The Taliban had asked the United States to keep control of Kabul but Washington declined, according to a bombshell report published in The Washington Post.
According to the report, things would have been different had the United States taken bolder steps to prevent Kabul from being seized.
The United States had taken the initial step to convince the then Afghan president Ashraf Ghani to step down and allow an interim government to take over but he decided against it and fled. Had the United States convinced Ghani to not flee and instead allow a coalition government, there wouldn't have been so much bloodshed.
A day before the fall of Kabul, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had reportedly called Ghani to make arrangements to buy time and avoid bloodshed by allowing an interim government to take over. Under this arrangement, the Taliban would have remained outside Kabul if Ghani would have stepped down and allowed an interim government to take over.
The suggestion was made in order to please the Taliban and at the same time buy some time for talks to form an inclusive government that would involve Taliban representation.
Although Ghani had reluctantly agreed to the arrangement, on August 15, when the Taliban were closing in on Kabul for the final siege, Ghani without informing his American allies fled the country. In fact, very few in his government knew that he was fleeing Afghanistan, as he feared being executed by the Taliban.
According to one presidential adviser, the president was told "it will either be your palace guards or the Taliban but if you stay you'll be killed".
Leaving Country in Chaos
Ghani's decision shocked the Americans but it was already too late. At that time, the United States was relying on an intelligence report that said that Taliban would be able to isolate Kabul within 30 days and completely capture it in 90 days but it happened within just days throwing the entire nation in chaos.
The chaos prompted a secret meeting between senior US military leaders in Doha, including Commander of US Centcom General Kenneth F. McKenzie and Abdul Ghani Baradar, the head of the Taliban's political wing.
"We have a problem. We have two options to deal with it", Baradar had reportedly said at the meeting, according to the source. "You [the United States military] take responsibility for securing Kabul or you have to allow us to do it". And Kabul was gone.
The United States gave away the city without making any effort even after they were given a chance to secure it. The decision was reportedly motivated by President Joe Biden's determination to pull US troops out of Afghanistan by August 31 and even the collapse of the western-backed government didn't change his mind.
According to The Post, McKenzie has reportedly told Baradar that Washington had only one mission that of evacuating American citizens, Afghans who once helped the Americans and others at risk.
As part of the deal reached during the secret meeting between the US top brass and the Taliban, the United States took control of the Kabul Airport until August 31, the deadline to carry out the evacuation of foreign citizens, diplomatic staff, and Afghan allies wanting to leave the country, while the Taliban took over control of Kabul and the entire country.
However, this could have been avoided if the United States had not stuck to their only objective of withdrawing forces and evacuating Americans and other allies. And on August 31, the Taliban finally assumed full control of the Kabul airport after the last US plane left the runway, marking the end of America's longest war.