Four U.S. Intelligence Agencies Produced Extensive Reports on Afghanistan, but All Failed to Predict Kabul’s Rapid Collapse
U.S. intelligence agencies offered assessments of the staying power of the Afghan military and government prior to the withdrawal of American troops instead of predicting the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Four different intelligence agencies completed nearly two dozen assessments that charted the Taliban advances from spring 2020, ending in July of 2021. The assessments forecasted that the Taliban would continue to gain ground and the government in Kabul was unlikely to survive without U.S. support.
None of the reports, however, predicted how quickly the Taliban would be able to take over the government. The Central Intelligence Agency issued a report on May 17 indicating that the government of Afghanistan would fall by the end of the year, and then a few weeks later, by the end of two years. The Defense Intelligence Agency report in June suggested it would take 12 months for the Taliban to take over rural areas. In July, the DIA suggested the Afghan government would hold Kabul. The assumption that the Afghan government could hold on for some time was central to the United States’ withdrawal plans and the performance of the intelligence agencies are being scrutinized due to the rapid Taliban advance while the U.S. was departing Afghanistan.