Afghanistan rejects grim US intelligence forecast as baseless

Afghanistan rejects grim US intelligence forecast as baseless

KABUL - Afghanistan on Monday rejected as baseless a US intelligence forecast that the gains the United States and allies have made in the past three years will be significantly rolled back by 2017.

The US National Intelligence Estimate also predicted that Afghanistan would fall into chaos if Washington and Kabul failed to sign a pact to keep an international military contingent there beyond 2014.

President Hamid Karzai's spokesman dismissed the US forecast, reported by the Washington Post on the weekend, and suggested there was an ulterior motive for it. "We strongly reject that as baseless as they have in the past been proved inaccurate," Faizi told Reuters.

Relations between Afghanistan and the United States have grown seriously strained recently by Karzai's refusal to sign the security pact that would permit some US forces to stay.

US officials have said that unless a deal is reached to keep perhaps 8,000 US troops, the Taliban might stage a major comeback and al Qaeda could regain safe havens.

The pact must also be signed for the United States and its allies to provide billions more dollars in aid.

Without a deal, the United States could pull out all troops, the so-called zero option, leaving Afghan forces to battle the Taliban on their own.

The United States has set a Tuesday deadline for Afghanistan to sign the pact but the White House has said it is prepared to let the deadline slip until early January.

The US intelligence estimate predicted setbacks even if some US troops remained. But some US officials felt the forecast was overly pessimistic, the Washington Post said.

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