Washington (CNN)US Intelligence assessments paint an increasingly bleak picture of the Taliban’s quickening advance across Afghanistan and the potential threat it poses to the capital of Kabul, warning the militant group could soon have a stranglehold on much of the country in the wake of the US withdrawal of troops, multiple sources briefed on the intelligence tell CNN.
The Taliban advance is “accelerating at an accelerating pace,” said a congressional source with knowledge of the intelligence, echoing concerns raised by other officials who have acknowledged the security situation is deteriorating even more rapidly than previous assessments have indicated.
While multiple sources familiar with recent US intelligence assessments say Kabul is facing an increased threat, especially the outer edges of the province, they argue the capital is not at imminent risk of a takeover, thanks in part to the threat of US airstrikes and the size of the Taliban force. Kabul’s population has also grown significantly since the Taliban last took control of the city in the 1990s and its inhabitants are deeply opposed to, and fearful of, the militant group.
US intelligence agencies currently believe that the Taliban could effectively choke off the Afghan government’s import supply if they choose to do so and will likely encircle much of the country in the near future, one source familiar with assessments told CNN.
In addition, these sources say Taliban fighters could potentially move on the capital once they are confident the outcome would be successful.
One concern is that the Taliban may soon have the capability to lay siege to Kabul, forcing Afghan troops to fight or surrender. Members of the Afghan security forces have already been surrendering to the Taliban in cities and provinces around the country.
“They might not even have to take the risk of establishing battle positions around Kabul, they might only need to move in, when they’re closer to thinking that victory is assured,” the source familiar with assessments said.
But others warn that the Taliban is not currently capable of taking over Kabul militarily.
The increasing urgency around a potential Taliban takeover poses a challenge for President Joe Biden, whose critics are warning the US could face a “Saigon moment,” a reference to the demoralizing scramble in 1975 as the US pulled its final troops out of Vietnam.
Should Afghanistan’s capital come under immediate threat, the US would be faced with a difficult decision about when and how to evacuate US personnel still stationed there.
Evacuation plans and resources exist. The choice now facing US officials is between an orderly withdrawal or something more rushed and precarious.
While assessments related to the timing of the Taliban’s efforts vary, US officials have made clear it is widely believed the group intends to establish itself as the country’s primary governing power.
“It is clear from what they are doing that they have governance designs certainly of a national scale. It is clear from what they are doing that they believe there is a
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