"A new American intelligence assessment on the Afghan war predicts that the gains the United States and its allies have made during the past three years are likely to have been significantly eroded by 2017, even if Washington leaves behind a few thousand troops and continues bankrolling the impoverished nation, according to officials familiar with the report. The National Intelligence Estimate, which includes input from the country’s 16 intelligence agencies, predicts that the Taliban and other power brokers will become increasingly influential as the United States winds down its longest war in history, according to officials who have read the classified report or received briefings on its conclusions. The grim outlook is fueling a policy debate inside the Obama administration about the steps it should take over the next year as the U.S. military draws down its remaining troops." Washpost
Foreign affairs as a human activity is supposed to work in the following way:
Policy people seek to create a future that is acceptable to them.
Strategic intelligence people describe the present and future the way it is or seems likely to be.
Not surprisingly there is always a lot of tension between these two groups. The policy people endlessly try to influence the conclusions and assesments of the intelligence people so as to extract from them judgments that are politically useful and personally assuring of the genius of their policy.
Sometimes they succeed. The most notable success of our time in this field was the creative use by the Bushies of shreds of discredited data to create a media firestorm in favor of invading and occupying Iraq. In this effort the Bush Administration was supported by an army of exiles, emigres, and ancien regime figures. At the core of this group were a "band" of Iranian operatives headed by "you know who."
To insure IC compliance with this view analysts in the major US intelligence agencies were figuratively beaten into line through direct and indirect pressure exerted by intelligence agency chiefs who understood what they were expected to do by the Bush Administration. We know the result. The NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) on Iraq that was produced in 2002 was an abomination. NIEs are negotiated documents. They are not written by divine inspiration. In the process of negotiating that NIE only State INR and at times USAF intelligence showed any guts or integrity at all. The document was worse than worthless. It was a betrayal of the American people and armed forces. The betrayal was a disgrace for which the heads of the IC agencies were solely responsible.
Now we have something different. We have an NIE (produced inprobably under the leadership of James Clapper) on Afghanistan. This NIE predicts failure of the COIN effort launched by Obama in 2009. It predicts precipitous, catastrophic collapse in the event of a total US withdrawal at the end of 2014. It predicts a more gradual collapse of the present government's authority even in the event that the US leaves some small number of troops behind to do CT missions and support the Afghans with training and supply.
The predictable reaction from the Obama Administration was to look with scorn on the forecast of the NIE. "Well, that's one view..." someone said. Yes! Yes! It is the view of the body of wise people whose duty it is to stand behind you in the chariot and tell you that you, too, are mortal and filled with hope rather than reality. pl