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Reports paint bleak picture of Afghanistan War

Richard Holbrooke, the Red Cross and the White House share a dim view of the war in Afghanistan.

US State Department
The US flag flies at half-mast at the US State Department in Washington DC on Dec. 14, 2010. Holbrooke, the veteran US diplomat who was tasked with bringing peace to Afghanistan after helping end the war in Bosnia, died in Washington after suffering a torn aorta, at the age of 69. His death comes amid a major review of the US strategy in Afghanistan. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

It's been a week of bleak assessments of the war in Afghanistan.

The release Thursday of an official review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan will reportedly indicate — among other things — that the war cannot be won unless Pakistan roots out militants on its side of the border, reflecting the concerns of military commanders that insurgents freely cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan to fight U.S. troops before fleeing back across the border. 

Two White House reports, known as National Intelligence Estimates, prepared by the director of national intelligence to guide decisions by policymakers and the president, are the first in two years completed for the Afghanistan War and the first in six years on Pakistan.

The contents of the reports, first obtained by The New York Times, which quotes anonymous high-ranking sources, have already been widely disseminated among major media ahead of their official release Thursday.

The reports come on the back of a Red Cross assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, released Wednesday, that security there has deteriorated to its worst point since the overthrow of the Taliban nine years ago, hampering aid efforts.

And the late Richard Holbrooke, wrote GlobalPost's Jean MacKenzie, used his dying breath Monday to plead for an end to what he believed was an increasingly unwinnable war in Afghanistan. Holbrook died at age 69 after undergoing emergency heart surgery Saturday for a torn aorta. Holbrooke reportedly told his Pakistani surgeon: “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan."

And in the meantime, the International Committee of the Red Cross in a news release available on its website has expressed deep concern that the big problems of 2010 — civilian casualties, internal displacement and insufficient access to medical care — will persist through 2011.

Henry Rollins writing in Vanity Fair posed a simple question: Why are we sacrificing two soldiers a day in Afghanistan?