How US intelligence miscalculated with Ukraine and Afghanistan

A scrupulous internal review is being conducted within the US intelligence community after clear miscalculations in analyzing the combat power of military forces in the situations in Afghanistan and Ukraine.

CNN talks about this, citing its sources. Key legislators on Capitol Hill believe that intelligence predictions about the two major foreign policy crises facing the Joe Biden administration were wrong.

Last Tuesday, a letter from the Senate Intelligence Committee was sent to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Defense and the CIA. It points out that the agencies failed to give proper information: they underestimated how long Ukraine could resist Russia, and overestimated how long Afghan fighters would resist the Taliban last summer, after the withdrawal of the US contingent from the country.

Citing several sources at once, CNN writes that they questioned the methodology behind the intelligence community’s assessments and the underlying assumptions behind them.

The State Department’s intelligence branch, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, was able to more accurately assess the ability of the Ukrainian military to counter Russia. This assessment was shared by the US government, but it did not negate the predictions of the broader intelligence community.

If it appreciated that Ukraine has a chance to fight the Russian army, the US could start arming it faster and with heavier weapons. In the final days before the Russian invasion, the community informed politicians that Kyiv would probably fall within three to four days of the start of the war. Senator Angus King says:

“If we had done better with the forecast, we could have done more to help Ukrainians sooner.”

According to the senator, the intelligence community should work better. To which Scott Berrier, Lieutenant General of the Defense Intelligence Agency, replied:

“I think the intelligence community has done a great job on this.”

King, according to the source, interrupted him:

“General, how can you say this when we were told directly that Kyiv would fall in three days, and Ukraine in two weeks? Are you telling me that it was accurate intelligence?”

In response, Scott Berrier said that after two months, the conflict in Ukraine is somewhat “at an impasse.”

Source CNN among high-ranking State Department officials noted that their intelligence officers were based, among other things, on polling data, in particular, from Eastern Ukraine. They showed an increase in anti-Russian sentiment, starting in the fall of 2021 and continuing into 2022, as well as an increase in the readiness of Ukrainians for armed struggle.

Other intelligence agencies focused on Russia’s military superiority: on paper, it had a significant advantage in terms of weapons, equipment and manpower. Apparently, the newspaper notes, no one expected Russia to conduct its initial campaign so badly. While the State Department’s intelligence department has been more optimistic about Ukraine’s performance, it has also tritely overestimated Russia’s military capabilities.

The intelligence community has been praised for its accuracy in portraying Russia’s invasion planning. At the same time, assessing the will of the population to fight is an art, not a science, which relies on data analysis, a senior State Department official said.

The US was not alone in its anticipation of the unfolding of the situation. Andriy Melnyk, Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, said that after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said that Ukraine had “only a few hours left”, which is why he opposed arms supplies to Kyiv and Russia’s disconnection from SWIFT. Only later did Germany change its position on arms supplies to Ukraine.

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