Saturday, September 01, 2018

Military Believes Trump's Afghan War Plan Is Working, but Spy Agencies Are Pessimistic

WASHINGTON—U.S. military and intelligence officials are at odds over the direction of the war in Afghanistan, creating a new source of friction as President Trump and his national security team seek a way to end the 17-year-old conflict, American officials said.

Intelligence officials have a pessimistic view of the conflict, according to people familiar with a continuing classified assessment, while military commanders are challenging that conclusion by arguing that Mr. Trump’s South Asia strategy is working.

The divisions come as the Trump administration is sending a new U.S. general to Kabul—the ninth in 11 years—to oversee international forces carrying out a year-old strategy that has yet to produce much measurable progress in Afghanistan.

Some officials overseeing the war are concerned that a negative intelligence assessment could prompt Mr. Trump to shift course and abandon a strategy he reluctantly embraced last year that sent thousands of additional American troops to Afghanistan.

At the heart of the debate is the evolving assessment of the war in Afghanistan by America’s 17 intelligence agencies, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency.

People familiar with the debate over the classified National Intelligence Estimate of Afghanistan said there is broad consensus that the trajectory of the 17-year-old war hasn’t significantly shifted over the year that Mr. Trump’s strategy has been in effect.

While the official military view of Afghanistan is “cautiously optimistic,” some of these people said the intelligence view is “cautiously pessimistic.” That has led to intensive discussions about how to frame the next assessment of the war in Afghanistan that will be presented to Mr. Trump in the coming months, they said.

Mr. Trump has expressed frustration with the cost of the war, and has pressed for ways to get U.S. forces out of Afghanistan quickly, according to people involved in the debate over the past year. That has led some people working on the issue to worry that they live with what they call a “tweet of Damocles”—held by Mr. Trump—hanging over their heads.

A spokesman for the White House National Security Council said there were signs “we are heading in the right direction with the South Asia strategy,” which sent several thousand more U.S. forces to Afghanistan with a pledge to stay in the country as long as necessary.

“Nobody in the administration was under any illusion that the South Asia strategy would end a 17-year insurgency in just one year,” the spokesman said. “That is why we did not attach timelines to the strategy.” - Read More, WSJ

Military Believes Trump’s Afghan War Plan Is Working, but Spy Agencies Are Pessimistic


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