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Intelligence Reports Contradict Pentagon's Afghan War Assessment

Kristen Villarreal |
December 16, 2010 | 6:00 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter


President Obama's cautiously optimistic review of the Afghan war - one year after a troop increase of 30,000 - came a day after intelligence reports painted a grim picture for the future war effort. The biggest hurdle, the reports said, is in Pakistan.

The reports describe a problem that allows the Taliban and other militant forces to move freely across the Pakistan border, allowing them to gain an advantage in attacks against US troops and cross back over the border to resupply.

This long-standing issue cited by military officials is said to ultimately doom US military progress unless Pakistan - which receives $1 billion annually from Washington to fight the Taliban and other militant forces - decides to take action against militant sanctuaries within its borders. 

The two intelligence reports on Afghanistan and Pakistan, officially called National Intelligence Estimates, are the consensus views of over a dozen intelligence agencies, including the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency. 

Though Pentagon spokespeople said the reports would be taken into consideration in the White House strategy review, the review emphasized descriptions of overall progress.

The administration said that the senior leadership of al-Qaida in Pakistan is at its weakest since the Sept. 11 attacks and that the Taliban in Afghanistan has seen much of its power halted and reversed over the last 12 months. 

The new review endorsed a timeline for the ultimate turning of combat forces over to Afghani hands. US troops will begin withdrawing from the country in 2011 but will remain in the country through 2014. The report also stressed the importance of a sustained long-term commitment to the region.

Criticism surrounding the conclusions of the White House report have ensued since the intelligence reports leak at the beginning of the week. An article in The New American criticizes Obama administration for "ignoring the Afghanistan-Pakistan reality" because the findings of the intelligence reports conflict with the administration's ultimate agenda. 

The conflicting intelligence and White House reports reflect long-standing disagreement between US leaders and intelligence agencies throughout the course of the war. Intelligence agencies insist the latest White House analysis is outdated, fails to take battlefield events since September and lacks insights from troops on the frontline. 

The National Intelligence Estimates reports warn that large numbers of Afghani citizens are at risk of falling to the Taliban. The intelligence agencies have concluded that the US cannot succeed in Afghanistan while Pakistan militant safe havens remain occupied by Taliban and other violent militant groups. 

The White House review concludes US forces have made significant strides in traditional Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan. 

The two reports agree that the CIA's drone campaign in Pakistan is affecting the bases of al-Qaida and Taliban forces. Pakistan army cheif Ashfaq Kayani vowed last week to launch drone operations in North Waziristan, but there is no guarantee Pakistan will address the militant safe havens that will remain a threat to US war efforts. ) 

To reach reporter Kristen Villarreal, click here.







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