Thursday, December 16, 2010

AFGHANISTAN - Gloomy Review

"Intel Agencies Offer Gloomy View of Afghan War" PBS Newshour Transcript 12/15/2010 (includes video)


MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): Tomorrow, the White House presents its long-awaited review of how much progress has been made in the Afghan war since the president's surge of U.S. forces there.

Today, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times reported on two classified national intelligence assessments, one of Afghanistan, one on Pakistan, that have gone into that review. The NIEs represent the collective view of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. They were said to offer a gloomy view of the state of play, especially when it comes to Pakistan's unwillingness to take out Afghan militant sanctuaries on its territory.

For more, we go to Elisabeth Bumiller, a Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times. And, Elisabeth, welcome back.

Now, there have been a lot of intelligence assessments all along this -- the process of this war. What makes these special?

ELISABETH BUMILLER, The New York Times: These -- well, because they're current, or relatively current, and because one is focused on Afghanistan, one is focused on Pakistan, and because, right now, it's the moment for viewing Afghanistan.

And they're important because, again, they represent all the views of all these intelligence agencies, with, I would say, a very heavy input from the CIA and from the Defense Intelligence Agency. They're the main drafting agencies.
MARGARET WARNER: And that takes us back to what role Pakistan is and will play. So, tell us a little bit more about what these NIEs at least say about Pakistan's role, how extensively they're assisting the Afghan Taliban and other insurgents who are in the border area and cross over and attack U.S. and Afghan forces.

ELISABETH BUMILLER: Well, actually, I don't think it's just the NIEs. I think it's -- the entire Obama administration right now acknowledges what is a big problem this is, is that the Pakistani intelligence service is using these proxy insurgent groups on the border to -- to -- they go right across the border.

Commanders were saying that last week in the eastern part of Afghanistan, that they go right across the border. They plant homemade bombs. They attack American forces, and then they go right back across to Pakistan for rest.

MARGARET WARNER: For rest and relaxation.

ELISABETH BUMILLER: Resupply, refitting. And so -- and we're only at war officially in Afghanistan.

MARGARET WARNER: So, do these reports or at least what you know about them say whether the Pakistani military at the highest levels is just allowing this to happen, or were -- there are rogue elements that are assisting them, or whether, in fact, the Pakistani military at the highest levels is engaged in this?

ELISABETH BUMILLER: I can't answer that question. They certainly say that there are rogue elements within the Pakistani intelligence service.

They also say that there's been basically lip service paid by General Kayani, who's the head of the military in Pakistan. You know, General Petraeus just last week praised Kayani for saying, yes, we acknowledge this is a problem.

But that's basically what the Pakistanis have said for two or three years.


"Afghan Report Sees July Troop Pullouts Despite Perils" by HELENE COOPER, New York Times 12/16/2010


A review of President Obama’s strategy for the war in Afghanistan concludes that American forces can begin withdrawing on schedule in July, despite finding uneven signs of progress in the year since the president announced the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops, according to a summary made public Thursday.

The summary said the United States continues to kill leaders of Al Qaeda and diminish its capacity to launch terrorist attacks from the region. It cited some signs that the United States and its allies have halted or reversed inroads by the Taliban in Afghanistan and strengthened the ability of Afghan forces to secure their country, but acknowledged that the gains are fragile and could be easily undone unless more progress is made towards hunting down insurgents operating from havens in neighboring Pakistan.

The report is the first full-scale assessment of Mr. Obama’s strategy, and was once portrayed by the administration as critical to decisions about the course of the conflict and the pace of the exit by the United States from Afghanistan. But the White House has been playing down the report’s importance for months, even as it continues to balance pressure from the military for time to allow the troop surge to work and pressure from many Democrats — some inside the administration — to start showing next year that Mr. Obama is serious about winding down the nine-year conflict.

The summary shed little light on the scale of any troop withdrawal next year, which the administration says will be determined by conditions on the ground.

The five-page unclassified overview of the review describes both progress and challenges only in general and restrained terms, avoiding outright criticism of Pakistan for failure to do more to confront extremists on its soil and the Afghan government for corruption and inconsistent support for American efforts to secure key areas of the country.

(both links open new page) New York Times Summary - Original Document PDF

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