Afghanistan’s internal situation is likely to deteriorate next year due to a number of reasons including the endemic state weakness and Taliban persistence, a top American spymaster said today. “We assess that the Taliban is likely to continue to make gains, especially in rural areas. Afghan security forces performance will probably worsen due to a combination of Taliban operations, combat casualties, desertions, poor logistics support and weak leadership,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told a Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing on worldwide threats.
“The intelligence community assesses that 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 underpinned by Afghanistan’s 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, painting a grim picture of the war-torn country.
In his prepared testimony, Coats said the overall situation in Afghanistan will very likely continue to deteriorate, even if international support is sustained.
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 will almost 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 said, adding that the ANSF will almost certainly remain heavily dependent on foreign military and financial support to sustain themselves and preclude their collapse.
“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) Mansur and is likely to make gains in 2017,” Coats said.
“The fighting will also continue to threaten US personnel, allies and partners, particularly in Kabul and urban population centers.
“ISIS’ Khorasan branch (ISIS-K), which constitutes ISIS’ most significant presence in South Asia, will probably remain a low-level developing threat to Afghan stability as well as to the US and western interests in the region in 2017,” Coats added.