US spies - stalemate in Afghanistan
Washington - US intelligence agencies warn in a new classified study that the Afghan war has hit stalemate and say the Kabul government may fold as US troops pull out, a report said on Thursday.
The Los Angeles Times detailed the contents of a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the decade-long war that says security gains won by US troops are undermined by widespread corruption and feckless governance.
The estimate will likely fuel an election year debate on the pace of future troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and deepen apparent divisions over the war between the White House, the intelligence community and the Pentagon.
The report, delivered to the White House last week, contained a vigorous dissent by the new head of Nato's US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Marine General John Allen, and the US ambassador to Kabul, Ryan Crocker, the Los Angeles Times said.
The study says allied forces succeeded in driving Taliban fighters out of some strategic areas last year but adds that the gains did not bolster the Kabul government or slake the insurgents' desire to fight, the LA Times said.
The report said the study suggests that the Afghan government may have a "tenuous" hope of survival once US and international troops hand over security responsibilities in 2014 and cites problems in the Afghan army and police.
The Times report was published a day after officials said that US special envoy Marc Grossman would go to Kabul next week to test whether President Hamid Karzai will agree to a resumption of talks with the Taliban.
Some US officials believe that opening a dialogue with the Afghan militia is the only way to end the war, in the belief that a stalemate could drag on for years in the inhospitable nation despite gains on the battlefield.
The Taliban has also made recent moves suggesting it might be open to a preliminary dialogue.
In a possibly damaging development on Thursday, the Afghan government and the Taliban condemned a video purporting to show US Marines urinating on the corpses of insurgents.
The US military said it was investigating the "disgusting" footage, which was posted online, of what appears to be four servicemen dressed in United States military uniform urinating onto three bloodied bodies.