15 December, 2006

US officials on looming problems in Afghanistan

The Washington Post has been talking to US Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte. With good reason, Negroponte is concerned that present NATO forces in Afghanistan might not be sufficient to deal with a major Taliban offensive in the spring. His reading of the situation was supported by Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon official who has been briefed in Afghanistan by US diplomats and military commanders.

Judging from the declassified intelligence briefing he received, Cordesman said, the U.S. and NATO forces there are "insufficient" to secure the south and the west He said more special forces are needed in the east where the troops "are spread very thin."
Such is only too clear to anybody who has followed the British army's progress in Helmand. The Brits and Canucks are being asked to do too much with too little and, unless NATO governments act to sort out the problems of under-manning and under-equipment, it can only be a matter of time before there is a major Taliban massacre and rout of some coalition troops in Helmand or Kandahar. The British government must be getting similar intelligence so the question is, why are they not acting on it?

One thing I had not realised is Cordesman's assertion that, during the recent Taliban offensive,
...the U.S. military flew "as many sorties in Afghanistan as in Iraq" during that period.

The WaPo also has a wide-ranging interview on Iraq and Afghanistan, with Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, who is not impressed with the Iraq Study Group's idea of negotiating with Syria and Iran.

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