Threats to US: Pentagon officials drop three surprises

Pentagon’s key intelligence officials warned of 'current and future worldwide threats' to US national security in a congressional hearing Thursday. Here are three top surprises.

3. Too pessimistic about Afghanistan?

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    Intelligence officials have raised questions about the the ability of the Afghan National Army, shown here at a weapons exhibition in Kabul, to operate independent of NATO.
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US intelligence officials openly acknowledge that they upset some US military officials with overly “pessimistic” assessments of the war.

Mr. Clapper told lawmakers that some senior military officials “took issue” with the DNI’s national intelligence estimate, which they “generally felt” was not positive enough. The commanders felt “generally it was pessimistic about the situation in Afghanistan ... and the prospects for 2014,” when most US forces are slated to leave the country.

For example, the assessment pointed to “persistent qualitative challenges” within the Afghan security forces that “continue to impede their development into an independent, self-sustaining security apparatus.” What’s more, it pointed out that the Afghan National Army’s reliance on NATO “for many critical combat enabling functions underscores its inability to operate independently.”

In what might be considered a hallmark of faint praise, the intelligence assessment pointed out that, “nevertheless, Afghanistan’s population generally favors the Army over the police” – a force seen by many Afghans as corrupt.

In defending his seemingly dour assessments, Clapper shared with lawmakers his recollections of being an intelligence analyst in 1966 for Gen. William Westmoreland, commander of US forces in Vietnam war. The experience, he said, caused him to lose his “operational innocence.”

He also recalled serving as chief of intelligence during Operation Desert Storm. Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf “protested long and loud” about the accuracy of intelligence that “didn’t comport with his view.”

Intelligence officials tend to wrestle with “glass half empty” scenarios, Clapper said. “I don’t find it a bad thing.”

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