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Taliban attack on covert US base in Afghanistan complicates Biden withdrawal decision

April 8, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 18.3%. 2 min read.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, walks through an honor cordon with Gen. Mohammad Yasin Zia, Chief of General Staff of the Afghan Armed Forces at the presidential palace prior to a meeting with Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Kabul, Dec. 17, 2020. The senior leaders discussed the current security environment in Afghanistan.

In one of the most significant attacks against US forces in Afghanistan recently, CNN has learned that the Taliban twice targeted one of the most heavily guarded bases in the country late last month and that US military personnel working for the CIA were at the installation when it came under fire.

Biden himself has admitted publicly that it's unlikely the US will meet the deadline, and sources tell CNN the recent attacks underscore a growing belief among American officials that they must prepare to increasingly defend any US troops left behind, including several hundred special operations troops who at times work covertly for the CIA.

During several closed-door meetings, senior leaders from "the big three" -- the CIA, the Department of Defense and the State Department -- have pushed somewhat divergent views on how the administration should move forward, according to a source familiar with the internal discussions.

The CIA, which has had a significant say in US decision-making in Afghanistan, has "staked out some clear positions" during recent deliberations, arguing in favor of continuing US involvement, the source told CNN.

State Department officials welcome the Biden administration's restoration of the deliberative process for national security decisions, but there are also growing frustrations that the constant meetings are not leading to definitive decisions.

When asked about this, a senior State Department official noted there have been various meetings on Afghanistan but added that these are policy discussions around a decision that will have profound implications for the country going forward.

The State Department is also preparing for a heightened level of security around the US Embassy in Kabul, given the possibility of increased violence against US personnel in the country after May 1, two sources familiar with the discussions said.

This source told CNN that Cohen has weighed in more during these meetings than is traditionally expected from an acting official, advocating continued US involvement and emphasizing the importance of CIA operations in the country.

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