KABUL, AFGHANISTAN—In a development that sent shock waves through the international community and negated two decades of effort by American-led coalition forces, reports confirmed Monday that Afghanistan fell to the Taliban a couple hours earlier than anyone expected. “We of course knew the well-armed, well-organized, and highly motivated Taliban fighters would seize power eventually—it just happened 90 to 120 minutes sooner than we were anticipating,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, explaining that American and Afghan officials were caught flat-footed Sunday evening when they discovered Taliban leaders were already giving media interviews in Kabul’s presidential palace. “That was a development we did not foresee happening until sometime later, maybe around bedtime, or at least after supper. But we were working from our best estimate. It’s easy, in hindsight, to say that you would have done this or that thing differently during 20 years of attempting to install a brand-new democratic government, military, and civil society.” At press time, critics of the withdrawal claimed that if the U.S. military had spent another decade in Afghanistan, they could have prevented a Taliban takeover for as long as three full hours.
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