Afghanistan is the only country where substantial numbers of U.S. forces are fighting. President Obama and the NATO coalition have set 2014 as the date for all foreign combat forces to withdraw and the Afghan army and police to take over security responsibilities.
In the December 2011 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Afghanistan, the community opinion was that gains from the 2009 troop surge have been mitigated by continuing government incompetence and corruption and insurgents’ ability to be resupplied from Pakistan sanctuaries. The apparent stalemate, if continued, endangers future stability as U.S. combat troops continue to depart, says the NIE.
The Afghan coalition commander, Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker signed a dissent to the NIE’s judgments, questioning the intelligence community assumptions about Taliban intentions, the capability of Afghan security forces and the speed of the U.S. withdrawal.
For CIA Director David H. Petraeus:
1. When you were Afghan commander you also had disagreements with intelligence community views of the fighting so what is your personal position today in this dispute?
2. What causes such differences and how should members of Congress and the public judge them?
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has opposed negotiating with the Taliban and recently said the Afghan war would be ended only by “beating them.”
The Taliban delegation has arrived in Qatar to man their political office, which the Obama administration hopes will lead to political talks with the Karzai government to end the fighting.
For Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.:
1. Does this group represent all the Taliban insurgents?
2. Does it represent the Haqqani network, which has ties to al-Qaida?
3. Does the Pakistan Army’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence support the political negotiations?
4. Is it true that U.S. officials in Qatar are working out an arrangement with the Taliban delegation to move Taliban detainees from Guantanamo?
Iran has reached the capability of enriching uranium to 20 percent at an underground facility near Qom, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. From that level, it is no great leap to reach a weapons grade level of 90 percent.
1. Assuming that the Iranian leadership has yet to decide to produce a nuclear weapon, what event or issue does the intelligence community believe will trigger that step to be taken?
2. If that decision is made, how long do you think it would take for the United States to learn about it?
3. If that decision is made, how long would it take Iran to build a nuclear weapon?
4. Would Iran have to test a nuclear device before building a weapon?
5. Do you expect Tehran would announce it has a nuclear weapon, or would it maintain silence as does Israel?