Year-on-year violence levels in Afghanistan decrease for first time

For the first time since 2006 year-on-year vio­lence lev­els decreased across Afghanistan in 2011, For­eign Sec­re­tary William Hague said yes­ter­day in the government’s quar­ter­ly update on Afghanistan.

Afghan Nation­al Army sol­diers on patrol in the Nad ‘Ali dis­trict dur­ing Oper­a­tion WINTER SUCCESS [Pic­ture: Sergeant Wes Calder RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The lat­est update reviews the progress made in Afghanistan since 18 Octo­ber 2011 and rep­re­sents the com­bined assess­ment of the For­eign and Com­mon­wealth Office, the Min­istry of Defence and the Depart­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment.

Mr Hague began by pay­ing trib­ute to the ‘brave men and women of our Armed Forces’, adding:

“They have borne the brunt of the immense dif­fi­cul­ties and dan­gers Afghanistan has pre­sent­ed each and every day of the last ten years and which it still presents in so many ways today.

“397 British Ser­vice per­son­nel have lost their lives since 2001; 14 since my Right Hon­ourable friend the Defence Sec­re­tary made his state­ment, the last of these state­ments, on 18 Octo­ber. This House and our nation will nev­er for­get the sac­ri­fices they have made to pro­tect Britain’s nation­al secu­ri­ty.”

Mr Hague said that the UK Government’s objec­tive in Afghanistan is shared by the Afghan Gov­ern­ment and all fifty nations that con­tribute forces to ISAF. He said:

“We all want an Afghanistan that is able to main­tain its own secu­ri­ty and pre­vent the coun­try from being used as a safe haven for inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ists. Our strat­e­gy is to help the Afghan Gov­ern­ment to build capa­ble Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces, to make progress towards a sus­tain­able polit­i­cal set­tle­ment, and to sup­port the build­ing of a viable Afghan state.”

Cen­tral to this, Mr Hague said, is the grad­ual han­dover of secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ties from inter­na­tion­al forces to the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces by the end of 2014, as agreed at the Lis­bon Sum­mit in 2010:

“British and ISAF troops will con­tin­ue to per­form com­bat roles until the end of 2014. Our com­mit­ment in terms of aid, trade, invest­ment and close diplo­mat­ic ties will last far beyond 2014,” he added.

Mr Hague also said that no-one should under­es­ti­mate the scale of the chal­lenges that remain but that he is con­fi­dent that our strat­e­gy in Afghanistan is the right one to main­tain our nation­al secu­ri­ty, and that steady progress towards our goals is being made.

2012 will be an impor­tant year to con­sol­i­date progress in Afghanistan he added, say­ing that the NATO Con­fer­ence in Chica­go in May and the Tokyo Con­fer­ence on devel­op­ment in July will build on pledges made at the Inter­na­tion­al Afghanistan Con­fer­ence in Bonn last Decem­ber, with the aim of secur­ing con­crete finan­cial, devel­op­ment and secu­ri­ty com­mit­ments for Afghanistan beyond 2014.

Dis­cussing tran­si­tion, Mr Hague said:

“The process of ‘tran­si­tion’ made con­sid­er­able progress last year. This is the means by which respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty across Afghanistan is pro­gres­sive­ly trans­ferred from the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces [ANSF], up to the end of 2014 when inter­na­tion­al troops will with­draw from a com­bat role.

“Tran­si­tion is based on con­di­tions on the ground, it is phased, it is grad­ual, and it can take up to 18 months in any one area. In Decem­ber 2011 tran­si­tion began in the sec­ond group of areas. Approx­i­mate­ly half the Afghan pop­u­la­tion live in areas now in the process of tran­si­tion.

“The progress made in Hel­mand by Afghan, UK and ISAF forces is illus­trat­ed by the inclu­sion of Nad ‘Ali ear­ly in the tran­si­tion process along­side Lashkar Gah, which began in July.

“The secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion in these dis­tricts is unrecog­nis­able com­pared to the start of British oper­a­tions in 2006. Vio­lence lev­els have fall­en dra­mat­i­cal­ly, Afghans have free­dom of move­ment in Lashkar Gah, and in all five cen­tral Hel­mand dis­tricts pupil enrol­ment for both girls and boys is ris­ing and the Afghan Gov­ern­ment is able to pro­vide ser­vices to the province.”

Mr Hague also said that British forces con­tin­ue to con­duct oper­a­tions in Hel­mand but are sup­port­ing a grow­ing num­ber of Afghan-led oper­a­tions. He added:

“In Decem­ber over 280 British Ser­vice per­son­nel joined forces with 550 Afghan troops on Oper­a­tion WINTER SUCCESS. The oper­a­tion was planned and led by the Afghan Nation­al Army with ISAF men­tor­ing and sup­port.

“It suc­ceed­ed in clear­ing insur­gents from the area where three Hel­mand dis­tricts meet — Nad ‘Ali, Nahr-e Saraj and Lashkar Gah — before build­ing new check­points, manned by Afghan forces, to increase secu­ri­ty and extend the gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment foot­print of the Afghan Gov­ern­ment.

“The suc­cess of such oper­a­tions allows us grad­u­al­ly to focus our efforts on men­tor­ing and train­ing. We will help to cre­ate an Afghan Nation­al Offi­cer Acad­e­my to pro­duce the Afghan Army offi­cers of the future which will open its doors in 2013.

“It is expect­ed to accept 1,350 recruits annu­al­ly, and approx­i­mate­ly 120 British troops will be based at the acad­e­my to pro­vide train­ing and relat­ed sup­port.

“At the end of Decem­ber the Afghan Nation­al Police were more than 143,000 strong and the Afghan Nation­al Army num­bered over 170,000. They are deploy­ing in formed units, car­ry­ing out their own oper­a­tions, and plan­ning com­plex secu­ri­ty arrange­ments.

“Last year they respond­ed to a series of high-pro­file attacks prompt­ly, pro­fes­sion­al­ly and increas­ing­ly inde­pen­dent of ISAF sup­port.

“For the first time since 2006 year-on-year vio­lence lev­els decreased across Afghanistan in 2011. This is a good indi­ca­tion of progress. How­ev­er, the region­al pic­ture remains very var­ied; in the east in par­tic­u­lar the num­ber of secu­ri­ty inci­dents rose.

“We can­not be com­pla­cent as gains are frag­ile and not yet irre­versible. But we are firm­ly on track for the ANSF to have lead secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty by mid to late 2013.

“The ANSF will have full secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty across Afghanistan by the end of 2014. This means that plans for British com­bat troop draw­down by the end of 2014 also remain on track.

“The Prime Min­is­ter has indi­cat­ed that there will be a steady and mea­sured draw­down between now and then, and that British forces will be reduced by 500 to 9,000 by the end of this year. The rate of reduc­tion will be deter­mined by the progress of tran­si­tion on the ground.”

Mr Hague also said that we have seen progress on the polit­i­cal track, and at the Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence in Bonn the Afghan Gov­ern­ment made com­mit­ments to tack­le cor­rup­tion, improve the capac­i­ty of Afghan insti­tu­tions, and uphold inter­na­tion­al human rights oblig­a­tions and the pro­tec­tion of women’s rights.

He also said that there have been a num­ber of impor­tant devel­op­ments in the polit­i­cal process already this year, say­ing:

“Last month the Tal­iban expressed its will­ing­ness to par­tic­i­pate in a polit­i­cal office in Qatar. We wel­come any steps towards rec­on­cil­i­a­tion but recog­nise that they are at an ear­ly stage and more work will be need­ed to move for­wards.

“Nev­er­the­less, the Tal­iban lead­er­ship have accept­ed the need to engage in a polit­i­cal process, and this is sig­nif­i­cant. If they are will­ing to renounce vio­lence, break links with Al-Qae­da and respect the Afghan con­sti­tu­tion there can be a place for them in their country’s future.

“A polit­i­cal office pro­vides an oppor­tu­ni­ty for all Afghans to work togeth­er towards a sus­tain­able peace, for it is only with the engage­ment of all Afghans that we can hope to see a durable set­tle­ment. Britain will con­tin­ue to sup­port the Afghan Gov­ern­ment in these efforts.”

Mr Hague con­clud­ed by say­ing:

“Seri­ous chal­lenges remain in Afghanistan. There will undoubt­ed­ly be set­backs and dif­fi­cul­ties ahead, but we are mak­ing steady progress. 2012 will be an impor­tant year to con­sol­i­date this progress and to strength­en the inter­na­tion­al com­mit­ments to Afghanistan and long-term part­ner­ship with its peo­ple.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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