Two reports produced by US intelligence agencies sharply contradict the American military's claims of success in the nine-year-old war in Afghanistan.
The National Intelligence Estimates on Afghanistan and Pakistan were recently presented in secret to members of the Senate and House intelligence committees. They represent the consensus view of Washington's 16 separate intelligence agencies, led by the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the State Department and the various arms of military intelligence.
Coming on the eve of the formal presentation by the Obama White House of its review of the US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the reports stand in sharp contradiction to the rosy estimates being peddled by the US military.
This month marks one year since President Barack Obama, in a speech at West Point, ordered his military "surge" in Afghanistan. This escalation saw the deployment of 30,000 more US troops into the impoverished, war-torn country, bringing the total US force there to nearly 100,000. Another 50,000 NATO and other foreign troops are participating in the US-led colonial-style war.
On Tuesday, President Obama signed off on a report prepared by Gen. David Petraeus, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, which claims that the escalation of the war has proved successful.
Previewing the report, which will be formally presented by the president today, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday, "There has been some important progress in halting the momentum of the Taliban in Afghanistan." He also claimed that the US has "seen greater cooperation over the course of the past 18 months, with the Pakistani government."
According to unnamed senior government officials quoted in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, however, US intelligence agencies challenge the veracity of such claims.
The classified intelligence reports contend that large swaths of Afghanistan are still at risk of falling to the Taliban, according to officials who were briefed on the National Intelligence Estimates," the Los Angeles Times reported.
The paper also reported that the reports, presented at a closed-door hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee recently, state that the Pakistani government "remains unwilling to stop its covert support for members of the Afghan Taliban who mount attacks against US troops from the tribal areas of the neighboring country."
According to the New York Times, the reports conclude that "there is a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border."
The Washington Post carried an article Wednesday indicating that the administration's own review, at least in regard to Pakistan, appears to concur in part with the intelligence estimates. It quoted an official familiar with the review as stating that Pakistan has not "fundamentally changed its strategic calculus" regarding the use of the country's Federally Administered Tribal Areas by armed Afghan opposition groups as sanctuary.
The Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus has longstanding ties to the Taliban, which it views as a counterweight to the attempt by its regional rival, India, to exert its influence in Afghanistan.
The logic of this shared assessment of the role played by Pakistan is the escalation of US pressure on the government in Islamabad and the increasing extension of the US military intervention into Pakistani territory.
White House spokesman Gibbs advised that the results of the policy review will "not surprise" anyone who has been familiar with the administration's policies.
Indeed, the long-awaited review has become virtually a non-event. The Obama administration already spelled out its intentions at the NATO summit in Lisbon last month, where it embraced a new timeline that effectively jettisoned the pledge made by the US president last December to begin withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan in July of 2011.
The new deadline embraced in Lisbon is the end of 2014 when, supposedly, Afghan security forces would be capable of taking over most combat operations in the country. July 2011 will, at most, see a token withdrawal, that will leave the bulk of US forces in the country. And military commanders have indicated that they expect American troops to remain in Afghanistan well past 2014.