CIA director 'very proud' of Afghanistan analysis that led to the disastrous withdrawal
"Close enough for government work" has taken on a whole new dimension in the Biden era with the remarks reportedly delivered by CIA director William Burns Wednesday at an Aspen Security Forum discussion. Jerry Dunleavy of the Washington Examiner has the story.
CIA Director William Burns said he is "very proud" of the agency's analysis in Afghanistan in 2021 despite being blindsided by the swift collapse of the Afghan government and failing to predict how quickly the Taliban would take Kabul. (snip)
Burns said Wednesday during an Aspen Security Forum discussion that he was "very proud … of the analysis, with all of its imperfections, that we tried to provide to policymakers over the six months leading up to the withdrawal."
The CIA director prefaced this by admitting the agency had not predicted the Taliban would take over the country as fast as they did and that "all of us have lessons to learn from experiences like that." He suggested that the CIA had at least gotten it less wrong than other parts of the U.S. government.
"As the president has said publicly, none of us anticipated that the Afghan government was going to flee as quickly as it did, that the Afghan military was going to collapse as fast as it did," Burns said. "Having said that, I think CIA at least was always on the more pessimistic end of the spectrum in terms of highlighting, you know, over the course of the spring and the summer, the obvious ways in which the Taliban were advancing rapidly and how this was hollowing out in many ways, not just the political leadership but also the military."
Burns shared the CIA's assessment in July 2021, when he did not say he believed the country would fall in half a year, let alone in less than a month.
Official Portrait of William Burns.
"Less wrong" than other parts of the government is not exactly a standard of excellence. How can one be very proud of being "less wrong"?
In order to learn from failures — and the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a gigantic failure, resulting in American and Afghani deaths and the abandonment of scores of billions of dollars of military equipment making the Taliban the best armed terrorists in the world — one first must admit failure. Then analyze what were the sources of error and take steps to change practices so as to avoid the same errors in the future.
It doesn't sound as though any of that is in prospect.