Previously a widely reported US intelligence assessment from June predicted that after the US troop exit from Afghanistan is complete (which at this point has essentially been accomplished), the densely populated capital of Kabul could fall within six months.
US defense officials have now greatly revised that estimate after this past week which saw the Taliban overrun no less than eight provincial capital cities within a mere week. Officials told The Washington Post Kabul's fall could likely occur within the next 90 days, according to a new military intelligence assessment, with some officials offering the more dire prediction of one month.
The revised bleaker assessment comes a day after a senior EU official was widely cited as saying 65% of the country's territory is now under Taliban control, much of it gained without significant resistance, given the many reports of US-trained national forces fleeing in retreat. Further, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby conceded there's "not much" the US can do at this point if the Afghan Army isn't willing to put up more of a fight.
The Washington Post writes Wednesday, "The Biden administration is preparing for Afghanistan’s capital to fall far sooner than feared only weeks ago, as a rapid disintegration of security has prompted the revision of an already stark intelligence assessment predicting Kabul could be overrun within six to 12 months of the U.S. military departing, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter."
The outlook is such that US officials are said to be debating whether to even keep the sprawling, high-secured embassy in Kabul open; however, they assure plans remain the same to keep it in operation with hundreds of additional military security personnel guarding it.
Amid the daily bad news reports of a rapid Taliban offensive to retake the country, President Biden says he has no regrets. "Look," Biden began at a White House press briefing, "we spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years. We trained and equipped, with modern equipment, over 300,000 Afghan forces." He indicated plans remain the same to declare 'mission accomplished' by the highly symbolic 9/11 anniversary.
He still urged the war-torn nation's factions and leaders to unite and "fight for their nation". The Pentagon this week confirmed that there are no plans to call in extra air support to assist the Afghan military. But if Kabul is directly threatened or under siege, it's unclear if plans would change.
The Pentagon's Kirby struggled to essentially say on Monday that Afghan forces are on their own at this point: "I mean, if – if – if it, - the –we don’t have forces on the ground in partnership with them, and we – we can’t - we – we will certainly support from the air, where feasible, but that’s no substitute for leaders on the ground, it’s no substitute for political leadership in Kabul, it’s no substitute for using the capabilities and capacity that we know they have."
Meanwhile, the Taliban says it has no interest in ceasefire talks, with Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid telling Axios on Wednesday: "We have never yielded to any foreign pressure tactics before and we do not plan to capitulate any time soon either."