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Taliban to Advance in Afghanistan This Year: US Spy Master

Washington: The Taliban is likely to gain ground in Afghanistan this year and the security situation will deteriorate in the country in 2018, a top US intelligence official has told US lawmakers.

The Afghan National Security Forces would need sustained international support to prevent it from collapse, Director of National Intelligence Dave Coats told members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence ruing over Kabul’s political dysfunction and ineffectiveness.

“Although the Taliban was unsuccessful in seizing a provincial capital in 2016, it effectively navigated its second leadership transition in two years following the death of its former chief,
Mullah Mansoor, and is likely to make gains in 2017,” Coats said in his testimony on worldwide

“The overall situation in Afghanistan will very likely continue to deteriorate, even if international support is sustained,” he said.

According to Coats, the intelligence community assessesthat the political and security situation in Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018 even with a modest increase in military assistance by the US and its partners.

“This deterioration is undermined by its dire economic situation. Afghanistan will struggle to curb its dependence on external support until it contains the insurgency or reaches a peace agreement with the Taliban,” Coats said.

“Endemic state weaknesses, the government’s political fragility, deficiencies of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), Taliban persistence, and regional interference will remain key impediments to improvement,” he said.

“Kabul’s political dysfunction and ineffectiveness willalmost certainly be the greatest vulnerability to stability in 2017,” Coats said.

ANSF performance will probably worsen due to a combination of Taliban operations, ANSF combat casualties, desertions, poor logistics support, and weak leadership, he added.

The ANSF will almost certainly remain heavily dependent on foreign military and financial support to sustain themselves and preclude their collapse, he said.

Coats said the fighting will also continue to threaten US personnel, allies, and partners, particularly in Kabul and urban population centres.

Islamic State militant group’s Khorasan branch (ISIS-K) which constitutes ISIS’s most significant presence in South Asia will probably remain a low-level developing threat to Afghan stability as well as to US and western interests in the region in 2017, Coats said.

First Published: May 12, 2017, 12:01 AM IST