'Bleak' US report on Afghan war
New US intelligence reports paint a bleak picture of the security conditions in Afghanistan and say the war cannot be won unless Pakistan roots out militants on its side of the border, according to several officials who have been briefed on the findings.
The reports, one on Afghanistan, the other on Pakistan, could complicate the Obama administration's plans to claim next week that the war is turning a corner. But military commanders have challenged the conclusions, saying they are based on outdated information that does not take into account progress made in the autumn.
The intelligence was detailed in briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee and some of the findings were shared with members of the House Intelligence Committee, officials said.
All the officials interviewed spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified documents.
The reports, known as National Intelligence Estimates, are prepared by the Director of National Intelligence and used by policymakers as high up as the president to understand trends in a region. The new reports are the first ones done in two years on Afghanistan and six years on Pakistan, officials said. Neither the Director of National Intelligence nor the CIA would comment on either report.
The new report on Afghanistan cites progress in "inkspots" where there are enough US or NATO troops to maintain security, such as Kabul and parts of Helmand and Kandahar provinces. Much of the rest of the country remains Taliban-controlled, or at least vulnerable to Taliban infiltration, according to an official who read the executive summary.
The report contains public opinion polling that finds Afghans are ambivalent - as willing to cut a deal with the Taliban as they are to work with the Americans, the official said.
It also shows US efforts are lagging to build infrastructure and get trained security forces to areas where they are needed, the official said. And it says the war cannot be won unless Pakistan is willing to obliterate terrorist safe havens in its lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
The new report on Pakistan concludes that the Pakistani government and military "are not willing to do that," says one US official briefed on the analysis.
The document says Pakistan's government pays lip service to cooperating with US efforts against the militants, and still secretly backs the Taliban as a way of hedging its bets in order to influence Afghanistan after a US departure from the region.