or prone to interference.”

Brief: March 11, 2021

Saleh would advise Ghani not to take the promises of the Taliban or the Pakistanis on the basis of trust. Alternatively, Ghani might decide to describe Washington’s hoax. He may doubt that Washington is really willing to abandon Afghanistan in 1St In May, with the threat of a quick Taliban victory threatening all the hard-earned achievements in areas such as women’s rights and counter-terrorism over the past twenty years. The specter of re-establishing al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan would certainly be too much for Biden and Blinken.”

Even if there were no helicopters from the rooftop of the US embassy, ​​television images of the Taliban entering Kabul and Afghan refugees fleeing their advance could evoke memories of Saigon in 1975. Reimposing the Taliban’s restrictions on women would elicit international disdain. Subsequent reports of re-establishing al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan bring back recent and painful memories. After all the blood and money spent in Afghanistan this would be a disastrous outcome.”

Brief: April 19, 2021

The Afghan government may be able to retain power for a few years as Najibullah’s administration survived the departure of the Soviets. However, there is a risk of a sudden bursting of the dam as senior officials and politicians leave in droves and hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled west through Iran, Pakistan and the Central Asian republics. With the Taliban re-entering Kabul, we can see disturbing scenes of revenge and, in time, the return of al-Qaeda figures from their hideouts in Pakistan’s tribal border areas. Only then will people reconsider that decision and realize that the Afghan deployments since 2014 have not been so stressful.”

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Brief: June 1, 2021

“According to my sources, the Taliban are convinced that they can take Kabul ‘within days’ of NATO withdrawal and they believe the Afghan army is ‘a mess and frustrated.’ Although the Taliban will not disrupt the departing US forces (unless they are attacked) they are not on Willingness to wait until September to continue its campaign against government forces in Kabul.”

But we should not take comfort in Najibullah’s example. Comparisons with Afghanistan today are misleading. Najibullah’s government was able to reach all the major cities and supply them with a military convoy. The Afghan army was deployed to protect the towns and ground communications. By contrast, in 2021, only the road between Kabul and Jalalabad was reasonably safe. Caravans cannot cross from Kabul to Kandahar, from Kandahar to Herat, or from Kabul to Mazar-i-Sharif. The Afghan army is spread across the country in fragmented district centers (often surrounded by Taliban-controlled countryside) and must be resupplied by air. This is not a sustainable model.”

Moreover, a number of Afghan commanders, officials, and officers today received offers to relocate to the United States, Germany, and elsewhere. As the security situation continues to deteriorate, the gradual deterioration of departure is likely to accelerate. In such circumstances, the government can suddenly explode from within.”

For some, this may evoke images of the fall of Saigon in 1975 in which the big losers were the Afghans who remained, particularly the women, who faced a future of uncertainty and anxiety. There could also be a migration crisis reminiscent of Syria of the last decade.”

Brief: June 28, 2021

One of the main indicators is that the Afghan security forces are beginning to surrender to the Taliban. The procedure is fast and simple. Tribal elders are used to delivering a stark message to the Afghan forces they often hold positions in District Centers. message often; The infidels leave Afghanistan. They were defeated. Your leaders are corrupt. You can surrender now and we will protect you; Or you can fight and we will kill you.” Recently, the Taliban appears to have fulfilled its promise not to punish Afghan soldiers who surrender. News of this newfound leniency is likely to encourage other units to follow suit and lay down their arms. In many provinces, including in In the north, the Taliban tighten their grip on those cities still under government control. The Taliban will soon be in a position to cut off food supplies and demand their surrender, perhaps offering similarly lenient relief to the population. Now that the Taliban have captured armored vehicles and artillery, their ability to exert pressure has strengthened. Over the cities, in Kabul, a sense of panic began to grip the capital. There are desperate attempts to sell the family’s homes but there are no buyers even when the homes are on the market for a tenth of their former value. Some families have left for Tajikistan, realizing that many of the land border crossing points with the republics of Central Asia has been captured by Taliban forces in recent weeks.”

Read also Putin’s calculated play in Afghanistan From Cipher Expert Summary Robert Dannenberg

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