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Leaked US report on Afghanistan reveals Taliban optimism

NATO officials have emphasized that the report represents the views of Taliban prisoners still loyal to the movement.

A classified US military report leaked to the media compiles interviews with Taliban detainees who say their group is primed to regain control of Afghanistan after NATO forces leave in 2014.

NATO officials have emphasized that the report does not represent the military’s analysis, only the views of Taliban prisoners still loyal to the movement. The military’s remarks, however, have not stopped many analysts from casting renewed doubt on the success of the US-led military mission here.

“The document may provide some level of representative sampling of Taliban opinions and ideals, but it is clearly a collection of insurgent detainee commentary, and should not be considered an analysis or any type of interpretation of campaign progress,” says US Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

The report had an easy time finding traction among critics of the war, who say it indicates an Afghan mission on the brink of failure at a time of mounting anxiety among many Afghans.

With the 2014 deadline looming and the insurgency still far from defeated, many Afghans worry that it’s only a matter of time before instability even worse than the current situation grips the nation.

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There have been a number of recent negative indicators. After years of a property boom in Kabul, real estate prices have been in decline since President Obama announced the start of the drawdown in June. Last year, the United Nations charted a record number of Afghan asylum seekers, and a number of investors have expressed concerns about putting their money into local projects until the future is clear.

Abdul Ghani, a poultry farmer in Kabul, says business has slowed in recent months. This summer, he stopped midway through building a new chicken coop because he didn’t want to have too much of money tied down in investments here in case the situation deteriorates.

“I don’t want to invest more money into this project because no one knows what will happen tomorrow,” he says. “Across Afghanistan, business is decreasing, so I don’t want to put all my money into the poultry farm. In the event I need cash, I can use this money to survive.”

Still, a number of Afghans say that while the future remains largely unsettled, there is no need for grave concern. In the decade since the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, the country has grown and evolved in ways that will likely make it difficult for a group like the Taliban to regain control.

“Maybe people are a little bit concerned about their future and they’re careful about their investments, but it doesn’t mean that after the withdrawal of the foreign forces [life] will fall apart in Afghanistan and the Taliban will take over,” says Abdul Majid Wardak, a member of parliament from Wardak Province. “There has been a lot of work and we have our parliament and Constitution … and no one will want to lose these achievements overnight.”