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Biden team’s ‘naïve confidence’ in Taliban led to catastrophic withdrawal, former CIA official says

Sebastian Hughes, DCNF

A former CIA counterterrorism chief criticized the “naïve confidence” of President Joe Biden’s foreign policy advisors who believed the Taliban would adhere to a withdrawal agreement with the U.S. in an opinion piece for Just Security.

“There was a rather naïve confidence among Biden’s more influential foreign policy advisors that the Taliban’s best interests were served by adhering to the agreement’s main points,” former CIA Chief Counterterrorism Officer for South and Southwest Asia Douglas London wrote in Just Security on Wednesday.

London prepared assessments on Afghanistan for former President Donald Trump and provided insight on the same issues as a volunteer for Biden’s counterterrorism working group, according to the piece. He retired from the CIA in 2019.

Biden’s most influential advisors thought that following the agreement would allow the U.S. to withdraw while leaving room for a more “constructive” deal if the Taliban did take over Afghanistan, London wrote. To London, this was always misguided.

“The Taliban’s control over the country was predicated on isolation from the rest of the world, rather than integration,” he wrote. “International recognition, global financial access, and foreign aid were not going to influence how the Taliban would rule.”

Thousands of Americans are now stuck in the Taliban-controlled Kabul alongside Afghan allies who say they are in danger because they helped U.S. troops. Some Americans in the country say Taliban checkpoints make it difficult to get to the airport to evacuate.

Taliban commander Waheedullah Hashimi said Afghanistan will adhere to Sharia law and nothing else on Thursday, declaring there would be no sort of democracy in the country.

Biden said the Taliban takeover unfolded faster than anticipated in a national address on Monday, but London says that simply isn’t true.

“Ultimately, it was assessed, Afghan forces might capitulate within days under the circumstances we witnessed, in projections highlighted to Trump officials and future Biden officials alike,” London wrote.

“The failure was not due to any lack of warning, but rather the hubris and political risk calculus of decision-makers whose choices are too often made in their personal and political interest or with pre-committed policy choices,” he added.

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