That report illustrates the hazards of negotiating with the Taliban while preparing to pull out of the country, according to military analysts and Afghan officials.
The classified NATO report, titled the "State of the Taliban," concluded that "many Afghans are already bracing themselves for an eventual return of the Taliban. Once ISAF [NATO-led forces] is no longer a factor, Taliban consider their victory inevitable."
The report, leaked to the BBC and other British news organizations, was based on material collected from "27,000 interrogations of more than 4,000 captured Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives" along with other foreign fighters and civilians.
"This leaked NATO report should give pause to those who are pushing for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban," said Lisa Curtis, a former CIA analyst now with the Heritage Foundation. "There are well-founded concerns that the Taliban are not interested in genuine peace talks and are trying to string the U.S. and international community along in talks that would simply allow them to play for time."
Numerous Afghan opposition leaders to President Hamid Karzai and former senior Afghan officials interviewed by The Washington Examiner questioned U.S. insistence on peace negotiations with the Taliban, saying the radical group continues to bomb and infiltrate government installations. The death of former Afghan President and High Peace Council leader Burhanuddin Rabbani last year by a Taliban suicide bomber is just one example of the Taliban's goals to take control of the country again, they said.
"When the Taliban was in power from 1996 to 2001, only three nations recognized this brutal, terrorist government -- Pakistan, [the United Arab Emirates] and Saudi Arabia," said a former senior Afghan official who asked not to be named. "Now, because the U.S. wants to pick up and run, the Taliban are worth speaking to? Or is it that we are handing Afghanistan over to the Taliban under the guise of a peace process?"
The insurgency's "strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remains intact" despite more than 10 years of warfare in Afghanistan to dismantle the extremist group's power, according to the NATO report.
This month the Taliban announced the opening of a political office in Qatar, a first step in holding peace talks with the United States ahead of the planned withdrawal troops in 2014.
The Taliban also called for the release of five high-level Taliban officials being held at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. Karzai's peace council, and his cousin Hekmat Karzai, director of the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies in Kabul, also requested the release of these prisoners. Marc Grossman, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said last week that the U.S. has not made a decision as whether to release the five prisoners.
Curtis said the Taliban are drawing out the peace process, in part to assure the release of those prisoners. The Obama administration "must pay more attention to the facts on the ground, such as those apparently laid out in this leaked NATO report," she said.
Sara A. Carter is The Washington Examiner's national security correspondent. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.