WASHINGTON – The situation in Afghanistan now is the worst since the U.S.-led invasion of 2001 and the country is in danger of a “downward spiral” into violence and chaos, according to an intelligence report draft.
The nearly completed National Intelligence Estimate, the work of 16 intelligence agencies, says Afghanistan’s deterioration has accelerated alarmingly in past two months. Bush administration officials say privately that Afghanistan is now the single most pressing security threat in the fight against terrorism.
“We are doing a review to look to see what more we can do,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday. “We are looking to see where some of the strengths are … and also how we can help the Afghans when there are weaknesses.”
A senior U.S. commander with recent experience in Afghanistan characterized the situation as “stagnant,” not deteriorating.
“We’re not making progress … because of a lack of capability in the government and because the Taliban have a safe haven from which to plan, train, and launch attacks into Afghanistan,” said the commander, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive material.
A second military commander, who read the draft of the intelligence report, said it warns that action is needed quickly to prevent Afghanistan from heading into the downward spiral. The secret report is expected to be completed mid-November.
Military figures show that Afghanistan has become far more dangerous for American troops than Iraq. More than twice as many Americans have died in Afghanistan than in Iraq since May, even though there are more than five times the number of troops in Iraq.
The administration has announced plans to send 3,500 additional Marines to Afghanistan before year’s end and then an Army brigade of about 5,000 soldiers early in 2009. As many as three additional Army brigades could follow in the months after that. Currently the U.S. has 31,000 troops in Afghanistan.