Taliban could isolate Kabul in 30 days, takeover in 90 - U.S. intelligence

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A general view of green zone in Kabul, Afghanistan March 13, 2019. Picture taken March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Aug 11 (Reuters) - The Taliban could isolate Afghanistan's capital Kabul in 30 days and potentially take it over in 90 days, a U.S. defense official told Reuters on Wednesday, citing a U.S. intelligence assessment.

Taliban fighters have taken control of eight provincial capitals in six days, a pace that has surprised U.S. officials.

Taliban forces now control 65% of Afghanistan and have taken or threaten to take 11 provincial capitals, a senior EU official said on Tuesday.

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Until last month, U.S. intelligence assessments warned that the Afghan government could fall in as little as six months.

The U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the new assessment followed the rapid gains the Taliban had been making around Afghanistan.

"But this is not a foregone conclusion," the official said, adding that Afghan security forces could reverse the momentum by putting up more resistance against the insurgent group.

It was not immediately clear if this was consensus view of the intelligence community or if different intelligence agencies had different views, which would not be uncommon.

U.S. President Biden said on Tuesday that he did not regret his decision to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan after more than 20 years, saying the Afghan troops outnumber the Taliban and must want to fight.

The United States has essentially pulled all troops out of Afghanistan, except those staying to protect the U.S. embassy and airport in Kabul, with the military mission set to end on Aug. 31.

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Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Jon Boyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

National security correspondent focusing on the Pentagon in Washington D.C. Reports on U.S. military activity and operations throughout the world and the impact that they have. Has reported from over two dozen countries to include Iraq, Afghanistan, and much of the Middle East, Asia and Europe. From Karachi, Pakistan.