A leading U.S. newspaper says an intelligence report on Afghanistan predicts gains made by the United States and its allies will be lost by 2017, with the Taliban and other groups becoming increasingly influential as international forces leave.
The Washington Post reports the new National Intelligence Estimate says Afghanistan will quickly fall into chaos if Washington and Kabul do not sign a security pact to keep an international military contingent in the country beyond 2014.
The newspaper quotes one U.S. official familiar with the report as saying that without a continuing troop presence and financial support, the intelligence assessment "suggests the situation would deteriorate very rapidly."
But it said other officials felt the report was overly pessimistic and did not take into account progress made by Afghanistan's security forces.
A U.S. official who thought the report was too negative told the Post that what would likely emerge in Afghanistan "is a recalibration of political power, territory and that kind of thing...not an inevitable rise of the Taliban."
The United States has sought permission from Kabul to keep troops that would carry out counterterrorism and training missions beyond 2014.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the deal - approved last month by a group of elders known as the Loya Jirga - would be signed only if raids on civilian homes are stopped and the U.S. publicly supports the Afghan government's reconciliation process with the Taliban.
Signing the agreement is a condition for the delivery of billions of dollars in Western aid for Afghanistan over the next years.
U.S. officials have said that unless a deal is reached to keep up to 8,000 U.S. troops, Taliban insurgents might stage a major comeback and al-Qaida could regain safe havens in the country.