NEWS & ANALYSIS

Leading Intelligence Agencies Produced Detailed Reports on Afghanistan, None Predicted Kabul’s Brisk Collapse


Leading U.S. intelligence agencies failed to predict the brisk collapse of Kabul to the Taliban prior to the final withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, instead providing assessments of the power of the Afghan military and government. 

The nearly two dozen assessments from four different agencies tracked Taliban advances beginning in spring of 2020 through July, predicting the group would continue to gain ground and that the government was unlikely to survive without American support, the Wall Street Journal reports

The assessments differed, however, over how long the Afghan government and military could remain in power, none predicting the Taliban’s rapid sweep of the capital city by mid-August. 

A month after Biden announced his decision to withdraw, for example, the CIA issued a report titled “Government at Risk of Collapse Following U.S. Withdrawal.” The report predicted that the Afghan government would fall by the end of the year. Less than a month later, in June, the agency issued another report titled “Afghanistan: Assessing Prospects for a Complete Taliban Takeover Within Two Years.” 

Similarly, a June Defense Intelligence Agency Report said that Taliban would pursue a strategy of isolating rural areas from Kabul over the next year. On July 7, the agency said the Afghan government would hold onto Kabul. 

There were also assessments from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the State Department’s intelligence bureau. 

Indeed, the idea that the Afghan government and military could stand strong for longer than they were able to was key to the administration’s withdrawal plans. Those called for the U.S. military to draw down rapidly while the embassy remained well-staffed and intact to provide visas and other support weeks and months after the American troops left.