Report: Coalition, Afghans Making ‘Tangible Progress’

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2011 — The coali­tion and its Afghan part­ners have made “tan­gi­ble progress” in Afghanistan over the past six months in not only arrest­ing ene­my momen­tum, but also revers­ing it in many key areas, a senior defense offi­cial said here today.
“We’ve wrest­ed away areas the insur­gents have had under con­trol for years,” the offi­cial said, speak­ing on back­ground on the Report on Progress Toward Secu­ri­ty and Sta­bil­i­ty in Afghanistan. Con­gress man­dates the report.

The report cov­ers the past six months and paints a far dif­fer­ent pic­ture of the coun­try than the first report in Jan­u­ary 2009. Then, the sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan was dete­ri­o­rat­ing. Tal­iban and oth­er insur­gent groups oper­at­ed shad­ow gov­ern­ments across many provinces. Lev­els of vio­lence were on the rise and insur­gents oper­at­ed not only from safe havens in the Fed­er­al­ly Admin­is­tered Trib­al Area of Pak­istan, but also from safe havens in Afghanistan –- most notably in and around Kan­da­har, the nation’s sec­ond-largest city.

The offi­cial said the “nar­ra­tive arc” since the first report shows that “there was a real prob­lem, the administration’s reviews iden­ti­fied that and the means nec­es­sary to reverse that, and not just reverse it, but push it back. Over the last year, as we put those forces into place, the sit­u­a­tion on the ground is fun­da­men­tal­ly chang­ing.”

The change has to be mea­sured over the long run, the offi­cial said. It is not a dra­mat­ic switch from bad to good, but the grad­ual improve­ment due to thou­sands of small acts to improve secu­ri­ty. Insur­gents will con­tin­ue to launch “spec­tac­u­lar” ter­ror­ist attacks to reverse the progress, the offi­cial said. But those attacks, while hor­ri­ble, have not stopped progress in the coun­try.

“You need to look at the entire cam­paign, you need to look at the entire effort and, most impor­tant­ly, you need to look at the results,” the offi­cial said. How­ev­er, the offi­cial said, progress in Afghanistan is still frag­ile and reversible.

“There are going to be tough days ahead,” he said.

The biggest game-chang­ers in Afghanistan are the result of the U.S. and NATO troop surge into the coun­try and the surge in Afghan forces in num­bers and capa­bil­i­ties, the offi­cial said.

The report also high­lights the grow­ing capa­bil­i­ties of Afghan secu­ri­ty forces. The Afghan police still lag the army in capa­bil­i­ties, but both are mak­ing progress. Remain­ing desired improve­ments for Afghan secu­ri­ty forces include what the U.S. mil­i­tary calls com­bat ser­vice and com­bat ser­vice sup­port capa­bil­i­ties -– med­ical, logis­tics, trans­porta­tion, com­mand and con­trol and the like. There is a lack of train­ers for these spe­cial­ized areas, the offi­cial said, but there have been com­mit­ments for more train­ers for these areas.

Spe­cial efforts are being made to train Afghan recruits to read and write, the offi­cial said. The lit­er­a­cy rate in Afghanistan over­all is set at 43 per­cent for men and under 13 per­cent for women. Afghan recruits often reen­list to con­tin­ue this train­ing, the offi­cial added. Also, schools estab­lished in 2002 and 2003 are now grad­u­at­ing young lit­er­ate Afghans.

Progress also needs to con­tin­ue in gov­er­nance and the econ­o­my in Afghanistan. Mil­i­tary forces can pro­vide secu­ri­ty, but what the coun­try needs is “the fol­low-on abil­i­ty of gov­er­nance, rule of law, the struc­tures that need to be in place after the clear­ing oper­a­tions are com­plet­ed,” the offi­cial said.

There is a lot of con­cen­tra­tion on build­ing these capa­bil­i­ties, the offi­cial said, but so much needs to be done that the job will be dif­fi­cult.

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

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