The Obama administration apparently plans to issue a positive Pentagon review of the war in Afghanistan. Alas, this assessment evidently is not shared by U.S. intelligence agencies.
As President Obama prepares to release a review of American strategy in Afghanistan that will claim progress in the nine-year-old war there, two new classified intelligence reports offer a more negative assessment and say there is a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border.
The reports, one on Afghanistan and one on Pakistan, say that although there have been gains for the United States and NATO in the war, the unwillingness of Pakistan to shut down militant sanctuaries in its lawless tribal region remains a serious obstacle. American military commanders say insurgents freely cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan to plant bombs and fight American troops and then return to Pakistan for rest and resupply.
The findings in the reports, called National Intelligence Estimates, represent the consensus view of the United States’ 16 intelligence agencies, as opposed to the military, and were provided last week to some members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. The findings were described by a number of American officials who read the reports’ executive summaries.
Obviously, any predictions about the future course of the Afghan war should be taken with a couple shakers of salt. However, the fact that the U.S. remains at war nine years after intervening suggests that pessimism is the most realistic perspective.
That certainly was the reaction of Malou Innocent and me after visiting Afghanistan earlier this year. Even if the military has figured out the best strategy for fighting the Taliban, there is no competent and honest Afghan partner to replace the Taliban. The Karzai government is as likely to impede as aid Washington’s efforts. The U.S. cannot afford to sacrifice more lives and money in what has devolved into yet another attempt at nation-building that fails to advance Amerca’s security.