Shift in Afghan war doubted

An Afghan police officer gets weapons training with U.S. soldiers from the 552nd Military Police Company on the outskirts of Kandahar on Tuesday. Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to replace private security companies with Afghan police and soldiers.

Associated Press

An Afghan police officer gets weapons training with U.S. soldiers from the 552nd Military Police Company on the outskirts of Kandahar on Tuesday. Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to replace private security companies with Afghan police and soldiers.

An intense military campaign aimed at crippling the Taliban so far has failed to inflict more than fleeting setbacks to the insurgency or put meaningful pressure on its leaders to seek peace in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing unnamed U.S. military and intelligence officials.

Escalated airstrikes and special operations raids have disrupted Taliban movements and damaged local cells, the paper reported. But the insurgents have been adept at absorbing the blows and they appear confident that they can outlast an American troop buildup set to subside beginning next July, officials familiar with the latest assessments of the war in Afghanistan told the paper.

A senior Defense Department official involved in assessments said the insurgency seems to be maintaining its resilience, the paper reported. The official said Taliban elements have consistently shown an ability to regroup, often within days of being routed by U.S. forces.

One of the military objectives in targeting midlevel commanders is to compel the Taliban to pursue peace talks with the Afghan government, a nascent effort that NATO officials have facilitated.

The officials said the intelligence assessments are consistent across the main spy agencies responsible for analyzing the conflict, including the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Post reported. It said the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The Obama administration's plan to conduct a strategic review of the war in December has touched off maneuvering between U.S. military leaders seeking support for extending the American troop buildup and skeptics looking for arguments to wind down the nation's role.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has touted the success of recent operations and indicated that the military thinks it will be able to show meaningful progress by the December review. He said last week that progress is occurring "more rapidly than was anticipated" but acknowledged that major obstacles remain.

The Post reported that the intelligence officials noted tactical successes but warned that well into a major escalation of the conflict, there is little indication that the direction of the war has changed.

Over the past two months, the CIA has nearly doubled the pace of its drone campaign, killing dozens of militants. The attacks have scrambled insurgent networks, causing senior operatives to move more frequently and become more preoccupied with security, the officials told the Post. But they said the impact on the Taliban's highest ranks has been limited.

Construction of police sites faulted

An Afghan-owned company bungled the construction of six police stations in Helmand and Kandahar provinces so badly that the buildings are at risk of collapse, undermining U.S.-led efforts to beef up the country's security forces, the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction found. In a report to be released today, the inspector general found the company, Basirat Construction Firm, cut corners. The report also faults the Army Corps of Engineers for failing to properly oversee the work, while still paying Basirat close to $5 million — more than 90 percent of the contract value.

Associated Press

Shift in Afghan war doubted 10/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 11:14pm]

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