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Prospects for Afghan peace deal in near future ‘remain low', says ODNI

The US intelligence community is not optimistic about the prospects of the Afghan government and the Taliban reaching a peace deal anytime soon to end the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan.

“We assess that prospects for a peace deal will remain low during the next year,” said the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in its ‘2021 Annual Threat Assessment’ report, which is dated 9 April but was released to the public on 13 April.

“The Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield, and the Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support,” said the authors of the report, which was put together before US President Joe Biden announced on 14 April that all US and coalition forces are to leave Afghanistan by 11 September.

Kabul “continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory”, added the ODNI.

The assessment of the US intelligence community is in line with remarks made by US defence officials in recent months about the level of international military assistance and financial support required to keep the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) capable of defending and securing major cities and other government strongholds.

In his 14 April announcement Biden did not provide details about the level of assistance Washington will continue to provide to the ANDSF, but in a press conference held that same day at NATO headquarters in Belgium US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin said, “We will look to continue funding key capabilities such as the Afghan Air Force and Special Mission Wing, and we will seek to continue paying salaries for Afghan security forces.”

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