Official: Intel predicts rising Afghan violence

captphoto_1238178541987-1-0WASHINGTON – U.S. intelligence suggests that violence in Afghanistan will rise through 2009 despite the Obama administration’s new strategy for combatting the Taliban and shoring up the Afghan government, a top intelligence official said Friday.

Violence in Afghanistan has steadily risen for the past three years as the ousted Taliban has staged a comeback, and President Barack Obama on Friday called the situation in the region “increasingly perilous,” more than seven years after the Taliban was removed from power in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has re-established control in southern and eastern Afghanistan by providing crude government services and basic security, along with a strong dose of violence to intimidate the population, the official said. It has been able to do so because of insufficient numbers of Afghan, U.S. or NATO forces to counter them, according to U.S. intelligence.

The official spoke to reporters on the condition that his name not be used to more freely discuss the intelligence that was used to shape the newly announced strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Obama has approved an additional 17,000 American troops for Afghanistan so far this year. On Friday, he announced a plan to send more U.S. troops to train Afghan forces, starting with an additional 4,000, and to increase civilian aid to Pakistan. It is the beginning of a multiyear effort to help stabilize Afghanistan and oust al-Qaida from Pakistan.

The official said the Obama administration wants Pakistan to stop both its active and passive support for the Taliban, which uses the rugged and lawless tribal region on Pakistan’s western frontier to train foot soldiers and launch attacks into Afghanistan. He said U.S. intelligence that was shared with the Pakistani government has made its way into the Taliban’s hands.

Pakistan has little influence over the tribal area, a result of decades of neglect from the government and the influx of al-Qaida and Taliban militants since the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The official said the U.S. wants Pakistan to give more assistance in locating and killing al-Qaida leaders believed to be in its western border area and to increase operations against Taliban there as well.

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