Afghanistan Report Shows Security, Governance Gains

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2010 — Progress across Afghanistan remains uneven, with mod­est gains in secu­ri­ty, gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment in key areas, accord­ing to a Defense Depart­ment report sent to Con­gress today.
The con­gres­sion­al­ly man­dat­ed report, sub­mit­ted every 180 days, tracks gov­ern­ment, eco­nom­ic and mil­i­tary activ­i­ty to assess coali­tion suc­cess in reach­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s goal of dis­rupt­ing, dis­man­tling and defeat­ing al-Qai­da in Afghanistan.

A senior Defense Depart­ment offi­cial and a senior State Depart­ment offi­cial briefed reporters on back­ground about today’s report, which cov­ers activ­i­ties in Afghanistan from April 1 to Sept. 30.

The report cites growth in Afghan secu­ri­ty forces as the “most promis­ing” area of progress, and notes incre­men­tal improve­ment in secu­ri­ty and socio-eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment. The increase in Afghan secu­ri­ty forces “is the key to the tran­si­tion,” the Defense offi­cial said, not­ing that both the Afghan army and police have been ahead of their recruit­ing goals since July.

As the report points out, Afghan forces still need more lead­ers in their ranks, he said.

“Build­ing lead­ers take time,” he said, not­ing that senior non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers, cap­tains and majors don’t appear overnight. The report records a 55 per­cent rise over the pre­vi­ous quar­ter in “kinet­ic events,” includ­ing direct and indi­rect fire, sur­face-to-air fire and explod­ed, found or cleared road­side bombs.

The Defense offi­cial said the Afghanistan strat­e­gy always assumed the increase in coali­tion forces would be fol­lowed by a rise in vio­lence, which the report bears out. The report attrib­ut­es this rise to the increase in coali­tion and Afghan forces and their expan­sion into new areas, a dra­mat­i­cal­ly accel­er­at­ed pace of oper­a­tions and a spike in inci­dents dur­ing the Sep­tem­ber par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, con­sis­tent with pre­vi­ous elec­tions.

Despite the jump in vio­lence, the report not­ed few­er civil­ian casu­al­ties attrib­ut­able to coali­tion actions than in pre­vi­ous report­ing peri­ods.

The report also indi­cates the num­ber of Afghans rat­ing their secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion as “bad” is the high­est since the nation­wide sur­vey began in Sep­tem­ber 2008.

The Afghan public’s dis­sat­is­fac­tion with their lev­el of secu­ri­ty also stems from coali­tion and Afghan forces’ expan­sion into areas they hadn’t pre­vi­ous­ly cleared, the Defense offi­cial said.

“Two years ago, if you had asked an Afghan in Hel­mand if they were secure, they wouldn’t have been hap­py that the Tal­iban were there, but there wasn’t fight­ing going on,” he said. “When we got there, there was a lot of fight­ing going on.”

The report, which includes data only up to Sept. 30, doesn’t reflect the most cur­rent secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion in Hel­mand and Kan­da­har provinces, he said. “Over the past two months, there has been slow and steady progress in Hel­mand,” he said, “and impor­tant progress in Kan­da­har.”

The State Depart­ment offi­cial said civil­ian-led coali­tion efforts to encour­age Afghan gov­er­nance and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment in Hel­mand and Kan­da­har also show progress. In the end, the ques­tion of what lev­el of local gov­er­nance Afghans want is a ques­tion “Afghans need to decide,” the State Depart­ment offi­cial said.

The draw­down of com­bat forces set to begin in July, and the 2014 goal to com­plete the secu­ri­ty han­dover to Afghan forces, doesn’t negate the Unit­ed States’ and coalition’s long-term com­mit­ment to Afghanistan, the Defense offi­cial said.

“We need to cor­rect mis­per­cep­tions about that,” he said. “We have a long-term endur­ing com­mit­ment to Afghanistan.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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