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Intelligence Reports Offer Dim View of Afghan War

Unwillingness of Pakistan to shut down militant sanctuaries remains serious obstacle, according to intelligence assessments

Image: Helicopter in Afghanistan
A Marine helicopter drops flares over Marines on the ground in Musa Qala in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Massoud Hossaini / AFP — Getty Images)

By Elisabeth Bumiller
New York Times logo
December 15, 2010


WASHINGTON — 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. …

American military commanders and senior Pentagon officials have already criticized the reports as out of date and say that the cut-off date for the Afghanistan report, Oct. 1, does not allow it to take into account what the military cites as tactical gains in Kandahar and Helmand Provinces in the south in the six weeks since. …

The dispute between the military and intelligence agencies reflects how much the debate in Washington over the war is now centered on whether the United States can succeed in Afghanistan without the cooperation of Pakistan, which despite years of American pressure has resisted routing militants on its border.

The dispute also reflects the longstanding cultural differences between intelligence analysts, whose job is to warn of potential bad news, and military commanders, who are trained to promote “can do” optimism.

But in Afghanistan, the intelligence agencies play a strong role, with the largest Central Intelligence Agency station since the Vietnam War located in Kabul. C.I.A. operatives also command an Afghan paramilitary force in the thousands. In Pakistan, the C.I.A. is running a covert war using drone aircraft.

Both sides have found some areas of agreement in the period leading up to Mr. Obama’s review, which will be made public on Thursday. The intelligence reports, which rely heavily on assessments from the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency, conclude that C.I.A. drone strikes on leaders of Al Qaeda in the tribal regions of Pakistan have had an impact and that security has improved in the parts of Helmand and Kandahar Provinces in southern Afghanistan where the United States has built up its troop presence.

For their part, American commanders and Pentagon officials say they do not yet know if the war can be won without more cooperation from Pakistan. But after years and billions spent trying to win the support of the Pakistanis, they are now proceeding on the assumption that there will be limited help from them. The American commanders and officials readily describe the havens for insurgents in Pakistan as a major impediment to military operations. …

American commanders say their plan in the next few years is to kill large numbers of insurgents in the border region — the military refers to it as “degrading the Taliban” — and at the same time build up the Afghan National Army to the point that the Afghans can at least contain an insurgency still supported by Pakistan. (American officials say Pakistan supports the insurgents as a proxy force in Afghanistan, preparing for the day the Americans leave.) …

But many Afghan officials say that the United States, which sends Pakistan about $2 billion in military and civilian aid each year, is coddling Pakistan for no end. “They are capitalizing on your immediate security needs, and they are stuck in this thinking that bad behavior brings cash,” said Amrullah Saleh, the former Afghan intelligence chief, in an interview on Tuesday.

The Pakistan intelligence report also reaffirms past American concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile, particularly the risk that enriched uranium or plutonium could be smuggled out of a laboratory or storage site. …

Full story


12/19/2010 Update

Taliban Kill 13 Afghan Soldiers, Police

By Amir Shah

December 19, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters struck at Afghan security forces Sunday, storming an army recruiting center in the north that sparked a daylong gunbattle, and ambushing a bus carrying army officers in the capital — the first major attack in Kabul in months.

At least 13 Afghan security forces were killed in the two attacks, with the firefight at the recruiting center in the northern province of Kunduz ending only after the last remaining militant detonated his suicide vest, local police officials said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both operations.

Separately, the head of the violence-wracked Chahar Dara district of Kunduz survived an ambush when a powerful roadside bomb detonated as he passed by in a police vehicle on his way to his office. …

Full story


3/31/2012 Update

U.S. Orders More Security for Troops in Afghanistan

The Associated Press and NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube via
March 28, 2012

U.S. troops in Afghanistan are being guarded more closely and are taking other steps to protect themselves from attacks by Afghan troops, the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, said Wednesday.

Allen ordered the measures in recent weeks after a spate of 16 attacks in which U.S. and other coalition forces were killed by Afghan soldiers. Some of the killings were believed triggered by the accidental burning of Qurans [link added] and other religious materials.

New measures include the use of so-called “guardian angels” — troops who guard others as they sleep. Americans can now carry weapons in some ministries and have moved their desks so they can keep an eye on the door. Two officers were killed at their desks in the Interior Ministry in Kabul. …

Allen issued a directive “to get every single troop in the war zone to read it and think” — and to emphasize that troops should be aware of their  surroundings as they go about their jobs, the military official said.

Allen issued a directive ordering troops to have at least one armed soldier on watch at all times, including during exercise, sleep and work. …

Full story


Related reports on this site

In this July 7, 2008 file photo, a police officer walks among the dead and wounded bodies at the site of a suicide attack near the Indian Embassy in central Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Pajhwok News Agency / AP File)

Violence Ahead of Afghan Review (Dec. 13, 2010)


Kandahar attack latest in wave of suicide bombings
(NBC Nightly News, Dec. 14, 2010) — A suicide attack that killed six U.S. troops when an explosives-packed minibus blew up at the entrance of a joint NATO-Afghan base in southern Afghanistan was the fourth suicide bombing in recent months. NBC’s Jim Maceda reports. (01:42)

Afghan War Set to Drag On (Nov. 17, 2010)

An Afghan police officer inspects the wreckage of a car used by a bomber after a suicide attack on a U.S. convoy in Heart, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2008. (Photo credit: AP)

Afghanistan War Cost Too High (Nov. 13, 2010)

Political Solution to Afghan War (Oct. 12, 2010)

Burhanuddin Rabbani, Hamid Karzai, Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf
Afghan President Hamid Karzai (second from left) prays with members of the Afghanistan’s peace council during its inaugural session in Kabul, Afghanistan. From left: Burhanuddin Rabbani, Karzai, Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani, and Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf. (Photo credit: Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP)

10th Year of War in Afghanistan (Oct. 7, 2010)

Image: President Barack Obama, Gen. David Petraeus
President Barack Obama announces that Gen. David Petraeus will replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as his top commander in Afghanistan while in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on Wednesday, June 23, 2010. (Photo credit: Larry Downing / Reuters)

Support for Afghan War Plummets (Aug. 4, 2010)

A crowd of Afghan protesters destroy a car during clashes with police following Friday prayers in Kabul on July 30, 2010. Rioting erupted when scores of Afghan men set fire to two U.S. embassy vehicles after one collided with a civilian car killing a number of occupants, officials and witnesses said. (Photo credit: Yuri Cortez / AFP — Getty Images)

Afghan War Deadlier Than Ever (July 31, 2010)

In this Oct. 29, 2009 file picture, President Barack Obama, right, salutes as a carry team walks with the transfer case containing the remains of Army Sgt. Dale R. Griffin of Terre Haute, Ind., who died in Afghanistan according to the Department of Defense, during a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del. (Photo credit: Susan Walsh / AP File)

Afghanistan Exit Strategy (June 24, 2010)

Image: Protesters in Afghanistan
Afghanis protest against U.S. forces after an early morning raid in Khost province, east of Kabul on Saturday, March 7, 2009. (Photo credit: Nishanuddin Khan / AP file)

U.S. House Rejects Afghan Pullout (March 10, 2010)

A general view of damage at the site of a suicide attack near a guesthouse on Dec. 15, 2009 in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

Outside the Box in Afghanistan (Dec. 20, 2009)

Image: Lt. Col. Thomas B. Gukeisen
Lt. Col. Thomas B. Gukeisen talks to his men at the Altimur Forward Operating Base in Logar province, Afghanistan. Gukeisen, who commands 600 soldiers, is operating by his own ideas about counterinsurgency warfare. (Photo credit: Dario Lopez-Mills / AP)

Obama Speech on Afghanistan (Dec. 1, 2009)

Image: Smoke comes out of a destroyed vehicle
Smoke billows from a destroyed vehicle at the scene of a suicide car bomb attack in Kabul on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009. (Photo credit: Musadeq Sadeq / AP)

Escalating Afghanistan Violence (Nov. 20, 2009)

Image: Afghan national police work at the scene of a suicide car bombing
An Afghan national policeman gestures as he stands near the Heetal Hotel, not shown in the photo, after an apparent suicide car bomb was detonated in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009. (Photo credit: Dario Lopez-Mills / AP)

Afghanistan War Strategy Review (Oct. 3, 2009)

Image: Obama and McChrystal meet aboard Air Force One
President Barack Obama meets with Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, aboard Air Force One on Friday, Oct. 2, 2009. (Photo credit: Pete Souza / The White House)

Victory in Afghanistan? (Oct. 5, 2008)

Image: Activists in Pakistan
Activists of civil society Fundamental Rights Commission chant slogans behind a burning U.S. flag during a rally to condemn the U.S. missile strikes in Pakistani tribal areas in Hyderabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008. (Photo credit: Pervez Masih / AP)



Iraqi Shoe Thrower Signs His First Book in Beirut

Image: Muntadhar al-Zeidi
Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi speaks to The Associated Press during the signing of his first book entitled “The Last Salute to President Bush,” in Beirut, Lebanon, on Dec. 14, 2010. Al-Zeidi, who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush in Baghdad in 2008, says he is suing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a Swiss court for his detention and alleged torture during the nine months he spent in custody. (Photo credit: Grace Kassab / AP)

By Zeina Karam

December 14, 2010

BEIRUT — The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former President George W. Bush said Tuesday he is suing Iraq’s prime minister for his detention and alleged torture during the nine months he spent in custody.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi spoke during the signing in Beirut of his first book, entitled “The Last Salute to President Bush.”

The book is a journal chronicling the moments leading up to the now infamous Baghdad press conference on Dec. 14, 2008, at which al-Zeidi shot to fame by hurling his shoes at Bush and calling him a dog. …

The signing was timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the shoe throwing incident, which became one of the iconic images of the Iraq war.

In the book, he recalls the revulsion he felt when he saw Bush at the joint Baghdad press conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“In these moments, everything I had seen and heard about the massacres against Iraqis this man had committed came to my mind … and I felt a thunder in my body,” he wrote of the moments leading up to his act.

Minutes later, he shot up from his chair, threw his shoes toward Bush at the podium and shouted, “This is your farewell kiss, you dog!”

Al-Zeidi was arrested and convicted of assault. He spent nine months in prison, including three in solitary confinement. He told The Associated Press Tuesday that he was beaten and electrocuted for three days by interrogators, some of them related to al-Maliki.

He is now suing al-Maliki in a Swiss court and said he expects an arrest warrant to be issued in the next few days.

“What I did that day was my duty as a journalist, for all the Iraqi people,” he said.

Al-Zeidi, who now lives in Beirut and works as a consultant for a Lebanese satellite TV channel, said all profits from his book will go to a charity foundation he has set up for Iraqis who suffered from U.S. occupation. …

Full story


Related reports on this site

Image: relative of the Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi
A relative of the Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi holds up a poster on Thursday, March 12, 2009 in support of the journalist at his home after he was convicted of assaulting a foreign leader. The posters shows a portrait of  al-Zeidi and reads: “Release he who achieved Iraqi unity,” and  “Release he who restored Iraqi dignity.” (Photo credit: Khalid Mohammed / AP)

Devastating Blast Unnoticed (March 13, 2009)

Iraqi Shoe Hurler Goes on Trial (Feb. 20, 2009)

What George W. Bush Did Right (Jan. 17, 2009)

Ex-Speaker Praises ‘Brave’ Shoe-Hurler (Dec. 24, 2008; scroll down)

Brother: Torture Drove Shoe-Hurler to Apologize (Dec. 22, 2008)

Iraqi Shoe-Hurler Asks for Pardon (Dec. 19, 2008; scroll down)

Bush Shoe-Hurler Sparks Chaos in Iraq’s Parliament (Dec. 17, 2008)

In Middle East, Arabs Hail Shoe-Hurling Journalist (Dec. 16, 2008)

Bush on Farewell Visit to Iraq Dodges Flying Shoes (Dec. 15, 2008)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — December 15, 2009

Bachmann Finalist for Liar Award

One year ago today, I reported that PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning project of the St. Petersburg Times to find the truth in American politics, announced its “Lie of the Year” contest to find the most significant political falsehood of 2009, with U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann among the eight nominees. Meanwhile, Talking Points Memo announced the 3rd Annual Golden Duke Awards (named in honor of disgraced Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham) recognizing excellence in public corruption, betrayals of the public trust, and generally shameless behavior, with Rep. Michele Bachmann a serious contender in the “Meritorious Achievement in The Crazy” and “Best Public Policy-based Fib” categories.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — December 15, 2008

Iraqi Hurls Shoes at Bush


Bush receives size-10 reminder of unpopularity (MSNBC, Dec. 14, 2008) — On an Iraq trip shrouded in secrecy, President George W. Bush hailed progress in the war that defines his presidency, but got a stark reminder of his unpopularity when a man hurled two shoes at him during a news conference. (03:35)

Image: An Iraqi man throws a show at George W. Bush
An Iraqi man throws a shoe at President George W. Bush during a news conference with Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008 in Baghdad. (Photo credit: Evan Vucci / AP)

Two years ago today, on Dec. 15, 2008, I reported that an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush on a farewell visit to Baghdad, shouting in Arabic, “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog.”

11 Responses to “‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » 2010 Review of Afghanistan War Says:

    […] New U.S. national intelligence estimates of Afghanistan and Pakistan paint bleak pictures of security conditions inside Afghanistan and of Pakistan’s willingness to rout militants on its side of the border. […]

  2. Nuclear War in 2011 - Afghanistan, AGAINST, Iraq Says:

    […] “No more poison factories, no more executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers and rape rooms” (Geldof, 2008). The latter words were assurances from U.S. president George W. Bush during his famous March 2003 speech. At that time, he was justifying his reasons for declaring war on Iraq. President Bush’s main reasons for attacking Iraq and Afghanistan may be summarized as follows: to stamp out terrorism in the world; to protect the U.S. and the rest of the world by capturing weapons of mass destruction; and to protect Iraqi and Afghan citizens from abusive governments such as Saddam Hussein’s regime. However, Bush has failed to achieve any of these objectives. … On this subject see: […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Afghanistan Roundup Says:

    […] ‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan (Dec. 15, 2010) […]

  4. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Obama Hell-Bent on Afghanistan Pull-Out Says:

    […] ‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan (Dec. 15, 2010) […]

  5. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » No Way Forward in Afghanistan Says:

    […] More than 1,522 American service members have died. There has been talk of a more stable, safer Afghanistan and frequent, obvious evidence to the contrary. The country’s president and the United States share an uneasy relationship, and it’s difficult to tell the story of the past decade in a single, concise statement. […]

  6. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Will U.S. Leave Afghanistan a Failed State Ruled by Warlords? Says:

    […] ‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan (Dec. 15, 2010) […]

  7. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » U.S. Taxpayers Help Fund Killing of U.S. Troops in Afghanistan Says:

    […] ‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan (Dec. 15, 2010) […]

  8. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Former Afghan President Assassinated Says:

    […] ‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan (Dec. 15, 2010) […]

  9. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Horrific Massacre by Deranged American Soldier in Afghanistan Says:

    […] ‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan (Dec. 15, 2010) […]

  10. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Afghan War ‘Not Worth Fighting’ Says:

    […] ‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan (Dec. 15, 2010) […]

  11. Immelman vs. Bachmann » Blog Archive » ‘No One Really Cares’ — 2,000 U.S. Military Deaths in Afghanistan Says:

    […] ‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan (Dec. 15, 2010) […]

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