WASHINGTON – In what appears to be an admission of defeat, the head of US intelligence agencies on Thursday expressed that the security situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating.
The pessimistic assessment came amid Trump administration plans of sending more troops to the war-torn region that has already seen a huge amount of deployment during the last 16 years.
“The political and security situation in Afghanistan will also almost certainly deteriorate through 2018, even with a modest increase in the military assistance by the US and its partners,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
While presenting an annual assessment of threats to US national security, Coats told lawmakers that Afghanistan would struggle to curb its dependence on external support until it contains the insurgency or reaches a peace agreement with the Taliban who claim controlling around 34 districts.
On the other hand, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, General Vincent Stewart, held almost the same opinion expressing his fear that if the situation was not addressed, the US-led alliance risked losing the fragile gains it had made during the protracted conflict.
“Unless we change something… the situation will continue to deteriorate and we’ll lose all the gains that we’ve invested in over the last several years,” he said.
Stewart maintained that the new beefing-up of efforts would include sending US and NATO advisers at brigade and battalion level to help Afghan commanders coordinate troop movements with artillery, intelligence or close air support.
The Taliban who first rose to power during the 1990s managed to conquer most of the country before its 2001 ouster, with the help of a range of foreign jihadists.
The US spy chief also detailed that the militant group was likely to continue to make gains, especially in rural areas.
“Afghan security forces’ performance will probably worsen due to a combination of Taliban operations, combat casualties, desertions, poor logistics support, weak leadership,” he said.
Army General John Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan in February had said that he needed several thousand more international troops to break a stalemate with the Taliban.
Besides all the assessments, the head of the military’s Defense Intelligence Agency divulged how US could help Afghanistan weed out terrorism.
“The situation would worsen unless U.S. trainers worked with Afghan soldiers closer to the front line, their numbers increased and there was greater intelligence and surveillance,” he said.
A U.S official disclosed that deliberations include giving more authorities to forces on the ground and taking more aggressive action against Taliban fighters.
America has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Most belong to a 13,300-strong NATO mission to train and advise Afghan partner forces fighting the Taliban but with such heavy contingent, the efforts to smash out terrorism seem to shatter. To date, more than 2,300 Americans have been killed and over 17,000 wounded.
But despite the heavy death toll, the tycoon-turned-president Trump is carrying out a review of Afghanistan and conversations are revolving around sending between 3,000 and 5,000 U.S. and coalition troops to Afghanistan.
Although the latest report seems to convey a dark message to Pakistan’s neighbour but the spy chief has apparently expressed satisfaction regarding Pakistan’s national security.
“Pakistan will probably be able to manage its internal security,” says the report refers to the soft targets which can be damaged including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
“The groups we judge will pose the greatest threat to Pakistan’s internal security include Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, Jamaat ui-Ahrar, ai-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent, iSIS-K, Laskhare Jhangvi, and Lashkar-e Jhangvi ai-Aiami,” it says.
The report also contains a paragraph regarding Pak-India relations and surmises that the bilateral ties could become fraught due to cross-border attacks and aggression on the Line of Control.
The Trump’s America seems to opt a policy shift regarding Afghanistan. Last month, it dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever deployed in combat in Afghanistan, targeting an Islamic State group complex.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Taliban have also launched their spring offensive ‘Mansouri’ to target foreign troops. The Afghan great game as detailed above is not over.
The warlord and ‘Butcher of Kabul’ Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has also stepped into Kabul after two decades.