Despite bloodshed, US reports Afghanistan progress

Obama administration reviews overhauled Afghanistan strategy, finds Taliban momentum arrested in many areas.

Reuters December 16, 2010

WASHINGTON: A White House review of President Barack Obama's Afghanistan war strategy reported on Thursday that foreign forces are making headway against the Taliban and al Qaeda but that serious challenges remain.

Below are highlights from the unclassified summary of the White House review.

The overview

"Specific components of our strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan are working well and there are notable operational gains.

"Most important, al Qaeda's senior leadership in Pakistan is weaker and under more sustained pressure than at any other point since it fled Afghanistan in 2001. In Pakistan, we are laying the foundation for a strategic partnership based on mutual respect and trust, through increased dialogue, improved cooperation, and enhanced exchange and assistance programs. And in Afghanistan, the momentum achieved by the Taliban in recent years has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas, although these gains remain fragile and reversible.

"While the strategy is showing progress across all three assessed areas of al Qaeda, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the challenge remains to make our gains durable and sustainable."

Defeating al Qaeda

"Al-Qa'ida's eventual strategic defeat will be most effectively achieved through the denial of sanctuaries in the region and the elimination of the group's remaining leadership cadre. Even achieving these goals, however, will not completely eliminate the terrorist threat to US interests."

Pakistan central

"Pakistan is central to our efforts to defeat al Qaeda and prevent its return to the region.

"Progress in our relationship with Pakistan over the last year has been substantial, but also uneven. We worked jointly in the last year to disrupt the threat posed by al Qaeda, and Pakistan has made progress against extremist safe havens, taking action in six of seven agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas."

Surge seen working

"As a result of our integrated efforts in 2010, we are setting the conditions to begin transition to Afghan security lead in early 2011 and to begin a responsible, conditions-based US troop reduction in July 2011.

"The surge in coalition military and civilian resources, along with an expanded special operations forces targeting campaign and expanded local security measures at the village level, has reduced overall Taliban influence and arrested the momentum they had achieved in recent years in key parts of the country."

Forging ahead

"While the momentum achieved by the Taliban in recent years has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas, these gains remain fragile and reversible.

"Consolidating those gains will require that we make more progress with Pakistan to eliminate sanctuaries for violent extremist networks. Durability also requires continued work with Afghanistan to transfer cleared areas to their security forces.

"We are also supporting Afghanistan's efforts to better improve national and sub-national governance, and to build institutions with increased transparency and accountability to reduce corruption -- key steps in sustaining the Afghan government."

Support for reconciliation talks with Taliban

"In 2011, we will intensify our regional diplomacy to enable a political process to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan, to include Afghan-led reconciliation, taking advantage of the momentum created by the recent security gains."


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