The Wall Street Journal has obtained and reviewed two dozen classified US intelligence assessments on Afghanistan from four different agencies including the CIA, DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), the State Dept.'s intelligence bureau, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).
All of them examined Taliban advances across the country from the spring of 2020 through the middle of last summer, and while they consistently forecast the eventual collapse of Afghan national forces if US support was withdrawn, not a single agency assessment foresaw the group's ultra-fast takeover of Kabul by August 15 and the entire country even as US forces were still on the ground attempting to evacuate personnel in Kabul.
Media reports in the months leading up to the chaotic and deadly evacuation efforts of August had earlier revealed that the most dire of CIA forecasts indicated a national government collapse at least six months out. Further into the summer US officials began indicating as little as a few months; however, as this latest bombshell WSJ report points out, US intelligence across the board failed to forecast what was in reality a mere weeks and days.
President Joe Biden during the disastrous Taliban takeover of Kabul in August came under fire for offering what were clearly overly optimistic assessments that US-backed national forces were capable of holding on even as US troops departed.
The Wall Street Journal report presents some of the various US intelligence agency findings as follows...
On the DIA:
A June 4 Defense Intelligence Agency report, meanwhile, said the Taliban would pursue an incremental strategy of isolating rural areas from Kabul over the next 12 months, according to a summary. In an "Executive Memorandum" on July 7, the DIA said the Afghan government would hold Kabul, according to a person familiar with the report.
And a pessimistic assessment from the CIA, which still didn't foresee that the collapse would happen even as American troops were still on the ground:
The April 13, 2020, report titled, "How Afghanistan Collapses After U.S. Pullout" came from the CIA’s "Red Cell," whose mission is to conduct alternative assessments. It projected the demise of Mr. Ghani’s government once U.S. troops and funding were gone.
A report from the ODNI again emphasized Taliban gains across the country only after the US withdrawal:
Another report, "Implications of Full US Troop Withdrawal," was published on Dec. 14, 2020, by the National Intelligence Council, which conducts long-range strategic analysis for the Director of National Intelligence. The NIC foresaw a rapid Taliban takeover but said the group’s gains would accelerate after a U.S. troop withdrawal.
Message I received from a former House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence member who chaired a subcommittee focused on terrorism: “I thought you would be interested in the following story from The Wall Street Journal. More stupidity by our ‘best’.” https://t.co/VVaEQM9ndQ— Michael S. Smith II (@MichaelSSmithII) October 28, 2021
The WSJ quotes some former officials who said the CIA remained the most pessimistic in terms of its dire predictions of the future of Afghanistan throughout the two decade long war there:
The CIA, by contrast, consistently warned of potential collapse after a U.S. pullout, the summaries show. During the last year of the Trump administration, the CIA reported that it saw three different scenarios after a U.S. military withdrawal: a garrison state, where Mr. Ghani’s military would control Kabul and its environs; a divided country with the government and Taliban each controlling parts of Afghanistan; or a complete Taliban takeover.
By April 2021, the CIA was warning of isolated highways, which jeopardized the Afghan government’s tenuous grip on power, and that Afghanistan would pose a terrorism threat outside its borders once the U.S. exited.
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To make things easier, perhaps US intelligence analysts could have just listened carefully to the words of Congressman Ron Paul... from a full ten years ago: