The skeletal remains of the nation for which more than 2,300 American lives were lost may crumble to dust within 90 days of the looming American pullout from Afghanistan, according to a new report.
The report in The Washington Post, based on sources it did not name, said analysts are giving Kabul 30 to 90 days to fall. The report noted that in assessments just weeks ago, the collapse of the Afghan government had not been expected for six months to a year after the U.S. withdrawal.
“Everything is moving in the wrong direction,” the Post quoted what it said was one person familiar with the new assessment.
As if to prove the point, the Taliban captured three more provincial capitals Wednesday as part of a rampage that has given them control about two-thirds of Afghanistan, according to the Post.
The military advance, coming as many Afghan military units melt away while others are overwhelmed despite fierce resistance, is joined with brutal occupation techniques that include repressive restrictions on women, school burnings and revenge killings.
“This is now a different kind of war, reminiscent of Syria recently or Sarajevo in the not-so distant past,” said Deborah Lyons, the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for Afghanistan, according to The New York Times.
“To attack urban areas is to knowingly inflict enormous harm and cause massive civilian casualties.”
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who led a review of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan in 2009, told the Post the situation there, where Americans have been fighting since 2001, “is bleak, worse than most expected this quickly.”
Is leaving Afghanistan the right policy?
“The danger is that the momentum of the Taliban’s offensive will overwhelm the Afghan government and the defense of Kabul will collapse,” he said.
Fox News quoted an official it did not name as offering a slightly different assessment, saying that although the capital of Kabul might be “surrounded” in the next month, forces that have fallen back on the city could hold out for months.
Reuters has confirmed the basics of our @washingtonpost scoop last night: The U.S. military assesses that Kabul could fall within 90 days.
In the nuance, Reuters also reports that the U.S. assesses that Kabul could be isolated by the Taliban within 30.
— Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe) August 11, 2021
Although the military will exit by Aug. 31, it is using B-52 bombers, armed Reaper drones and A-130 helicopter gunships in its final days to slow the Taliban, according to a report in the Times of London.
“This is about buying time,” said Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the former commander of United States Central Command, according to The New York Times. “It’s about blunting and slowing down the Taliban and helping the Afghans to get a little more organized.”
But amid that hope, plans are being made for worst-case scenarios including if and when to close the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
“Obviously it is a challenging security environment,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said to the Post Tuesday. “We are evaluating the threat environment on a daily basis.”
Even though the Afghan army is reported to be about four times the size of the Taliban’s fighting force, the Afghan army is not a combat force, said Andrew Watkins, senior analyst for Afghanistan at the International Crisis Group, according to the Los Angeles Times.
I can’t understand how a force of over 300000, with annual budget of 3-4 billion$$$, equipped with humvees, MSFVs, helicopters, A-29 fighters, and advanced weapons is crumbling so quickly & so easily? An entire army corps surrendered to the Taliban in Kunduz today, WaPo reports.
— Sharif Hassan (@MSharif1990) August 11, 2021
“They’re meant to sit in checkpoints and act as a static representation of government presence,” Watkins said. “It’s understood that they don’t fight effectively — they’re certainly not advancing — and that they’re not an offensive force.”
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska spoke out against the Biden administration’s policy.
“No one should pretend they’re surprised the Taliban is winning now that we abandoned our Afghan partners,” he said, according to Politico.
“No one should pretend to be surprised when girls and women are brutalized. And no one should pretend to be surprised when the Taliban yet again provides safe harbor to terrorists plotting international attacks.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki had upbeat words for the media on the situation.
LOL, yea the Taliban really cares how they’re viewed by the international community. These people live in a clown/dream world.
Perhaps Psaki should go live there and try to convince them to care. I’d be curious as to how much they will heed her advise. Good times. https://t.co/6SzQbHhBm4
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) August 11, 2021
“The president continues to believe that it is not inevitable that the Taliban takes over Kabul or the country, and that they need to show political will at this point to push back, and obviously there’s a political process that we continue to support,” Psaki said, referring to talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government that have been stalled for weeks, according to the Post.
One expert said there’s no incentive for the Taliban to talk when they are winning battle after battle.
“I think what I would say to President Ghani is if you remain spread out everywhere, the Taliban will be able to continue to apply their current approach with success,” warned Ben Barry, the senior fellow for land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“You’ve got to do a bit more than stopping the Taliban. You’ve got to show you can push them back.”