Saturday, May 1, 2010

Taliban's Abilities are Expanding and its Operations are Increasing in Sophistication

A Pentagon report presented a sobering new assessment Wednesday of the Taliban-led insurgency, saying that its abilities are expanding and its operations are increasing in sophistication, a view that highlights the extent of the challenge still confronting the Obama administration's war strategy.

The report, requested by Congress, gives the most realistic and comprehensive U.S. view in years of the Taliban and other insurgent groups, and for the first time portrays a movement with deep roots and broad reach, able to withstand repeated U.S. onslaughts and to re-establish its influence, while discrediting and undermining the country's Western-backed government.

The Pentagon remains optimistic that its strategy, formed after an administration review last year, will demonstrate success in the months to come. But the new report makes no attempt to downplay the strengths and advantages enjoyed by the Taliban and other insurgent organizations.

The assessment comes on the heels of a U.S-led offensive in Afghanistan's Helmand province and follows the capture of several senior Taliban leaders, developments widely seen as a boost to the momentum behind allied troops in the 9-year-old war. Those successes backed the view that President Obama's decision to deploy 30,000 additional U.S. forces had begun to show positive results.

The new report, by contrast, offers a grim take on the likely difficulty of establishing lasting security, especially in southern Afghanistan, where the insurgency enjoys broad support.

The report concludes that Afghan people support or are sympathetic to the insurgency in 92 of 121 districts identified by the U.S. military as key terrain for stabilizing the country. Popular support for President Hamid Karzai's government is strong in only 29 of those districts, it concludes.

The U.S.-led military operation has had "some success in clearing insurgents from their strongholds, particularly in central Helmand," the report said. But it adds: "The insurgent tactic of re-infiltrating the cleared areas to perform executions has played a role in dissuading locals from siding with the Afghan government, which has complicated efforts to introduce local governance."

The report concurs with earlier findings by the U.S. commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and others that violence in Afghanistan began to level off in the first months of 2010. But the Pentagon also notes that Afghan insurgents consider 2009, Obama's first year in office, to be their most successful year because of their ability to increase the level of violence.

The report issued Wednesday examines the time period between October 2009 and the end of March 2010. It is the first since the Obama administration put its new strategy in place.
US Toll in Afghanistan
• Deaths: 962
• Wounded: 5,676
SOURCE: Department of Defense


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