U.S. intelligence agencies failed to predict what would occur amid President Joe Biden’s removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The Journal, citing “a review of wide-ranging summaries of classified material,” said intelligence agencies offered random and haphazard assessments of Afghanistan’s military and government before the Taliban’s quick takeover of the country.
The news outlet said it based its story on nearly two dozen intelligence assessments from four different agencies that hadn’t been reported previously.
Despite saying the Taliban would continue to advance and that the country’s U.S.-backed government was unlikely to survive without support, the assessments differed over how much time the Afghan government could hold on after Biden’s withdrawal.
None of the assessments suggested the Taliban could overtake Kabul by Aug. 15 while U.S. forces remained present, the Journal said.
The news outlet said it reviewed “titles, dates and summaries of reports” from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the State Department’s intelligence bureau.
On May 17, a month after Biden announced his decision to withdraw all U.S. troops, the CIA issued a report that estimated the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani would fall by year’s end, the Journal reported.
Another CIA report several weeks later assessed prospects for “a compete Taliban takeover within two years.”
The Journal also reported that a DIA report in early June said the Taliban would focus on isolating rural areas from Kabul for 12 months. Another DIA report in early July said the Afghan government would hold Kabul, according to a person familiar with the report.
The CIA, DIA, the State Department, and the Office of Director of National Intelligence, which coordinates all U.S. intelligence agencies, declined to comment to the Journal.
“Directionally, they were all correct that things were going to deteriorate,” a senior administration official told the Journal, while acknowledging the agencies provided a “mixed picture.”
“They’re not oracles,” the official said.
CIA Director William Burns is among the people who have defended the intelligence agencies’ overall performance in regard to Afghanistan.
“There’s a very sobering picture that we painted of some very troubling trend lines [in Afghanistan],” he said at a Stanford University appearance last week, the Journal reported.
“So does that mean that we, with mathematical precision, can say that, you know, former President Ghani in Afghanistan is going to flee his office and not tell his senior-most aides on the 15th of August? No.”