National Intelligence Estimate

  1. Afghanistan Weekly Reader: Another $88 Billion, For What?

    Published: February 9th, 2012

    Military leaders like to tell us that we’re making progress in Afghanistan. Some politicians and pundits say that if we just stay the course, leave the troops there, then we might “succeed.”

    But it seems that the outlook in Afghanistan isn’t as rosy as we have been lead to believe. A new intelligence estimate calls the war a stalemate. A NATO report details pervasive corruption in Afghanistan. And now a US Army officer is speaking out about how what he saw in Afghanistan in no way matches what officials have been telling the American public.

    As these facts pile up, it becomes harder and harder to justify the bloated war budget. $120 billion in 2011, $110 billion in 2012, and now the Defense Department wants $88 billion for war costs in 2013. We keep spending, but by all accounts we’re not getting much out of it. How much evidence do we need before coming up with a smarter strategy?

    From ASG
    Do You Want To Spend Another $88 Billion In Afghanistan?
    Afghanistan Study Group by Mary Kaszynski

    The price tag for the war in Afghanistan – $88 billion if the 2013 request is fully funded – will include a war that the majority of Americans do not support, plus some equipment that the Army doesn’t need, and who knows what else. The war may be winding down, but the Defense Department’s shady accounting practices continue, at the expense of the American taxpayer.

    In Afghan War, Officer Becomes a Whistle-Blower
    New York Times by Scott Shane

    On his second yearlong deployment to Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis traveled 9,000 miles, patrolled with American troops in eight provinces and returned in October of last year with a fervent conviction that the war was going disastrously and that senior military leaders had not leveled with the American public.

    Could and Should U.S. End Combat Role in Afghanistan Early?
    PBS NewsHour Interview with

    Gen. Jack Keane and Celeste Ward Gventer (University of Texas)
    Gventer: I think we need to step back and ask the question, fighting season to fight for what, and who are we fighting, and to what end?…It’s not clear who our enemy is or what another fighting season or two more fighting seasons or 10 more fighting seasons is really going to achieve, at the expense of American lives and treasure.

    Romney Playing With Fire on Afghanistan

    National Journal by Alex Roarty
    Mitt Romney’s sharp criticism Wednesday of President Obama’s newly planned troop withdrawal in Afghanistan raises a thorny question for the presumptive GOP presidential nominee: Why is he intent on aligning himself with such an unpopular position? The answer might lie in a candidate willing to lose a battle to win the war.

    Afghanistan 2013: America’s Next Groove
    The Atlantic by Steve Clemons

    Former State Department official and US Marine Matthew Hoh, now a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy, and I had a very good discussion with Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball about Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s comments that the US would cease combat operations in Afghanistan in 2013 — rather than the end of 2014.

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  2. $500 billion for a stalemate

    Published: January 24th, 2012

    Mary Kaszynski
    Afghanistan Study Group

    Between reports of violence on the one hand, and optimistic assessments of US war efforts on the other, the American public receives contradictory and incomplete assessments on the war in Afghanistan.  Case in point: the classified National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan.

    Everyone seems to agree that the report indicates a divide between the intelligence community and the Pentagon – an understandable divide, as expert Robert Farley explains, that can be attributed to different metrics for success and different institutional interests. Beyond that, however, there is little agreement on the implications of the new NIE. In fact, because the document is classified, it has reinforced both sides of the debate, rather than resolve it.

    The LA Times, which first broke the story, says the NIE concludes that the war is “mired in stalemate,” and that progress from the surge is “undercut by pervasive corruption, incompetent governance and Taliban fighters operating from neighboring Pakistan.” This seems to contradict what military leaders and some defense experts have been saying. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, for example, insists that we have made“substantial progress” in the war.  ”We’re moving in the right direction and we’re winning this very tough conflict,” Panetta said in December. His optimism is shared by some defense experts. “Many Americans may still see Afghanistan as a quagmire, but there really is a strategy. And it’s beginning to work,” Michael O’Hanlon and John Nagl wrote last month.

    After the NIE, the debate is the same. Some say that the document confirms what they’ve been saying all along: the administration’s 2014 deadline is too soon, and that what we need to break the stalemate is more troops. Others say that report’s conclusion – that military gains will likely erode after the withdrawal – will speed up the timeline.

    Representatives Jim McGovern and Walter Jones have made that case for declassifying the NIE, arguing that greater transparency would help resolve the debate on the drawdown. “The American public and its elected representatives deserve to have a full understanding of the situation in and outlook for Afghanistan as understood by our government,” they wrote in a letter to the president. “Too many families of our service members are sacrificing too greatly to allow for anything else.”

    Declassifying the NIE would be a good step towards clarifying the Afghanistan debate. Even if the report stays classified, however, we can still look to the numbers for the real story.  Over $500 billion taxpayer dollars has been spent on the war. As much as $60 billion has been lost to waste and corruption. Even as troops are withdrawn, costs continue to soar – shipping costs, for example, are six times higher now that Pakistan has closed its border crossing to NATO convoys.

    And that’s just the economic side. Let’s not forget about the lives lost: some 12,500 Afghan civilians and almost 2,000 US troops killed, plus 15,000 wounded in action.

    That’s a high price to pay for a stalemate.

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