Biden Administration's withdrawal plan complicated by targeted Taliban attacks on covert U.S base in Afghanistan
- In one of the most significant recent attacks against American forces in Afghanistan, sources have revealed that the Taliban targeted one of the most heavily guarded bases in the country late last month.
- Top US officials have convened at an unusually high rate over the past month to discuss what to do in Afghanistan but have been unable to reach a consensus.
In one of the most significant recent attacks against American forces in Afghanistan, sources have revealed that the Taliban targeted one of the most heavily guarded bases in the country late last month.
According to an unnamed U.S official familiar with the matter, rockets landed near the Forward Operating Base Chapman, a classified US military installation in eastern Afghanistan, and wounded seven civilians. During a second attack, a water tower was hit and a few rounds landed on the base, although no American personnel were killed or injured.
Despite not being widely reported, the attacks were followed by another in Kandahar this week, in which Taliban rockets landed near a NATO base providing support to Afghan national forces.
This escalation in violence against American troops has reportedly fuelled concerns inside the Biden Administration that the Taliban could further step-up their efforts to target U.S forces prior to the May 1st withdrawal deadline.
President Biden has admitted publicly that it is unlikely that the United States will be able to meet the stipulated deadline, as according to sources there is a growing belief among American officials that they must prepare to defend any troops remaining in the country, which include hundreds of special operations troops.
Furthermore, top U.S officials have convened at an unusually high rate over the past month to discuss what to do in Afghanistan but have been unable to reach a consensus.
During several closed-door meetings, senior leaders from "the big three" - the CIA, the Department of Defense and the State Department - have pushed divergent views on how the administration should move forward.
The CIA, which has had a significant say in US decision-making in Afghanistan, has "staked out some clear positions" during recent deliberations, arguing in favor of continuing US involvement, according to an internal source.
Reportedly, the United States wants to maintain an intelligence presence in Afghanistan, as when former CIA Director Gina Haspel visited Afghanistan in 2019, discussions were already beginning over how to maintain and potentially expand the US intelligence footprint in the country - and that desire has reportedly not changed.
Some senior military commanders have also advocated keeping US troops in the country and have leaned heavily into the argument that a premature withdrawal could precipitate the collapse of the Afghan government, sources say.
The State Department has indicated it may be willing to accept a withdrawal if a political settlement can be reached. While the Pentagon also acknowledges that brokering an agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government remains the objective, it's unclear if a political settlement alone would address broader strategic concerns raised by defense officials.
The State Department is also preparing for a heightened level of security around the US Embassy in Kabul, given the possibility of increased violence against US personnel in the country after May 1, two sources familiar with the discussions said.