Last year’s surge of U.S. and coalition forces into Afghanistan, with the simultaneous growth of Afghan forces, is leading to tangible progress for peace and prosperity in Afghanistan, according to a biannual Defense Department report released last week.
The final component of 30,000 U.S. surge forces reached Afghanistan last fall, complemented by an additional 10,000 coalition forces and more than 1,100 U.S. civilian personnel, allowing for significant improvements in security, governance and the economy of Afghanistan, according to the Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan and the United States Plan for Sustaining the Afghanistan National Security Forces.
Known as the “1230 Report” for its citation in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, the report assesses the situation in Afghanistan from Oct. 1 through March 31.
Among its conclusions:
- — Additional forces have allowed the coalition to expand into 34 districts that now have Afghan local police, compared to just eight districts with local police presence in September.
- — Security has improved in each of International Security Assistance Force’s six regional commands. Afghan forces have improved such that they are in the lead for most operations in the capital of Kabul. As expected, violence has increased in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, as coalition and Afghan forces took away long-held insurgent safe havens.
- — Surveys show Taliban influence decreasing in key areas across the country, with 75 percent of Afghans believing it would be bad for the country if the extremist group returned to power. That compares to 68 percent who felt that way at the end of the last reporting period in September.
- — Reports suggest increased friction between rank-and-file insurgents in Afghanistan and their leaders in Pakistan. The national government’s Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program has allowed more than 700 former Taliban to reintegrate into Afghan society, and another 2,000 insurgents are in the process of reintegration since the office was created in July.
- — The Afghan national security forces are key to Afghan self-sufficiency, and the forces are growing in numbers and competency. The army has added 21,200 new recruits since the end of September, and the national police have 15,030 new recruits since then. Also, 30,000 members of the security forces have completed literacy training, and about 60,000 others are in literacy training on any given day.
- — The Afghan defense and interior ministries have freed up leadership billets for security forces, encouraged merit-based promotions, and recently opened armor and signals schools.
- — By the end of March, 74 percent of battalion-sized army units were rated “effective with advisors” or “effective with assistance,” compared to 51 percent at the end of September. In the national police, 75 percent of units received that rating.
- — Effectiveness has improved to the point that 95 percent of all Afghan army units and 89 percent of national police are partnered with coalition units.
- — A shortage of coalition trainers and high Afghan attrition remain challenging. Incentive programs are being created to mitigate attrition.
- — Afghanistan is showing improvements in governance and development, with about half of the population living in areas of “emerging” governance, compared to 38 percent at the end of September. The national government’s Afghan Civil Service Institute has graduated 16,000 civil servants since Oct. 1 and has placed 3,000 college graduates in its internship program.
- — Allegations of voter fraud from the September national elections continue to reverberate, but have not deterred local elections, such as one in March in which 75 percent of registered voters in Helmand’s Marja district voted.
- — A lack of infrastructure remains a challenge, but improvements are happening with public projects such as a new railway link from the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif to Uzbekistan, a new power transmission line into the Afghan capital of Kabul, a runway extension at Herat Airport, and extensive road renovations.
- — Significant political challenges remain in Afghanistan, and corruption and criminal networks are a problem, but economic development, including from foreign investors, has potential for promising gains. The demand for energy far exceeds its current supply, and the U.S. Agency for International Development oversees several projects for improvement.
- — The national government continues to develop the mining industry, which has grown by 30 percent in two years since the U.S. Geological Survey estimated Afghanistan’s untapped mineral resources to be valued at as much as $3 trillion.
The report also found significant progress in the distribution of telecommunications service, health care, and education.
“The 2010 surge of ISAF forces and civilian personnel, and the ongoing surge of [Afghan forces], has allowed ISAF to get the inputs right in Afghanistan for the first time,” the report says.
The next report is due at the end of October.