A top US general threatened the Taliban in the final days of the US troop withdrawal — that the militant group stay out of Kabul or be met with airstrikes — and saw his ultimatum ignored, according to a report.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of Central Command, showed Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar during a meeting in Qatar a map of Kabul with a circle drawn around it and said that area was a no-go zone, NBC News reported.
Taliban insurgents rolled into Kabul the next day, and no US warplanes bombed them, according to the report, citing three senior defense officials.
McKenzie, the US commander in Afghanistan, informed Baradar that the US needed a few more days to complete the withdrawal and said the mission would be focused on evacuating American citizens and Afghan allies.
He asked the Taliban not to interfere in or hinder that operation.
The Taliban officials agreed but noted that they already had fighters inside the circle and they would not leave.
But the Taliban said they would allow the Americans to leave and even offered to help with security around the airport.
McKenzie, the US commander in Afghanistan, informed Baradar that the US needed a few more days to complete the withdrawal.
EPA/Sarahbeth Maney / POOL
The incident reveals how the Biden administration struggled to respond to the rapidly changing situation on the ground in Afghanistan as the Taliban quickly seized territory and the Afghan government collapsed.
In early August, Milley ordered McKenzie to put together an assessment of the situation in Afghanistan as the country’s forces were being overrun by the Taliban. McKenzie’s findings, delivered on Aug. 8, concluded that the Taliban would encircle Kabul in about 30 to 60 days and the country could fall in as soon as a few weeks and a couple of months at most.
Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport.
AFP via Getty Images
That assessment, based on information from the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, was shared with Austin.
A week later the Taliban took over Kabul.
Gen. McKenzie showed Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar during a meeting in Qatar a map of Kabul with a circle drawn around it and said that area was a no-go zone,
Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesInternet Explorer Channel Network