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Officials try to distract Biden by using intelligence on possible Taliban invasion of Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – As President Biden announced this week that he would allow a May 1 deadline without withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, some officials have used intelligence to challenge the extension of its military mission there.

U.S. intelligence agencies have told the Biden administration that if US troops leave before the Taliban’s Afghan government can be reconciled, the country could be largely under Taliban control for two to three years after the international withdrawal. forces: According to US officials, this could open the door for al-Qaeda to regain its power inside the country.

A secret assessment prepared for the Trump administration last year, but not previously disclosed, is the latest in a series of bleak forecasts for Afghanistan’s future by intelligence analysts during the two-decade war.

But intelligence has found itself in a changed political environment. While former President Donald Trump called for the withdrawal of all forces before the terms of the peace treaty would require it, Biden was more cautious, saying on Thursday that he did not see May 1 as a deadline to be met, although he said: ” “They could not have imagined that troops would be in the country next year.”

The decision will be made as one of the most critical of Biden’s young presidency. He argued for a long time before becoming vice president for a minimal presence in Afghanistan, but was said to be privately described as pursuing the possibility of the country collapsing.

Some senior members of the Biden administration have expressed skepticism about any possible predictions of a resurgence of weakened al-Qaeda or Islamic State. Taliban commanders continue to oppose Islamic State in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda, which currently has a small presence in the country, could instead regroup in any other illegal area in the world.

The question of whether Afghanistan can really prosper if US troops remain indefinite remains unanswered from the intelligence warning. Their presence was likely to prevent the collapse of the nation’s security forces, allow the government in the Afghan capital, Kabul, to retain control of its major cities, but the Taliban are likely to gradually expand their power to other parts of the country. including the suppression of women’s rights.

A Taliban spokesman said on Friday that the group was committed to last year’s peace agreement and “wants the United States to remain committed.” If the troops are not withdrawn by May 1, the spokesman promised that the Taliban “will continue their jihad and armed struggle against foreign forces.”

Biden administration officials said no final decision had been made. However, when the deadline comes, administration officials are trying to influence Biden’s senior national security officials. Although Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin did not specify what action he would prefer, some Pentagon officials, who believe that US forces should stay longer, point to an assessment of intelligence that predicts the country’s capture of the Taliban.

Some military commanders and administration officials have argued that any deadline for withdrawing the remaining 3,500 U.S. troops, whether by May 1 or the end of the year, would be condemned by the mission. They said the only way to maintain the hardships in Afghanistan was to keep a small US presence there long enough to force a long-term deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

These officials used intelligence assessments to understand that the recall this year would lead to the fall of the current government, a sharp violation of women’s rights, and the return of international terrorist groups. According to some officials, rushing to the exit, according to some officials, will only send the United States to Afghanistan immediately after leaving. Exactly what happened in Iraq in 2014, three years after the withdrawal of the Obama administration from that conflict.

The White House has held a series of meetings on Afghanistan, and much more is yet to come. On Thursday, the president said he was looking forward to briefings from Austin, who recently met with Afghan Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who this week consulted with NATO allies on their key advice on what to do.

The question that has received a clearer response from many Biden administration officials could be that the capture of the Taliban could pose a threat to Afghan women. Although some former intelligence officials predict that the Taliban will initially take care not to return to women’s rights at all, at least in large cities, if they take over the country, it will be difficult to guarantee women’s protection, such as girls’ education and access to health care.

“Any agreement must preserve their achievements if Afghanistan is to provide continued political and financial support to the international community,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council this week. “We will not give an inch on this point.”

The Biden administration is making final efforts by May 1 to make progress on the slow talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Doha, Qatar. The Taliban, according to US officials, is stopping.

The administration is urging both sides to attend a peace conference in Turkey to show progress. At the same time, US-Taliban negotiators continue to push for a 90-day reduction in violence, but so far both sides have been reluctant to reach an agreement.

The Taliban’s secret assessments, which are largely controlled by the Taliban, suggest that the Afghan government և the Taliban have failed to reach a political agreement that a civil war will break out after the withdrawal of the United States.

Administration officials have warned that it is difficult to make any intelligence assessment, that predictions about the future are always inaccurate, and that various factors affect the analysis.

For example, the evaluation of intelligence depends on whether international funding provided by the Government of Afghanistan will continue. The more money the United States and its allies provide to Afghanistan, the longer the Kabul government will be able to maintain control over parts of the country. But some officials have said that history shows that after the withdrawal of US troops, Congress is rapidly moving to cut funding to partner forces.

He is also discussing the seriousness of the threat of the return of terrorist groups in Washington. The number of al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State militants in Afghanistan is very small, a senior US official has said.

Some top lawmakers, who have used secret assessments, say it is not certain that if the United States withdraws, al-Qaeda can rebuild its base in Afghanistan, from where it can carry out terrorist attacks against the United States.

“What is that real threat?” Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said during a virtual conference on Afghanistan this week. “It’s not in the 1990s when al-Qaeda set up camps, they had the Taliban, no one paid attention to them.”

Smith said keeping US troops in Afghanistan really increases the risk of Americans there, incurs higher financial costs, and hands over ransom victory and recruiting tools to US enemies.

Some counterterrorism officials believe that al-Qaeda would prefer to re-establish its headquarters in Afghanistan if US troops withdraw. But other officials have suggested that al-Qa’eda in the Arabian Peninsula could look to Africa or the Middle East with the same likelihood.

While US intelligence officials have focused on al-Qaeda’s threat, senior military officials have raised the prospect of an increase in the Islamic State in Afghanistan.

But in recent years, the Taliban has clashed with Islamic State. The two groups have fought, and the Taliban have largely pushed back Islamic State forces.

“I do not imagine a scenario where ISIS and the Taliban cooperate strategically or cooperate in Afghanistan,” said Lisa Maddox, a former CIA analyst. “The Taliban is an ideological organization, that ideology is Afghan-centric, does not meet the ultimate goals of ISIS.”

Intelligence estimates that the Taliban will expand their control over Afghanistan relatively quickly, suggesting that Afghanistan’s security forces remain fragile despite years of US military training and billions of dollars in US funding.

Last year’s attacks in Kandahar և Helmand Province, two areas in the south of the country where the Taliban had long ruled, showed that police and local forces were unable to take up positions, prompting elite commanders և regular army troops to take their place – tactics it is probably not sustainable in the long run.

Afghan security forces still rely heavily on US air support to maintain territory, as US military leaders acknowledged this week. It is unclear whether this US air force will continue if US forces withdraw from Afghanistan, perhaps deployed from bases in the Persian Gulf, or the Pentagon has developed such options for the White House.

“The opportunities that the United States is providing to Afghans to fight the Taliban and other threats in Afghanistan are crucial to their success,” said Gen. Richard D. W. Bush, chief of The Senate on Thursday. Clark.

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