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US Admits Few Gains in Afghan War

Friday, 30 April 2010 09:47 AM

KABUL — A Pentagon report on the last six months in Afghanistan portrays an Afghan government with limited credibility among its people, a still active if not growing insurgency and an enormous reliance on American troops to train, outfit and finance the country’s defense forces for the foreseeable future.

The report is mandated by Congress every six months. It points to some improvements, including an increased optimism among Afghans about their government and the slowing of the insurgency in places where NATO troops have concentrated their efforts.

But an array of measures suggest that the situation is little better over all than it was six months ago despite enormous expenditures of effort, money and lives by the American and international forces.

“This is, I think, a very serious and sober report,” a senior Pentagon official said at a news briefing on Thursday in Washington, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

“For the last several years we’ve seen this very steep increase in areas that the Taliban control, areas that feel threatened,” the official said, according to a transcript provided by the Defense Department. “People’s perception of security was getting worse. That’s leveling off.”

Still, according to some of the report’s diagrams, insurgent activity in the last six months has spread to several areas where it had not previously been a major factor.

Many sections of the report are based on close analysis of the situation in more than 100 districts where NATO is concentrating its efforts.

In 92 districts assessed for their support of the Afghan government or their antagonism to it, not one supported the government, although the population was neutral in 44 districts. The number of districts sympathetic to the insurgency or supportive of it increased to 48 in March 2010 from 33 in December 2009.

Despite those trends and an 87 percent increase in violent incidents from February 2009 to March 2010, 59 percent of Afghans surveyed nationwide felt that their government was now going in the right direction, indicating a potential for positive change. There was also a modest increase in the proportion of Afghans who expressed confidence in their government, to 45 percent from 39 percent.

“The majority of the people are on the fence, not that they oppose the government,” the senior Pentagon official said. “And the objective is to move those people who are on the fence in the direction of the government, and in areas where people are opposed to the government, move them at least onto the fence.”

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Friday, 30 April 2010 09:47 AM
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