As the US is pulling out of Afghanistan, Western media has been full of stories warning that the Afghan government will collapse shortly after the US leaves. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal cited anonymous officials who said US intelligence assessed that Kabul could fall within six to 12 months of a US pullout.
While mainstream media reports citing anonymous officials are not the most trustworthy sources, the story is notable because hawks want to use what they see as an inevitable collapse of the Afghan government as a reason for the US to stay and prolong the war. But the fact the Afghan government is ready to fall after almost 20 years of the US funneling money into building it up demonstrates the futility of the war and is a better argument for why the US must get out.
The Journal report said US intelligence updated a more positive assessment based on recent gains by the Taliban. The Pentagon has suggested that it could slow the “pace” of its withdrawal due to recent Taliban advancements. But a prolonged US presence would only incentivize the Taliban to launch more attacks, and it would put US troops in danger. Since the US-Taliban peace deal was signed in Doha in February 2020, no US troops have died in combat in Afghanistan.
The optics of the US withdrawing as the Taliban is making large gains does not look good for Washington. President Biden created the current situation by pushing back the original May 1st withdrawal deadline to September 11th. Before May, violence was raging, but the Taliban had not made moves to take such significant territory.
Pushing back the withdrawal also delayed potential intra-Afghan peace talks. The chance of the Taliban and Kabul finding a diplomatic solution may be small, but the one thing that guarantees it won’t happen is a continued US presence. The US’s post-withdrawal plans to have Turkish troops guard the Kabul airport might also fuel more violence since the Taliban see a continued foreign presence as a violation of the Doha agreement.