“Is the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan inevitable?”
That’s the question a reporter put to President Joe Biden this week at a press conference on the US’s drawdown in Afghanistan.
“No, it is not,” Biden said, noting that Afghan government troops greatly outnumber the Taliban and are “as well-equipped as any army in the world.”
That may be true, but numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. The Taliban has rapidly expanded its territorial control over the last week and is closing in on the capital, Kabul. On Monday, more than 1,000 Afghan soldiers reportedly fled into neighboring Tajikistan to escape a Taliban advance. A US intelligence assessment has said the Afghan government could fall in six months once US and other international troops leave.
It makes it hard to see a Taliban takeover as anything other than extremely likely, if not truly inevitable. For that reason, it’s worth thinking about what it would actually mean if that were to happen. What does that look like? And how should the Biden administration respond?
I spoke with Madiha Afzal, a fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank and an expert on the region, to talk through some of these questions.
Afzal’s not necessarily convinced that a full Taliban takeover is imminent. “It could happen down the road, but not without some significant fighting,” she told me. But, she said, “The fundamental question facing the Biden administration is, whatever government setup emerges in Afghanistan, will it pose a threat to the US?”