Bush Administration will keep secret 'grim' Afghanistan report quiet until after election
John Byrne
Published: Tuesday September 23, 2008


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A secret US intelligence report which says the political and military situation in Afghanistan is "grim" will be withheld from the public until after the election, a new report says.

Intelligence officials are finishing up the National Intelligence Estimate on Aghanistan, according to ABC's Brian Ross, "but there are 'no plans to declassify' any of it before the election," an official said.

Keeping the intelligence report under wraps would likely help Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). McCain has focused on what he sees as the success of the Iraq "surge," in which the US added troops to lessen violence. Attention to problems in Afghanistan would put the spotlight on President Bush's failures, which might rub off on the Republican presidential nominee.

"According to people who have been briefed, the NIE will paint a 'grim' picture of the situation in Afghanistan, seven years after the US invaded in an effort to dismantle the al Qaeda network and its Taliban protectors," Ross writes.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen told Congress last week the US is struggling to retain control.

"I'm not convinced we're winning it in Afghanistan," he said, adding, "we're running out of time."

"Absent a broader international and interagency approach to the problems there, it is my professional opinion that no amount of troops in no amount of time can ever achieve all the objectives we seek in Afghanistan," he said.

This aligns with the opinions of commanders on the ground. According to a report in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, the US military expects the Taliban to launch a "winter offensive," which would mean a spike in violence in an area that has, at least for the recent past, been more quiet.

"I do think there will be an increase in violence by the enemy in order to maintain a general sense of insecurity," Brig. Gen. Mark Milley, deputy commander of the U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan, told the paper. "The winter fighting season this year will be more violent than in previous years."

A spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Vanee Vines, told Ross "it is not the [National Intelligence Director]'s policy to publicly comment on national intelligence products that may or may not be in production."

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has said that he doesn't believe intelligence estimates should be made public, though several have recently been released, including one that detailed the US intelligence community's position on Iran's nuclear program.

The National Intelligence Estimate reflects the consensus view of 17 government agencies.

 
 


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