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FLASH ALERT: HIGH RISK OF THE AFGHAN GOVERNMENT COLLAPSING

FLASH ALERT: HIGH RISK OF THE AFGHAN GOVERNMENT COLLAPSING FOLLOWING TALIBAN GAINS AND PRESIDENT GHANI FLEEING THE COUNTRY


Team: CENTCOM

Week of: Monday, August 9, 2021


Kabul, Afghanistan[1]


The Counterterrorism Group is issuing a FLASH ALERT to Afghanistan, the United States, and other countries with personnel and citizens in Afghanistan due to the increased risk of the Afghanistan government collapsing to the Taliban. The Current CTG threat matrix indicates that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY that President Ghani of Afghanistan has fled the country, a sign that the government is collapsing. The Current CTG threat matrix also indicates that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY the Taliban will take control of Kabul within the next 24-48 hours. These assessments are based on the fact that the Taliban entered Kabul today, August 15, 2021.[2] These assessments are also based on the fact that there had been recent talks of a peaceful transition to power to the Taliban and calls from the Taliban to its members to not use force when entering Kabul.[3]


Late local time and confirmed by several high-ranking Afghan officials, President Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan for Tajikistan as the Taliban surrounded Kabul.[4] The reports of President Ghani leaving come after leaders representing the government left for Doha, Qatar to discuss an agreement with Taliban leadership and after members of the militant group were reportedly at the presidential palace for talks on Sunday afternoon, according to two Afghan officials.[5] Given President Ghani left for Tajikistan after Taliban members were present at the presidential palace, this increases the likelihood that President Ghani fled the country, signaling collapse. Because President Ghani is in Tajikistan and out of immediate danger, he may stall discussions for a peaceful transfer of power and spur Taliban leaders to order their fighters to advance into Kabul out of impatience. Afghan forces are likely to surrender without resistance because they see their commander-in-chief’s flight as indicating that fighting is futile. Other senior officials like the defense minister, national security advisor, vice president, and chief executive are at high risk of capture and execution if they choose to remain in Afghanistan. Female judges and members of parliament are also at high risk of retribution once the Taliban penetrate deeper into the city. This is based on numerous reports of Taliban forced marriages and executions of civilians despite their commitments to remain civil.


This event is likely to expedite the evacuation of the US and other countries’ diplomatic personnel from Kabul. As the Taliban grow emboldened by President Ghani’s evacuation, land routes to the airport will likely become highly dangerous, prompting air assets to shuttle between the diplomatic compound and airport if personnel has not been relocated. As the Taliban continues to make inroads in Kabul, leaders in Washington, D.C., and other capitals will likely order essential personnel remaining in Afghanistan to evacuate because the risks for foreigners under a Taliban government are high. Reports also suggest that the critical staff remaining in Afghanistan have moved to the airport, meaning the US Embassy is at risk of falling to the Taliban. It is possible that with the Taliban’s advance to Kabul, the building will not have disposed of all sensitive documents because of the new, compressed timeline, allowing American flags and agency logos to be used in Taliban propaganda, celebrating victory over the US. The Arg Palace has reported gunshots by unknown individuals and if these gunshots are by the Taliban and offensive in nature, US troops are highly likely to clash with jihadist fighters who are likely to advance to the airport in the next one to three weeks. Because of the presence of international troops, it seems that the airport will likely be the last location to fall into Taliban hands and is unlikely to do so before August 31. Despite calls to enter Kabul peacefully, they are likely to use force against foreign assets once they reach Hamid Karzai International Airport.


Given this current reporting and situation of a potential government collapse happening as soon as today, it is unclear whether neighboring countries will open their borders to refugees. It is extremely likely that as the government continues to collapse, Afghan citizens will continue to flee into neighboring countries to avoid being killed or living under Taliban rule. These border countries are Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran. Given the Taliban’s ties to the Pakistani Taliban, if Pakistan does open its borders to refugees, it is highly likely the Taliban will exploit this opening to move around more freely between countries. It is also likely that the Taliban may strengthen ties with groups such as the Islamic Jihad Union and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, where in this case the Taliban may also exploit open borders. Tajikistan has been preparing refugee camps and is welcoming civilian refugees, however, they are sending back Afghan security personnel/military/law enforcement because they are seen as deserters.[6] It is likely Tajikistan will speed up its preparation of refugee camps given President Ghani’s arrival in Tajikistan and the potential collapse, however, it is uncertain whether these new circumstances will force Tajikistan into allowing Afghan security personnel/military/law enforcement to flee into the country and become refugees.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) CENTCOM team recommends that all US, NATO, and other countries that have personnel and troops within Afghanistan work on evacuation plans as soon as possible. CTG’s CENTCOM Team recommends that all US embassy staff continue to be evacuated and continue to destroy all sensitive materials given the increased threat of the Taliban taking over Kabul. CTG’s CENTCOM Team also recommends that the international community try to mitigate the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban by pushing towards a more peaceful transition to ensure the safety of Afghan citizens. Given the current reporting that President Ghani is in Tajikistan, Tajikistan and partners, including the US and Russia, should work with President Ghani to see if there are any alternatives and whether a joint control of power is necessary or possible. The Afghan peace talks had this topic as a point of discussion but given their failure, it is recommended this issue be brought up and discussed between Afghan government leadership and Taliban leadership. The CTG CENTCOM Team recommends that Afghanistan’s neighboring countries accept refugees and try to speed up this process given the deteriorating security situation. While it is important for all Afghan citizens to have access to refugee camps, resources, visas, etc., focus should be placed on women and children as women are likely to face increased violence and threats due to Sharia law. These threats come despite the Taliban saying they would respect women’s and journalists’ rights.[7] Though the Taliban has made these claims, it is extremely unlikely they will follow through, especially given the history of how journalists and women were treated under Taliban control previously. However, in order for Afghanistan to continue receiving aid, there is a likelihood that the Taliban will respect these statements, but this assessment is made with low confidence.



CONCLUSION


CTG assesses that the current threat of attacks against US, Western, and local civilians and government forces by the Taliban and other affiliated groups is HIGH. CTG also assesses that the current threat of territorial gains by the Taliban of the remaining government-controlled or contested controlled areas within Afghanistan is HIGH. The CENTCOM Team’s analysis indicates that the risk of increased violence focused towards civilians throughout Afghanistan is HIGH despite Taliban claims that civilians in Afghanistan will be safe from the violence. This assessment is based on the fact that the Taliban has consistently made claims of ensuring peace but has also consistently taken the lives of civilians. The probability of the Taliban taking US or Western civilians or personnel hostage is MEDIUM-HIGH. Attacks against remaining foreign troops are likely to continue.


If any individuals are interested in learning more about security measures to protect their facilities and personnel, please contact The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) by Telephone 202-643-248 or email info@counterterrorismgroup.com





[1]Stolica Afganistanu Kabul w 2009 roku 02” by Olgamielnikiewicz licensed under Public Domain

[2] Afghanistan Crisis: President Ghani Leaves Country, BBC News, August 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-asia-58219963

[3] Ibid.

[4] Afghan president flees the country as Taliban move on Kabul, Associated Press, August 2021, https://apnews.com/article/afghanistan-taliban-kabul-bagram-e1ed33fe0c665ee67ba132c51b8e32a5

[5] Afghan president flees country after Taliban enters Kabul, a sign the government has collapsed, The Washington Post, August 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/08/15/afghanistan-taliban-kabul-embassy-jalalabad/

[6] CTG Sources

[7] Taliban promise to respect women’s rights, BBC News, August 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-asia-58219963




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