Intel Official: 'Time Is Running Out' in Afghanistan

International force source: Afghanistan's neighbors helping destabilize country.

ByABC News
December 27, 2009, 12:38 PM

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 27, 2009 — -- Afghanistan's neighbors are helping destabilize the country as "time is running out" on the U.S. effort here, according to a senior intelligence official with the international military force in Kabul.

The official accused Iran and Pakistan of maintaining links with the Afghan Taliban and singled out Pakistan for providing "insufficient pressure" on Afghan insurgent leaders who enjoy safe havens inside Pakistan -- despite U.S. pressure to expel or fight them.

Iran and Pakistan's relationships with the Afghan Taliban "are destabilizing relationships that are not helpful," the official said, speaking to a small group of journalists on the condition the official's name not be used.

Since President Obama announced early this month he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, senior United States officials have warned that one of the main risks to the Afghan strategy was if Pakistan decided not to crack down on militants who use its soil to attack Western troops in Afghanistan.

But the intelligence official linked Iranian actions with those by Pakistan more directly than most military or civilian officials have done, and did so while painting a dire picture of the state of the insurgency in Afghanistan.

The official described the Taliban an "increasingly confident," "increasingly effective" and "growing more cohesive."

"They've increased their capacity," the official said.

"Kinetic" activity is up 300 percent since 2007, the official said, and up an additional 60 percent since 2008 -- mostly because of a massive increase in the use of roadside bombs.

In 2004, the official said, there were 326 incidents involving roadside bombs, which the military refers to as improvised explosives devices, or IEDs. That number jumped to 1,922 in 2006, 4,169 in 2008 and more than 7,200 in 2009.

And in the same time, the bombs have become more lethal.

From 2003 to 2006, the official said, the majority of IEDs contained 25 or fewer pounds of explosives, usually derived from military munitions left over from decades of war in Afghanistan. But by December 2009, most IEDs contained between 26 and 50 pounds of homemade explosive, and a significant portion of them contained more than 100 pounds.