New NIE forecasts Afghan Debacle


"A new American intelligence assessment on the Afghan war predicts that the gains the United States and its allies have made during the past three years are likely to have been significantly eroded by 2017, even if Washington leaves behind a few thousand troops and continues bankrolling the impoverished nation, according to officials familiar with the report. The National Intelligence Estimate, which includes input from the country’s 16 intelligence agencies, predicts that the Taliban and other power brokers will become increasingly influential as the United States winds down its longest war in history, according to officials who have read the classified report or received briefings on its conclusions. The grim outlook is fueling a policy debate inside the Obama administration about the steps it should take over the next year as the U.S. military draws down its remaining troops."  Washpost


Foreign affairs as a human activity is supposed to work in the following way:

Policy people seek to create a future that is acceptable to them.

Strategic intelligence people describe the present and future the way it is or seems likely to be.

Not surprisingly there is always a lot of tension between these two groups.   The policy people endlessly try to influence the conclusions and assesments of the intelligence people so as to extract from them judgments that are politically useful and personally assuring of the genius of their policy.

Sometimes they succeed.  The most notable success of our time in this field was the creative use by the Bushies of shreds of discredited data to create a media firestorm in favor of invading and occupying Iraq.  In this effort the Bush Administration was supported by an army of exiles, emigres,  and ancien regime figures.  At the core of this group were a "band" of Iranian operatives headed by "you know who."

To insure IC compliance with this view analysts in the major US intelligence agencies were figuratively beaten into line through direct and indirect pressure exerted by intelligence agency chiefs who understood what they were expected to do by the Bush Administration.  We know the result.  The NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) on Iraq that was produced in 2002 was an abomination.  NIEs are negotiated documents.  They are not written by divine inspiration.  In the process of negotiating that NIE only State INR and at times USAF intelligence showed any guts or integrity at all.  The document was worse than worthless.  It was a betrayal of the American people and armed forces.  The betrayal was a disgrace for which the heads of the IC agencies were solely responsible.

Now we have something different.  We have an NIE (produced inprobably under the leadership of James Clapper) on Afghanistan.  This NIE predicts failure of the COIN effort launched by Obama in 2009.  It predicts precipitous, catastrophic collapse in the event of a total US withdrawal at the end of 2014.  It predicts a more gradual collapse of the present government's authority even in the event that the US leaves some small number of troops behind to do CT missions and support the Afghans with training and supply.

The predictable reaction from the Obama Administration was to look with scorn on the forecast of the NIE.  "Well, that's  one view…" someone said.  Yes!  Yes!  It is the view of the body of wise people whose duty it is to stand behind you in the chariot and tell you that you, too, are mortal and filled with hope rather than reality.  pl

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12 Responses to New NIE forecasts Afghan Debacle

  1. CK says:

    What gains?
    I read the Post. Parsed the words. Tried to adjust for the agendas of the unnamed sources and am left with this question: What gains?

  2. turcopolier says:

    There are no gains. The Afghans remain what they were. pl

  3. The Twisted Genius says:

    Arrogance and ignorance is a deadly combination that can be found in abundance among the bureaucrats. They are skilled at only one thing… self-aggrandizement. Perhaps someday even they will realize that they are not near as clever and powerful as they think they are. But I won’t hold my breath.

  4. dan bradburd says:

    Once again Kipling’s Arithmetic on the Frontier comes to mind. And his calculation concerned a place contiguous with the E mpire’s crown jewel. To what of ours is Afghanistan near or dear.

  5. So BHO bet on the Afghan war and will depart in 2016 a loser! Who helped BHO bet on a win in that war? Brennan?

  6. FB Ali says:

    Col Lang,
    Your commentaries on current events are always insightful and well-phrased. This one is a gem – in both aspects.
    This NIE is a refreshing change from the usual wishful thinking and skewed “analysis” that seems to have been the hallmark of the official take on that part of the world.

  7. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think that within US political culture, he demonstrated that he is not “weak in defense” and thus has ensured that another Democrat has a chance at the White House.
    Personally, I find this sort of calculus repugnant and corrupt – paying in human lives for political gains at home.

  8. jon says:

    The commonality in the various reports is the call for significant employment of US assets. Without substantial US advisors and materiel, this Afghan government doesn’t stand much better chance than the USSR client did. But the issue is what will happen, who will come to have influence and benefit, and will this be damaging to US interests in future years? Will additional influence by Pakistan, China, India or Iran put the US in a better or worse circumstance in South Asia? If the answer is worse, then there is an argument for some level of future US engagement, though perhaps not the extension of current military operations. Abandoning Afghanistan to its own devices after the USSR pulled out didn’t seem to work out for the best for us.

  9. CK says:

    Leaving the Afghanis to their own devices worked well for the Afghanis. They even managed to replace Opium production profitably for a year of so until the USA invaded.

  10. different clue says:

    I will offer the guess that Russia and maybe China will work to support a new Northern Alliance that emerges after our departure to keep the Taliban out of as much of non-Pashtun Afghanistan as sustainably feasible and supportable. Also China will want to keep the areas around its coppermine investments and other mineral investments (present and future) and any railroads leading from these mines back to China peaceful enough for steady resource extraction. Russia and China ( and the Central Asian republics) have more at stake there than we have, and they will protect their interests. Hopefully they and Pakistan can find a way to co-operate on all this. That’s all just a pure layman’s guess, of course.

  11. Fred says:

    It seems support for the war has dropped like a rock in the five years since Obama took office. Why can’t he see the obvious and put and end to the circus of bi-lateral agreement talks?

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