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The Taliban’s successful military operations this week may have come because the United States “underestimated” the group’s “planning capabilities,” according to one former CENTCOM commander.
Former U.S. CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel told the Washington Examiner in an interview that he has been “very, very surprised” by the “speed” with which the Taliban has captured 14 of Afghanistan's 34 provincial capitals as well as Kandahar and Herat.
“From my personal belief, some of the more far-flung areas, I think we would have expected that they would have fallen faster, but big cities like Kandahar and other things like that are very, very concerning in terms of that,” the distinguished senior fellow on national security at MEI said. “And so, I think I'm very, very surprised by that. So, it's not a good situation.”
While he acknowledged that the U.S. expected the Taliban to strike with the withdrawal coming up, one miscalculation the Pentagon may have made was in its evaluation of the group’s planning abilities.
“We may have underestimated the planning capability of the Taliban to really orchestrate what it seems to be a fairly effective campaign to get control of border crossings, of big cities, and to create a lot of pressure and induce panic into the end of the situation,” Votel added.
The Taliban is attempting to “isolate” Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, though the Pentagon does not believe they are “in an imminent threat environment,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters at Friday’s briefing.
The Biden administration has repeatedly touted the Afghan forces' advantages over the Taliban, such as in aviation and in numbers, though that has not demonstrated itself on the battlefields. U.S. officials also say the key is for Afghan leaders to step up.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken's team has emphasized negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban to produce a peace settlement, but Votel said the militant group has no "incentive for them to negotiate anything right now."
The Biden administration announced the deployment of thousands of troops on Thursday to assist the withdrawal of U.S. diplomats from Afghanistan, though the State Department maintains the embassy will remain open. The Pentagon has said that the plan is for those troops to be out of Afghanistan by the end of the month, which coincides with the timeline the administration has put forth for a complete withdrawal.
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Original Author: Mike Brest