As President Barack Obama prepares to release a review of US strategy in Afghanistan that will claim progress in the nine-year-old war there, two new classified intelligence reports offer a more negative assessment and say there is a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border.
The reports, one on Afghanistan and one on Pakistan, say that although there have been gains for the United States and NATO in the war, the unwillingness of Pakistan to shut down militant sanctuaries in its lawless tribal region remains a serious obstacle. US military commanders say insurgents freely cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan to plant bombs and fight US troops and then return to Pakistan for rest and resupply.
The findings in the reports, called National Intelligence Estimates, represent the consensus view of the United States' 16 intelligence agencies, as opposed to the military, and were provided last week to some members of the Senate and House Intelligence committees. The findings were described by a number of US officials who read the reports' executive summaries.
US military commanders and senior Pentagon officials have already criticised the reports as out of date and say that the cut-off date for the Afghanistan report, October 1, does not allow it to take into account what the military cites as tactical gains in Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south in the six weeks since.
Pentagon and military officials also say the reports were written by desk-bound Washington analysts who have spent limited time, if any, in Afghanistan and have no feel for the war.