The Cipher Brief: Did you ever envision that the U.S. would pull out so quickly or completely leaving the Afghan military on its own without U.S. air support?
General Votel: I did not anticipate this during my time – but once the President sets a hard departure date – then a fast withdrawal is inevitable. No Commander wants to accept unnecessary risk with troops on the ground when you are up against a clearly articulated departure date.
The Cipher Brief: Intelligence assessments wildly missed the mark on how fast Kabul would fall, what factors contributed most directly to this?
General Votel: Certainly, the departure of our own capabilities is a big part of this; the lack of direct contact with Afghan leaders is another important factor; and, of course, once it was clear that we were departing (and took our Commander out) — we lost priority and access with our normal and reliable Afghan intelligence sources.
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