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Taliban Still Capable to Challenge International Goals

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WASHINGTON – The Taliban remain resilient and capable to challenge US and international goals in Afghanistan even as insurgency has diminished in some areas, a top US intelligence official said Thursday. James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, said during his testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said that coalition drawdown would have an impact on Afghanistan’s economy, which is likely to decline after 2014.

To questions, John Brennan, the CIA Director, said that the Haqqani network continued to work with the Taliban. “They (the Haqqanis) are a member of the Taliban shura, but they have a long history of autonomy in that area,” he said. Al-Qaeda’s influence on the insurgency is limited, although its propaganda gains from participating in insurgent attacks far outweigh its actual battlefield impact, he said, adding the security gains are especially fragile in areas where ISAF surge forces have been concentrated since 2010 and are now transitioning the security lead to Afghan security personnel.

Noting that Afghan forces would require international assistance through 2014 and beyond, he said the Afghan National Army (ANA) and police had proven capable of providing security in major cities, nearby rural areas, and key ground lines of communication in the vicinity of government-controlled areas.

“The Afghan Air Force has made very little progress. The National Directorate of Security remains Afghanistan’s premier national intelligence service and likely will play a larger role in regime’s security over time,” he said. “In addition, Afghanistan’s economy, which has been expanding at a steady rate, is likely to slow after 2014. Kabul has little hope of offsetting the coming drop in Western aid and military spending, which have fueled growth in the construction and services sectors.

Its licit agricultural sector and small businesses have also benefited from development projects and assistance from nongovernmental organizations, but the country faces high rates of poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, and poppy cultivation,” Clapper said. (PAN)

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