Report Outlines Progress in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2011 — Last year’s surge of U.S. and coali­tion forces into Afghanistan, with the simul­ta­ne­ous growth of Afghan forces, is lead­ing to tan­gi­ble progress for peace and pros­per­i­ty in Afghanistan, accord­ing to a bian­nu­al Defense Depart­ment report released last week.
The final com­po­nent of 30,000 U.S. surge forces reached Afghanistan last fall, com­ple­ment­ed by an addi­tion­al 10,000 coali­tion forces and more than 1,100 U.S. civil­ian per­son­nel, allow­ing for sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments in secu­ri­ty, gov­er­nance and the econ­o­my of Afghanistan, accord­ing to the Report on Progress Toward Secu­ri­ty and Sta­bil­i­ty in Afghanistan and the Unit­ed States Plan for Sus­tain­ing the Afghanistan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces.

Known as the “1230 Report” for its cita­tion in the 2008 Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act, the report assess­es the sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan from Oct. 1 through March 31. Among its con­clu­sions:

— Addi­tion­al forces have allowed the coali­tion to expand into 34 dis­tricts that now have Afghan local police, com­pared to just eight dis­tricts with local police pres­ence in Sep­tem­ber.

— Secu­ri­ty has improved in each of Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force’s six region­al com­mands. Afghan forces have improved such that they are in the lead for most oper­a­tions in the cap­i­tal of Kab­ul. As expect­ed, vio­lence has increased in the south­ern provinces of Hel­mand and Kan­da­har, as coali­tion and Afghan forces took away long-held insur­gent safe havens.

— Sur­veys show Tal­iban influ­ence decreas­ing in key areas across the coun­try, with 75 per­cent of Afghans believ­ing it would be bad for the coun­try if the extrem­ist group returned to pow­er. That com­pares to 68 per­cent who felt that way at the end of the last report­ing peri­od in Sep­tem­ber.

— Reports sug­gest increased fric­tion between rank-and-file insur­gents in Afghanistan and their lead­ers in Pak­istan. The nation­al government’s Afghan Peace and Rein­te­gra­tion Pro­gram has allowed more than 700 for­mer Tal­iban to rein­te­grate into Afghan soci­ety, and anoth­er 2,000 insur­gents are in the process of rein­te­gra­tion since the office was cre­at­ed in July.

— The Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces are key to Afghan self-suf­fi­cien­cy, and the forces are grow­ing in num­bers and com­pe­ten­cy. The army has added 21,200 new recruits since the end of Sep­tem­ber, and the nation­al police have 15,030 new recruits since then. Also, 30,000 mem­bers of the secu­ri­ty forces have com­plet­ed lit­er­a­cy train­ing, and about 60,000 oth­ers are in lit­er­a­cy train­ing on any giv­en day.

— The Afghan defense and inte­ri­or min­istries have freed up lead­er­ship bil­lets for secu­ri­ty forces, encour­aged mer­it-based pro­mo­tions, and recent­ly opened armor and sig­nals schools.

— By the end of March, 74 per­cent of bat­tal­ion-sized army units were rat­ed “effec­tive with advi­sors” or “effec­tive with assis­tance,” com­pared to 51 per­cent at the end of Sep­tem­ber. In the nation­al police, 75 per­cent of units received that rat­ing.

— Effec­tive­ness has improved to the point that 95 per­cent of all Afghan army units and 89 per­cent of nation­al police are part­nered with coali­tion units.

— A short­age of coali­tion train­ers and high Afghan attri­tion remain chal­leng­ing. Incen­tive pro­grams are being cre­at­ed to mit­i­gate attri­tion.

— Afghanistan is show­ing improve­ments in gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment, with about half of the pop­u­la­tion liv­ing in areas of “emerg­ing” gov­er­nance, com­pared to 38 per­cent at the end of Sep­tem­ber. The nation­al government’s Afghan Civ­il Ser­vice Insti­tute has grad­u­at­ed 16,000 civ­il ser­vants since Oct. 1 and has placed 3,000 col­lege grad­u­ates in its intern­ship pro­gram.

— Alle­ga­tions of vot­er fraud from the Sep­tem­ber nation­al elec­tions con­tin­ue to rever­ber­ate, but have not deterred local elec­tions, such as one in March in which 75 per­cent of reg­is­tered vot­ers in Helmand’s Mar­ja dis­trict vot­ed.

— A lack of infra­struc­ture remains a chal­lenge, but improve­ments are hap­pen­ing with pub­lic projects such as a new rail­way link from the north­ern city of Mazar-e-Sharif to Uzbek­istan, a new pow­er trans­mis­sion line into the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul, a run­way exten­sion at Her­at Air­port, and exten­sive road ren­o­va­tions.

— Sig­nif­i­cant polit­i­cal chal­lenges remain in Afghanistan, and cor­rup­tion and crim­i­nal net­works are a prob­lem, but eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment, includ­ing from for­eign investors, has poten­tial for promis­ing gains. The demand for ener­gy far exceeds its cur­rent sup­ply, and the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment over­sees sev­er­al projects for improve­ment.

— The nation­al gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to devel­op the min­ing indus­try, which has grown by 30 per­cent in two years since the U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey esti­mat­ed Afghanistan’s untapped min­er­al resources to be val­ued at as much as $3 tril­lion.

The report also found sig­nif­i­cant progress in the dis­tri­b­u­tion of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions ser­vice, health care, and edu­ca­tion.

“The 2010 surge of ISAF forces and civil­ian per­son­nel, and the ongo­ing surge of [Afghan forces], has allowed ISAF to get the inputs right in Afghanistan for the first time,” the report says.

The next report is due at the end of Octo­ber.

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

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter