Thursday, October 09, 2008

IRAQ LITE: AFGHANISTAN

The Hill - The situation in Afghanistan will worsen next year unless the U.S. adjusts its policies, according to Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "The trends across the board are not going in the right direction," Mullen told reporters at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. "It’s been very tough fighting this year and it will be tougher next year unless we adjust in a way to get at all aspects of the challenges in Afghanistan.". . .

Mullen expressed particular concern that the U.S. and NATO so far have been unable to eradicate poppy crops financing much of the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Gaining some economic security in a country ranked as the world’s fifth poorest is a key, Mullen said. The U.S. also has to make clear to the Afghanis that it is not an "occupying force," he added.

Commanders are seeking up to 12,000 more troops in Afghanistan, but European allies have been reluctant to commit more forces. The United States currently has about 33,000 troops in Afghanistan, more than half of which are under NATO command.

Mullen has set up a robust transition team at the Pentagon to prepare the next president for the challenges ahead. The transition teams are set up to answer questions from the campaigns and brief the candidates and their staffs on requested issues. If one candidate’s campaign receives a specific briefing, the transition team by rule offers the same briefing to the rival campaign, Mullen told The Hill.

NY Times -
A draft report by American intelligence agencies concludes that Afghanistan is in a "downward spiral" and casts serious doubt on the ability of the Afghan government to stem the rise in the Taliban’s influence there, according to American officials familiar with the document

The classified report finds that the breakdown in central authority in Afghanistan has been accelerated by rampant corruption within the government of President Hamid Karzai and by an increase in violence by militants who have launched increasingly sophisticated attacks from havens in Pakistan.

The report, a nearly completed version of a National Intelligence Estimate, is set to be finished after the November elections and will be the most comprehensive American assessment in years on the situation in Afghanistan. Its conclusions represent a harsh verdict on decision-making in the Bush administration, which in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks made Afghanistan the central focus of a global campaign against terrorism