White House admits massive intel failure in hasty Afghan withdrawal
The Biden administration blames the conditions created by Donald Trump for the way the planned 2021 withdrawal turned into a rout.
The White House on Thursday released a long-awaited review of the hasty August 2021 US withdrawal from Afghanistan, admitting that there had been a massive intelligence failure in not predicting rapid Taliban victory.
"Clearly we didn't get things right" on intelligence, National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby told reporters after the still classified report was sent to Congress.
But "ending a war, any war, is not an easy endeavor, certainly not after 20 years," Kirby expressed. "It doesn't mean it wasn't worth doing -- ending that war in Afghanistan."
In a declassified summary of the review, the White House blamed conditions created by President Joe Biden's predecessor Donald Trump for the way the planned 2021 withdrawal turned into a rout.
"President Biden’s choices for how to execute a withdrawal from Afghanistan were severely constrained by conditions created by his predecessor," the White House summary stated.
But it also acknowledged that the US intelligence services had failed to understand the strength of the Taliban movement and the weakness of the Afghan government's forces that Western countries had spent years propping up.
The summary claimed that when Biden entered office, "the Taliban were in the strongest military position that they had been in since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country."
The report insisted that nothing "would have changed the trajectory" of the withdrawal, and "ultimately, President Biden refused to send another generation of Americans to fight a war that should have ended for the United States long ago."
Afghan territories fell 'like dominos'
In the summary, the White House blamed a deal struck previously between Trump's administration and the Taliban for putting the incoming Biden government in an impossible position.
"The departing Trump administration had left the Biden administration with a date for withdrawal, but no plan for executing it. And after four years of neglect -- and in some cases deliberate degradation -- crucial systems, offices, and agency functions that would be necessary for a safe and orderly departure were in disrepair," the document indicated.
"After more than 20 years, more than $2 trillion dollars, and standing up an Afghan army of 300,000 soldiers, the speed and ease with which the Taliban took control of Afghanistan suggests that there was no scenario -- except a permanent and significantly expanded US military presence -- that would have changed the trajectory," it added.
Kirby acknowledged that the US government did not manage to predict "how fast the Taliban were moving across the country" or "the degree to which they were constructing these deals in the hinterlands that kind of fell like dominos."
"We didn't anticipate how fast the Afghan national security forces were going to fold," he said. "I don't think we fully appreciated the degree of corruption that was in the officer ranks in the military."
"America is on a stronger strategic footing more capable to support Ukraine and to meet our security commitments around the world, as well as the competition with China, because it is not fighting a ground war in Afghanistan," Kirby claimed.
It is noteworthy that since the hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden has blamed the February 2020 agreement Trump reached with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.
The agreement has been blamed by analysts for weakening the then-US-backed Afghan government, which would collapse quickly a year later.
The agreement required the US to withdraw all forces by May 1, 2021. But Biden pushed a full withdrawal to September.