US intel chief says no Iran nukes possible before 2013
A declassified memo from a briefing US intelligence chief Dennis Blair gave in February sheds light on how the US views Iran, Al Qaeda, and Afghanistan.
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Blair said, not surprisingly, that Al Qaeda "remains intent on attacking the US." He said the FBI was investigating people presumably in the US who have "ties to militants in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a region that Al Qa'ida, the Taliban and other militant groups have been able to exploit as a safe haven and use as a training ground."Skip to next paragraph
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He said that Al Qaeda will seek to attack US interests for the next 20 years, though he adds that "sustained pressure against al-Qa'ida central in (Pakistan's tribal areas), however, will diminish the group's safe haven and thereby its ability to plan external operations."
He said that while Al Qaeda would like to acquire a chemical, biological, or nuclear weapon, that a "conventional explosive is the most probably al-Qa'ida attack scenario."
Afghanistan's growing insurgency
Blair's memo says of Afghanistan that "the insurgency has steadily grown since the Taliban's ouster in late-2001." He hints that a draw-down of US forces is far off, pointing out that Afghan's army and police "remain heavily dependent on Coalition support and international funding. Recruitment, retention, and equipment shortages negatively affect efforts to sustain growth."
He reports "widespread corruption" in the national police and "the limited ability of the Afghan government to provide good governance contributes to the insurgency goals of discrediting the legitimacy of the government."
The 11 percent solution?
The memo highlights the reliance of the Afghan government on foreign aid. In an annual budget of $7.6 billion only $870 million, or 11 percent, is generated by Afghanistan. The remainder is foreign aid. But that aid burden could grow if the insurgency is to be defeated, he implies. At the time of his report, Afghanistan had 83,000 soldiers in its Army. The military's counterinsurgency strategy needs 325,000 to win the war, he notes, which would require a quadrupling of Afghanistan's defense expenditure.
Not much help from Pakistan
As for help from Pakistan, he indicates that it's been difficult getting the country's leaders on the same page with the US and its NATO allies.
"Al-Qaida and associated groups continue to thrive in the (tribal areas) in spite of government counterinsurgency efforts in 2008. Pakistan's leaders seem intent on maintaining support for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency goals, but within the confines of Pakistan's national interests. Pakistan's actions indicate Islamabad conitnues to prioritize defending against perceived threats from India over the increasing threat emanating from the tribal areas."
His memo expresses some frustration with Pakistan operations against militants in its tribal areas. "Military operations in 2008 were on a larger scale than in previous years, but have had the same mixed results – short-term disruptions to militant activities ultimately ending in peace agreements which seem to benefit militants more than government interests."
Blair seems to indicate that while the US intelligence community is worried about Pakistani stability, that it does not think a collapse is imminent. "The military, primarily the Army, serves as the instrument of last resort in managing unrest and would intervene to help restore order in the event that social upheaval threatened to exceed the ability of local police and security forces to control."