Two upcoming National Intelligence Estimates on Afghanistan and Pakistan will say that the fight is not winnable without Pakistani engagement against Taliban militants on its side of the border. Incredibly, military commanders challenged the conclusions, saying that they don’t take into account alleged progress made this fall.
This is part of a new phenomena in American life, where government and military officials challenge government assessments of theaters abroad. The ink was barely dry on the NIE on Iran, saying it had halted and not restarted its nuclear weapons program, before everyone in Washington either ignored it or directly challenged the information contained in it. Now we’re seeing the same thing. NIEs that haven’t even been released yet are getting dismissed by people with an agenda.
Of course, the claims of “progress” are vague, while the NIE, according to this report, is very specific. It says that progress can only be seen in “inkspots” with enough US presence to maintain it, like in Kabul, or parts of Helmand and Kandahar. In the rest of the country, the Taliban either have control, or the probablility of Taliban attack exists.
While dismissing NIEs is the new national sport, it’s somewhat harder to dismiss the words out of Hamid Karzai’s mouth.
Sitting at the head of a glass-topped, U-shaped table in his conference room, Karzai refused to budge, according to two people with direct knowledge of the late October meeting. He insisted that Afghan police and soldiers could protect the reconstruction workers, and he dismissed pleas for a delay.
As he spoke, he grew agitated, then enraged. He told them that he now has three “main enemies” – the Taliban, the United States and the international community.
“If I had to choose sides today, I’d choose the Taliban,” he fumed.
It’s not just that the governmental partner is leaning toward the Taliban rather than the US – according to the reports on the NIE, this is the position of the Afghan people as well. Karzai is merely reflecting the will of his constituents, who would cut a deal with the Taliban in the hopes that this would end the war.
So there it is – no real partner in the corrupt central government, lagging development and security training, no buy-in from Pakistan to root out safe havens, fading support from the public, and a country still under Taliban control, for the most part.
Other than that, great war we’re running.