US Afghan War report offers tempered optimism

Pentagon report says, "our strategy is beginning to have cumulative effects, security slowly expanding" but calls progress "uneven."

November 24, 2010 10:55
1 minute read.
US Marines Afghanistan

US Marines Afghanistan. (photo credit: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is citing some progress in the 9-year-old Afghanistan war in its latest biannual report to Congress, even as violence is on the rise and more Afghans say they fear for their safety.

The Pentagon-led assessment, released Tuesday, described progress as fragile but holding. Officials said the findings represent a slight improvement from previous months.

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The report is an early look into the kind of cautious assessment expected to reach US President Barack Obama's desk next month. The December review is supposed to determine whether Obama's war strategy, which includes a buildup of some 30,000 troops, is succeeding in breaking the momentum of the Taliban insurgency.

"The deliberate application of our strategy is beginning to have cumulative effects, and security is slowly beginning to expand," states the report, which looks at operations from April through September 30.

Still, the report adds, the number of Afghans rating their security situation as "bad" is the highest its been since 2008, with "kinetic events" increasing by more than half during the summer.

The report attributes the uptick in violence to increased fighting between U.S.-led forces and the Taliban.

A senior defense official said the Pentagon views the war as an "extraordinarily dynamic situation." The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said officials believe that much has already changed since the report's September 30 end date, including military progress in the key city of Kandahar.

A Pentagon official was cited by The Washington Post as saying, "we are seeing the shift of momentum that we aimed for" against Taliban forces. "It's not complete, and there are still challenges." But "the concept is being proven in key areas."

Particularly regarding Afghan governmental institutions, the report said, "progress remains uneven and incremental," describing efforts to fight corruption and especially in integrating uncertain ethnic groups into the security forces.

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