The Biden administration did not have intelligence showing how fast the Taliban would topple the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan, Mark Milley, the country’s top uniformed officer, said during a Wednesday press conference.
“There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days,” said Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said the U.S. anticipated “multiple scenarios.”
Critics of President Joe Biden’s strategy for withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan say he should have made more preparations for a Taliban takeover ― particularly by evacuating Americans and vulnerable Afghans ― or done more to deter the militants as they advanced in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, a New York Times story suggested that intelligence reports had informed U.S. officials over the summer that the collapse of the former Afghan government was becoming increasingly likely.
But Biden and his aides publicly argued that the U.S.-aligned Afghans were well-equipped and prepared to resist as American forces pulled out and abandoned huge bases. On Monday, the president said that though the Taliban captured the Afghan capital of Kabul sooner than he had expected, sparking chaos and a hurried U.S. bid to jumpstart evacuations, he did not regret his decision.
Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a retired general, said they both had strong personal feelings about the country’s collapse given their service. Austin noted that many veterans of the U.S. mission shared that experience.
“Afghan war veterans aren’t some monolith,” Austin said. “I’m hearing strong views from all sides on this issue, and that’s probably the way it should be.”
In May, a number of veterans told HuffPost about their views on the end of the 20-year American mission. “Just because the war is over doesn’t mean that any sort of Afghanistan vet is over the war,” said Esti Lamonaca, a former intelligence analyst.