A top U.S. military official in Afghanistan discounted two recent reports Wednesday that suggest realities on the ground in the country are more dire than American commanders let on, saying he is "cautiously optimistic."
Army Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti told reporters at the Pentagon that a negative assessment of the Afghanistan war by a U.S. officer and a NATO report suggesting the Taliban expects victory capture only snapshots of the decade-long conflict. Scaparrotti, the U.S.'s second-in-command in Afghanistan, suggested alliance and American commanders receive much more data that shows progress is being made.
Army Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, who recently completed a tour, sent ripple waves across the national security community this week when he alleged U.S. commanders are not being honest about the situation in Afghanistan. In a recent military journal article, Davis was-for a soldier-uncharacteristically blunt, writing: "I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level."
Davis spent a year in Afghanistan with a U.S. Army cell that identifies battlefield hardware needs and works to quickly find, purchase and field solutions. He wrote that he traveled, patrolled and talked with soldiers during a tour that spanned nearly 10 Afghan provinces and 9,000 miles.
"What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground," Davis wrote.
Scaparrotti said he believes what Davis saw and heard to be accurate, but attempted to discount Davis's overall view of the mission, saying it is just "one person's view," later suggesting Davis talked to "one or two privates."
NATO and U.S. commanders receive a report each quarter that contains information from a broader set of sources than Davis's one-man assessment, Scaparrotti said. Those quarterly reports have him "cautiously optimistic" that the U.S. mission there will succeed, though he professed to be "a realist" who knows "how tough it will be."
The Obama administration's definition of American success in Afghanistan is preventing the country from becoming a staging point for al-Qaeda or other terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and interests, with a government and military capable of defending itself.
The three-star general also shot down the relevancy of a NATO report that leaked late last month, which concluded that the Taliban believes it can defeat Western forces. That report was based on interrogations of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and found the anti-U.S. fighters' morale is high, which is contrary to NATO and American commanders' repeated claims that Taliban ranks are filled with disgruntled forces.
Taliban detainees told NATO special operators they believe they can win in Afghanistan by outlasting U.S. and Western forces, which are slated to leave by the end of 2014. The NATO study also concluded the Taliban has ties to senior officials of Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence (ISI) agency.
Scaparrotti offered a different view, saying all evidence available to commanders shows a weakened Taliban that is having increasing difficulties in launching offensive combat operations. He also said senior and mid-level Taliban officers are bickering, though he offered no concrete evidence of whether, or how, such alleged flaps are hindering Taliban combat operations. "They are having a hard time," he said.