'Intelligence failure': How wrong assessment led to Afghanistan falling to Taliban

The warnings were clear: The Afghan government would likely fall once U.S. troops pulled out. But intelligence agencies and ultimately President Joe Biden missed how quickly it would happen, losing weeks that could have been used for evacuations and spurring a foreign policy crisis.

Without a sense that the country could collapse so quickly, the administration heard from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani when he met face-to-face with Biden in June. Biden says Ghani pressed him to hold off on any urgent evacuation of Americans, arguing that it would be inviting the Taliban to advance more quickly -- as it turned out they did anyway -- and telling the Afghan army to give up.

It was an ask that Biden heeded, despite more than a decade of deep-rooted skepticism of the competence of the Afghan government and military, marred by widespread corruption and mismanagement.

Biden on Wednesday blamed Ghani for fleeing the country and Afghan forces for surrendering so easily to the Taliban. He told ABC News that he believed the problems with the withdrawal were inevitable.

"The idea that somehow, there's a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don't know how that happens," he said.

U.S. officials estimate that as many as 10,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan, and tens of thousands of Afghans who fought alongside or aided the U.S. in the nearly two-decade occupation are struggling to get out.

Biden's assertion on Monday that some Afghans, "still hopeful for their country," didn't want to leave has been widely criticized. The State Department has a backlog of tens of thousands of visa applications from those who have been trying for years to depart the country ahead of the U.S. withdrawal. That is now set for Aug. 31, though Biden said Wednesday Americans would not be left behind.

While analysts have long warned that the Afghan government would be in grave danger without American support, they didn't anticipate the speed at which it would fall to the Taliban.

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