The chaos surrounding the quick fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and the chaos surrounding the evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies can be blamed on a failure of intelligence, Rep. Peter Meijer, a veteran who served as an intelligence adviser in Iraq and worked as a conflict analyst for an international NGO in Afghanistan, insisted Tuesday.
"We had a cascading series of failures here from the operational to the strategic and on the intelligence side as well," the Michigan Republican, a Foreign Affairs Committee member who is calling for hearings on how the situation in Afghanistan has unfolded, said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"On the intelligence side, it was missing the regional and mid-level contacts between members of the government and security forces and the Taliban and their shadow colleagues in the Taliban structure," he added.
For that reason, he said, "that's how you go from the Taliban not holding a capital to (them) sweeping into the presidential palace in a span of eight days. We missed it."
Meijer added that intel failures also resulted in the U.S. military overestimating the strength and force of Afghanistan's military over the past years.
"Simply put, this is what happens when you have an intelligence analysis and decision-making process that is divorced from what's happening on the ground," said Meijer.
"You don't trust anything; you verify everything," he later added. "Understanding the Taliban from the intelligence perspective was never a true operational priority."
The intelligence community also has a problem because of its structure, which gives a sitting president the authority to appoint officials, said Meijer.
"We have a legislative branch, we have Congress, reliant on reports coming from individuals reporting to the president," Meijer said, but information that's used in decision making often has the potential "to be manipulated by individuals loyal to the president."
And even if the material isn't being manipulated "out of cynical reason," the intelligence information can end up following the "party line," and that results in confirmation bias, said Meijer.
"That's how we have astounding changes and ways in which we're caught entirely flat-footed," the lawmaker said. "It's unacceptable but it's the way the process is."
Meijer has supported the withdrawal of troops, but not how the process has been carried out and said Tuesday the agreement reached in Doha, Qatar, under former President Donald Trump's administration offered assurances that would have worked to avoid the current situation.
"It was to use what leverage we had in order to institute a power-sharing agreement in order to have some faction of a blended power government in Kabul with probably reduced authority and more authority in the provincial areas, greater regional autonomy," said Meijer. "But that went out the window. As soon as that ball started rolling and the Taliban started seizing capitals and capturing warlords or having various warlords flee the country, there was no going back and our leverage disintegrated in days."
That shows there wasn't much "underpinning," he added but still, that "doesn't mean we couldn't salvage something."
Meijer also said he doesn't agree, as Trump had said at the time, that the Taliban had a common interest in reducing violence in Afghanistan.
"You rely on superior fire power, rely on having ways to bend your opponent in just things that can't be denied, but not having to rely on the goodness of the Taliban's hearts," said Meijer.
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