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Terrorism & Security

NATO campaign having little impact on Taliban, say US intelligence agencies

The CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency reportedly say that insurgents are weathering NATO efforts by hiding in Pakistan.

By Correspondent / October 27, 2010

Private security contractors guard a part of a route as NATO supply trucks drive past in the Ghazni Province, south-west of Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct. 27.

Rahmatullah Naikzad/AP

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The Taliban and other insurgents in Afghanistan have been largely unaffected by NATO's campaign, according to assessments by US intelligence services.

The Washington Post reports that the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and other US intelligence services are in broad agreement that the Taliban and the Haqqani network, an independent militant group allied with the Taliban, have suffered only minor setbacks due to NATO's campaign.

A senior Defense Department official, who is involved in assessments of the war, told the Post: "The insurgency seems to be maintaining its resilience" and that Taliban elements are consistently able to "reestablish and rejuvenate," sometimes within days of being defeated by US forces. He continued to say that he couldn't see any sign of the momentum shifting.

The assessments say that the Taliban's resilience is due in large part to its ability to find sanctuary in Pakistan, writes the Post. While the CIA has stepped up unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan in recent months, the Defense Department official told the Post, "For senior leadership, not much has changed. At most we are seeing lines of support disrupted, but it's temporary. They're still setting strategic guidance" for operations against coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The US intelligence assessments contrast sharply with the more upbeat takes on the war made publicly by the military leaders overseeing it. Postmedia News reported Tuesday that Canadian Brig. Gen. Dean Milner said he feels NATO's efforts in Afghanistan have prompted insurgents to seek ways to reintegrate into Afghan society. "What we don't have yet — and what I want — is to start reintegration, (but) I am convinced we're getting close," added General Milner.

And US Gen. Ben Hodges told The Christian Science Monitor last week that NATO forces have stabilized Kandahar City, a traditional Taliban stronghold. “The security forces are providing a level of security that is allowing [life in Kandahar City] to take place,” Hodges said. “There is a presence of security that is a lot more prevalent and reassuring than at any time in the past."

The US intelligence assessments are likely to add to the international debate over how much longer the US and NATO-led mission there should go on. This year has seen the highest number of foreign troop deaths in Afghanistan since the conflict began, according to a tally by Agence France-Presse. AFP reports that the death of a NATO soldier on Wednesday brings the count this year to 603, and more than 2,170 in total.

The last man to order an end to large-scale military operations in Afghanistan, Mikael Gorbachev, told the BBC that "victory is impossible in Afghanistan," and that he applauds President Obama's plan to remove troops from Afghanistan beginning next year.

Mr. Gorbachev, who as leader of the former Soviet Union ordered Soviet forces out of Afghanistan more than 20 years ago, ending a 10-year war, said that the US really has no choice. "[W]hat's the alternative – another Vietnam? Sending in half a million troops? That wouldn't work."

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