Today the Department of Defense released the semiannual report, “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” covering June 1, 2020 through November 30, 2020.
The report was submitted in accordance with a variety of statutory reporting requirements and congressional requests.
The United States’ vital national interest in Afghanistan is to ensure that Afghan territory is never again used as a safe haven from which terrorists can attack the United States, our Allies, or interests abroad. The primary goal of the South Asia Strategy is a durable and inclusive political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan. The start of historic Afghanistan Peace Negotiations (APN) between the Afghan government and the Taliban in September 2020 represents a significant milestone towards that goal.
During the reporting period, the United States continued to implement and adhere to the U.S.-Taliban Agreement. The United States completed a reduction of forces from 8,600 to 4,500 troops, and announced plans to 2,500 troops by mid-January 2021. Since the signing of the U.S.-Taliban Agreement, U.S. operations have continued to focus on counterterrorism operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), al-Qa’ida, and other terrorist organizations, while all operations against the Taliban have been in defense of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). With the exception of a three-day ceasefire over Eid al-Adha, the violence level remained relatively high during this reporting period, shown in the Enemy Initiated Attack data included in this report, including a major Taliban operation against the provincial capital of Helmand province in October. The Taliban also launched unsuccessful attempts to overrun several district centers.
Advising efforts continued in accordance with Resolute Support Mission’s operational campaign design that emphasizes “point of need” advising. The ANDSF continued to improve their combat capabilities and make progress towards shared security objectives, while adapting to challenges posed by COVID-19. The Afghan government also made improvements in implementing accountability systems. For the foreseeable future, however, all ANDSF components will continue to rely on contracted logistic support and on the international community for the vast majority of the funding needed to sustain combat operations.
The United States remains committed to helping Afghans create a secure and stable Afghanistan by supporting inclusive efforts to achieve peace. The best path to a lasting peace in Afghanistan is a negotiated political settlement among Afghans. The U.S. national security goal is to ensure that any settlement ensures that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe-haven for terrorists to threaten the security of the United States homeland, our allies, and our interests overseas.
The full report is available here.