They've become much more adept ... The U.S. withdrawal is not the reason the Afghan government was outmaneuvered. — Kirsten Fontenrose, director of the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council
They've become much more adept ... The U.S. withdrawal is not the reason the Afghan government was outmaneuvered. — Kirsten Fontenrose, director of the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council
'Intelligence failure of the highest order' — How Afghanistan fell to the Taliban so quickly
  • After nearly two decades of war, more than 6,000 American lives lost, over 100,000 Afghans killed and more than $2 trillion spent by the U.S., the speed of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has shocked the world.
  • Among the key causes, analysts say, are intelligence failures, a more powerful Taliban, corruption, money, cultural differences and willpower.
The world was shocked this week by horrifying scenes of desperate Afghans swarming the tarmac at Kabul’s international airport, grasping at their last chance to escape a country now completely overrun by the Taliban.

After nearly two decades of war, more than 6,000 American lives lost, over 100,000 Afghans killed and more than $2 trillion spent by the U.S., the outlook for the country’s future was still grim, with regional experts assuming the Taliban would ultimately come to control most of Afghanistan once again.

But few expected a takeover this swift, with so little resistance from the Afghan government and Afghan National Army, the latter of which was funded and trained with $89 billion from the U.S. taxpayer.


“While the end result and bloodletting once we left was never in doubt, the speed of collapse is unreal,” one former intelligence official and U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan told CNBC, requesting anonymity due to professional restrictions.

“Why were the Taliban able to so quickly take over? This is a masterpiece, frankly, operationally,” Michael Zacchea, a retired U.S. Marine who led the first American-trained Iraqi Army battalion during the Iraq War, told CNBC. “Why were they able to take the country faster than we did in 2001?”

The question has been asked by Americans, Afghans, military veterans and international observers alike — and the answer, much like the Afghanistan conflict itself, is complex, multilayered and tragic.

But among the main causes, analysts say, are intelligence failures, a more powerful Taliban, corruption, money, cultural differences, and simple willpower.

... Not everyone believes the U.S. troop withdrawal is to blame for the chaos in Afghanistan today.

Kirsten Fontenrose, director of the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said the Taliban has become more effective since the 1990s.

“They’ve become much more adept ... militarily and non-militarily in terms of pursuing the same objective they have — which is establishing an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan,” she told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Monday.

“The U.S. withdrawal is not the reason the Afghan government was outmaneuvered,” she added.

Fontenrose said the Taliban surrounded the capital of Kabul, cut off supply lines that government forces needed, and have also have grown in numbers while developing new strategies.

“They use social media as lethally as they do sniper rifles. They’ve used coercion to pressure local tribal leaders, they’ve used pretty simple but effective text message campaigns to threaten local Afghans working with the U.S. and with other foreign efforts,” she described.


The Taliban also lets ground commanders make decisions, and brings people into captured territories to provide small-scale social services to the residents.

That has allowed the group to “outmaneuver” Afghan and foreign forces in terms of effectively appealing, co-opting or coercing the local population into supporting — or not opposing — them, she added.
Read the full article: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/16/how-afghanistan-fell-to-the-taliban-so-quickly.html