Intelligence officials from all the major U.S. spy agencies are working on an updated national intelligence estimate, or NIE, for Afghanistan. the story in today's New York Times says Afghanistan is in a downward spiral. This U.S. military analyst says this news shouldn't be surprising. One thing standing in the way of long term success in Afghanistan is the increasingly sophisticated attacks by militants based in Pakistan. This military analyst says the cross-border attacks are a problem for the U.S., Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and no one quite knows how to stop the attacks. What he is calling for is a greater emphasis on economic and political efforts in the cross-border region. That plea also just got a high powered endorsement, as the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General Patreaus is taking over operations in Afghanistan. He said some of the things that worked in Iraq might also work in Afghanistan, such as talking to U.S. enemies. This point has come up again and again on the presidential campaign, but Patreaus said it might be useful to talk to leaders of the Taliban. He added that the Afghan government is already talking to the Taliban. This analyst says talking to the Taliban is probably a good idea, with the aim of trying to split the support of Taliban fighters, but he's still skeptical that it could work. The analyst expects that the Taliban would guarantee the safety of U.S. troops if they pull out of Afghanistan.