CLAY: We were forward thinking. You in particular have spent time over in the country, Afghanistan, as the United States prepares to pull out all of its last troops. And we’re not even a hundred percent out of that country yet, but already the Taliban has taken over vast segments of Afghanistan, and it really may well be a matter of time until it’s like the United States was basically never there, and once more we have created a fertile breeding ground for terrorists. Not a good option. We’re gonna have to leave at some point. We can’t be there, in theory, forever. But as soon as you leave, it’s like you were never there. Does anything that you’ve seen so far surprise you, Buck? And what happens now?
BUCK: Nothing is surprising insofar as the overall trajectory of the deterioration. Afghanistan is plunging into the chaos vortex even more rapidly than was anticipated. There was an intelligence community assessment in June that said the Taliban would likely take over the country within six months. I think that’s now a fair bet. I think you could even say that the Taliban may be on the outskirts of Kabul — essentially surrounding the final government holdouts — by October, maybe November.
So they might not even make it to the end of the year. This is the ongoing blitzkrieg that they’ve had. It’s not only rural areas. The Taliban has seized half of the country by all the best assessments that we have right now. But they’ve also seized a number of provincial capitals, places like Saripul and Taleqan and Kunduz, all in the north — and, Clay, that’s significant because we all remember what happened after 9/11 2001.
We had U.S. Special Forces and intelligence personnel, CIA and others, who deployed to Afghanistan and worked with the Northern Alliance and tremendous U.S. Air power to role up the Taliban and kick them out and, essentially, were either killed or pled into Pakistan, the Pakistani safe haven. Well, guess what? They’ve learned a lesson. Now, instead of consolidating the Pashtun… The Taliban is a Pashtun entity, a Pashtun tribe.
Instead of consolidating first in the south and east of the country, which is their traditional Taliban stronghold and homeland, they’re actually going up north into areas that had been our allies’ home bases when we started this whole thing. So they’re essentially eliminating the possibility of us having a replay of what we did before by seizing control first and foremost in the areas where they have the least amount of control.
So they’re seizing population centers. They’re already on the outskirts of Kandahar which is in the South, the second largest city in the country. They’ve had some major assassinations of government officials underway. They almost got the defense minister of Afghanistan about a week ago — complex attack with a car bomb, numerous gunmen with suicide vests on. That’s a classic tactic as well, right?
So they go in, they shoot everyone they can, and then if they get cornered or if they run out of ammo or whatever, they decide to hit the suicide vest plunger. They killed eight, wounded 20 in that. But the defense minister wasn’t home. Air strikes and Afghan special forces have been able to blunt the offensive at some level, not to stop it, but to slow it down a little bit. But here’s the huge problem we’ve got here, Clay.
We’ve moved not only U.S. military presence down dramatically. We’ve only got a few hundred troops left in the country. It’s gonna be at basically zero except for the embassy here pretty soon. But we also have thousands of contractors. Now, that might not sound as much of a critical piece, but over a thousand of those contractors were aerial maintenance personnel. The people that keep the planes and helicopters, the Blackhawks we’ve given the Afghans flying up in the sky?
If you can’t fly the plane, it’s no use to you. IF you can’t fly the helo, you’re done. What are they gonna do? The Afghans left behind are saying, “We can make basic repairs,” but Clay if they lose that close air support advantage — which they might within the next 60 days — now you’re just talking about a village-by-village, city-by-city gunfight with the Taliban, the Afghan national security forces. It’s gonna turn into a rout pretty quickly. That’s my concern.
Listen to the full segment: Biden Loses Afghanistan, But Was There Any Winning?