Report Notes Progress, Remaining Challenges in Afghanistan
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2012 The surge in Afghanistan succeeded in diminishing enemy capability and improving security, especially in the country’s most populous areas, according to a Pentagon report delivered to Congress and made public today.
The Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan says the number of attacks is down, and that while the Taliban and its al-Qaida allies can launch a few flashy attacks, the terror group’s capabilities have waned.
Most security metrics have improved, the report says. It compares the first year of the surge – 2010 – with April through September of this year, noting that enemy-initiated attacks have declined by 12 percent. Detonations of improvised explosive devices declined 9 percent. The percentage of civilian casualties caused by NATO forces declined 28 percent. Direct- fire attacks have dropped by 9 percent, and indirect-fire attacks are down by 24 percent.
However, civilian casualties caused by enemy attacks are up 11 percent, according to the Pentagon report.
The report’s findings point to progress with the Afghan national security forces, which will take over security operations when U.S. and coalition forces leave at the end of 2014.
“The ANSF has grown by 88,464 personnel, and has dramatically increased its capabilities,” the report states. “The areas of the country influenced by the insurgents and the ability of the insurgency to attack the population have been significantly diminished.”
The report to Congress highlights the improvement in security of populated areas. “Security dramatically improved in most of Afghanistan’s five most populous districts, with [enemy-initiated attacks] in the first nine months of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011 dropping 22 percent in Kabul, 62 percent in Kandahar, 13 percent in Herat, 88 percent in Mazar-e-Sharif, and rising 2 percent in Kunduz,” the report says.
Insurgent attacks are taking place away from these populated centers, the report says, noting that the majority of Afghanistan’s 405 districts now experience very low levels of enemy attacks. Eighty percent of attacks occur in districts encompassing only 20 percent of the population, and nearly half of all attacks in Afghanistan occur in just 17 districts that contain only 5 percent of the population, the report states.
The Taliban’s ability to attack Afghans is diminished, particularly in Kandahar, the group’s operational and ideological base.
Overall, the report paints a picture of mixed progress toward security and stability, with the area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border remaining a hot zone. “Pakistani-based sanctuary for insurgents, such as the Haqqani Taliban Network in North Waziristan, as well as the financial and operational support that insurgents receive from various sources, keeps the security situation along the border with Pakistan in Regional Command East volatile,” the report says.
While enemy attacks in the region declined slightly, eastern Afghanistan accounted for almost a third of all insurgent attacks throughout the country.
The insurgency and al-Qaida continue to face U.S. counterterrorism pressure within the safe havens, the report says, and the relationship with Pakistan has begun to get better. “U.S. relations with Pakistan have begun to improve following the re-opening of Pakistani ground lines of communication, and there has been nascent improvement with respect to cross-border cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
In fact, the report continues, there has been some cooperation on both sides of the border in coordinating counterterror offensives.
“The Taliban-led insurgency remains adaptive and determined, and retains the capability to emplace substantial numbers of IEDs and to conduct isolated high-profile attacks,” the report says. “The insurgency also retains a significant regenerative capacity.”
As ISAF and Afghan forces erode Taliban efforts, insurgents have increasingly resorted to asymmetric tactics in an attempt to regain territory and influence, including assassinations, kidnappings, intimidation tactics, encouraging insider attacks and strategic messaging campaigns, the report states.