Reports paint conflicting pictures of war

The White House was set to release a long-awaited report on the war in Afghanistan on Thursday that suggests some strides are being made in the battle, even as two classified intelligence reviews are said to paint a far bleaker picture.

WASHINGTON — The White House was set to release a long-awaited report on the war in Afghanistan on Thursday that suggests some strides are being made in the battle, even as two classified intelligence reviews are said to paint a far bleaker picture.

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that American intelligence agencies fear the U.S.-led war effort is futile unless Pakistan begins to dramatically crack down on the insurgents who freely move back and forth over the Pakistani-Afghan border to attack coalition forces and then regroup.

Their findings — a consensus of 16 separate intelligence agencies, including the CIA — offer little hope that Pakistan has any intention of doing so.

The reports, one on Afghanistan and one on Pakistan, won’t be released publicly, but offer a far more pessimistic assessment of the war than the year-end review presented to U.S. President Barack Obama by top administration officials and military leaders, who say a troop surge has “halted the momentum” of the Taliban.

The White House has already said there are no surprises in the review, signalling it won’t lead to any change in Obama’s strategy.

And while the review suggests progress is being made, it also acknowledges difficulties ahead, particularly with Pakistan and the Afghan government, derided by many as corrupt and untrustworthy.

The intelligence reports, however, reportedly focus on a longtime, bitter reality in Afghanistan, one that Canadian commanders have long complained about after 10 years at war: the Taliban and other militants travel easily back and forth across the Pakistani border, launching attacks on coalition troops in Afghanistan and then returning to Pakistan to refortify.

That finding has been borne out in recent weeks: Maj. Gen. John Campbell, who leads 30,000 U.S. soldiers in the lawless tribal region on the Pakistani border, said recently that while American forces are killing Taliban, Pakistan remains a serious problem.

“The Haqqani network is probably the most dangerous enemy and they’ve got sanctuary in Pakistan. We shouldn’t make any bones about it,” he said.

“They go back and forth across the border. They’re financed better, they’re better trained, (and) they bring in the more technologically advanced IEDs (improvised explosive devices).”

Pakistan has bristled at such charges. Pakistani officials have pointed repeatedly to a major military campaign against insurgents last year.

But in fact, the country has long resisted American pleas to launch full-out attacks in the area against Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents, prompting some to suggest the U.S. should withhold humanitarian aid to the impoverished country.

In a 2009 diplomatic cable recently released by WikiLeaks, Ann Patterson, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, warned that no amount of cash would persuade Pakistan to stop providing support to Afghan insurgents or Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group blamed for the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

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