When American troops leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the Taliban will gain ground and the country will probably descend into chaos, according to a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, the Washington Post reported.
The gains achieved by the 2009 troop surge will likely be wiped out.
With Afghan President Hamid Karzai refusing to sign a security agreement that would authorize a contingent of American and international troops to conduct counterterrorism operations and continue training Afghan forces beyond 2014, the estimate takes a bleak view of Afghanistan by 2017.
This downbeat intelligence prognosis is not unanimously shared.
Pessimists see years of U.S. gains being squandered with the Kabul government ultimately losing the big cities. Even if several thousand troops stay behind to conduct counter-terror operations and for training purposes and even if Congress continues to bankroll the country. The intelligence estimate could bolster those who would like to see the U.S. pullout accelerated, the Post reported.
Optimists — including some in the Obama administration — say the capabilities of the Afghan army are being underestimated and that the Taliban will be pressured to sue for peace. One administration official said the intelligence estimate is intended only to highlight "potential upsides and downsides" to U.S. policy.
Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations sees continued stalemate in the years ahead depending on how much financial backing the U.S. provides the Kabul government.
If Karzai ultimately agrees to a deal regulating the U.S. and international presence, the country would continue to receive billions in U.S. and other aid.
As of December 28 the number of service personnel killed this year in Afghanistan stands at 127 for a total of 2,301
since America's longest war began in 2001.
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