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Report on Progress toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan

June 2008
Report to Congress in accordance with the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (Section 1230, Public Law 110-181)


Executive Summary

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States and our international partners toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, ending years of brutal misrule and denying al Qaeda a safe haven from which to launch its attacks. The United States is committed to helping Afghanistan recover from decades of strife, and preventing it from ever again becoming a safe haven for terrorists. Our strategic goals remain that Afghanistan is: 1) a reliable, stable ally in the War on Terror; 2) moderate and democratic, with a thriving private sector economy; 3) capable of governing its territory and borders; and 4) respectful of the rights of all its citizens. Achieving these goals requires the application of a whole-of-government approach, along multiple lines of operation, including security, governance, and development. This report describes both the progress we are making in achieving our national objectives, and the challenges we continue to face.


Although security remains fragile in many parts of Afghanistan, our counterinsurgency approach demonstrates how a combination of military and non-military resources can be integrated to create a stable and secure environment, and to connect the Afghan people with their government. Khowst Province is an example. Khowst was once considered ungovernable and one of the most dangerous provinces in Afghanistan. Today, tangible improvements in security, governance, reconstruction, and development are being made. These improvements are achieved through the closely coordinated efforts of the local government, the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF), international organizations, as well as U.S. military, diplomatic, and development experts. Importantly, lessons learned from the successes in Khowst are being shared with our partners and applied elsewhere in the country.

The increase in U.S. forces in the spring of 2008 reinforced Afghan and international forces’ momentum and is enabling accelerated growth of the ANSF. On February 5, 2008 the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) approved a proposal to expand the authorized end strength of the Afghan National Army (ANA) from 70,000 to 80,000 personnel. The Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan (CSTC-A) is scheduled to complete the fielding of 80,000 ANA personnel by the end of 2010. Meanwhile, a U.S. Marine Corps Marine Air Ground Task Force is deploying to bolster NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) maneuver forces in Regional Command–South.

The ANA has taken the lead in more than 30 significant operations to date and has demonstrated increasing competence, effectiveness and professionalism. Operation MAIWAND, executed in the summer of 2007 in the Andar District of Ghazni Province, is just one example of the ANA’s progress. Planned, rehearsed, and executed under the direction of the Afghan 203rd Corps Commander, a combined ANA and ISAF task force cleared the entire district and removed a Taliban shadow governor. This well-integrated security operation was quickly exploited with the synchronized application of governance and development efforts consisting of medical treatment for 2,300 citizens, 10 new schools, the delivery of 260 tons of humanitarian aid, and one million dollars committed toward additional development. This operation resulted in the significant disruption to enemy forces in Ghazni Province and is a manifestation of the growth and maturation of ANSF as well as the spread of governance and development.

The Afghanistan National Police (ANP) are improving, although at a slower pace than the ANA. Generally, police development has been hindered by a lack of reform, corruption, insufficient U.S. military trainers and advisors, and a lack of unity of effort within the international community. A new CSTC-A-led Focused District Development (FDD) plan, implemented in late 2007, shows promise. This initiative withdraws the locally-based Afghan Uniform Police (AUP) from selected districts, replacing them temporarily with highly trained and effective Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP). The AUP then receive two months of immersion training and equipping in a concentrated program of instruction by carefully selected civilian police mentors, with the goal of increasing their professional capability and their confidence to conduct law enforcement activities. Following their collective training, the AUP return to their districts with enhanced capabilities and better able to serve their communities.

Despite many positive developments, Afghanistan continues to face challenges. The Taliban regrouped after its fall from power and have coalesced into a resilient insurgency. It now poses a challenge to the Afghan Government’s authority in some rural areas. Insurgent violence increased in 2007, most visibly in the form of asymmetric attacks as Afghan and international forces’ relentless pressure forced the insurgents to shift the majority of its effort to targeting police and civilians. More than 6,500 people died as a result of suicide attacks, roadside bombs, and combat-related violence. The 2007 ISAF and ANSF military campaign caused setbacks to the Afghan insurgency, including leadership losses and the loss of some key safe-havens in Afghanistan. Despite these setbacks, the Taliban is likely to maintain or even increase the scope and pace of its terrorist attacks and bombings in 2008. The Taliban will challenge the control of the Afghan government in rural areas, especially in the south and east. The Taliban will also probably attempt to increase its presence in the west and north. Up to the first quarter of 2008, the most significant threat to stability in the north and west of the country has come from warlords, criminals, and drug traffickers. The power of these entities is increasingly challenged by the growing competence of local and national government.

Narcotics remain a significant challenge for Afghanistan and the international community. While progress has been made in some areas, overall counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan have not been successful. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated in his testimony to the House Armed Service Committee on December 11, 2007, “[T]he drug trade continues to threaten the foundations of Afghan society and [the] young government [of Afghanistan].” Opium production in Afghanistan increased substantially in 2007. The narcotics trade dissuades work and investment in legitimate activities, provides the insurgents with a lucrative source of funding, and contributes heavily to heroin addiction in Central Asia, Europe and increasingly East Africa. Although counternarcotics (CN) efforts have resulted in gains over the past six years, the battle against drug traffickers is ongoing, and will be for some time. In conjunction with the Afghan Ministry of Defense (MOD), CSTC-A is assisting with the development and fielding of a new CN infantry kandak (battalion) for the purpose of providing force protection to poppy eradicators. This unit will shortly be put into action and will provide protection for eradication teams to complete their mandates.

Governance and Human Rights

Afghanistan was the prime example of a failed state in 2001. Aside from the Taliban’s enforcement of its version of sharia law, most functions of government were non-existent. There were few social services and little investment in health, education, roads, power, or water. Afghans were denied participation in their government, enjoyed no civil or political liberties, and were afforded no avenue of dissent.

Since 2001, Afghanistan has made significant progress rebuilding its national political institutions. Afghans wrote and passed a new Constitution in 2004; 8.1 million people voted in the nation’s first presidential election; and 6.4 million voters helped reestablish their National Assembly after 32 years without a legislature. Ministries are increasingly capable of executing their responsibilities, particularly the ministries of Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Finance. Since 2006, the Supreme Court has been headed by an internationally respected and highly capable jurist with a formal legal education.

The international community continues to help develop Afghanistan’s justice sector and provincial governments. Progress is slow, in part because of Afghanistan’s human capital shortage. Only three in ten Afghans can read, leaving a very shallow pool of literate citizens to staff the courts, government offices, police, armed forces, or private enterprises.

Despite important progress made since 2001, Afghanistan’s human rights record remains poor. Though most human rights violations are perpetrated by the Taliban-led insurgency, weak governmental and traditional institutions, corruption, narcotics trafficking, and the country’s two-and-a-half decades of violent conflict exacerbate the problem. Abuses by security forces continue. However, the government has worked to professionalize its army and police force. Increased oversight of police by internal and external monitors has helped to prevent some abuses, and human rights training has become a regular element for police and army personnel.

Reconstruction and Development

Setting the conditions necessary for economic growth is essential to long-term security and stability. Afghanistan has come a long way in seven years. Since 2001, Gross Domestic Product, per capita income, and Foreign Direct Investment are all up. There has been considerable growth in Afghanistan’s domestic revenues as well as international reserves, which have nearly doubled since 2004. However, Afghanistan still faces formidable economic challenges. The Afghan government remains overly dependent on foreign aid, with official revenues covering only 20 percent of recurrent costs. Costs, particularly for food and fuel, are rising, as is inflation. Access to credit is limited, and few Afghans are able to borrow.

Four strategic economic priorities support the counterinsurgency effort. These include: 1) embracing free market economic policy at senior levels of government, 2) enhancing government resources, 3) addressing inflation and 4) implementing structural reforms. Commitment to free markets means resisting costly subsidies and price controls that serve to reduce resources for other more constructive expenditures in areas like infrastructure, education, and healthcare. U.S. and international community efforts are assisting the Afghan government in moving towards a sustainable fiscal policy capable of generating revenue, managing resources, and operating without foreign financial support. The international community is also trying to boost economic growth by modernizing the country’s infrastructure, particularly in the areas of electrical power, road construction, water management and agricultural development. Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) are key elements in these endeavors, ensuring that reconstruction and development efforts are coordinated at all levels and responsive to local needs. Finally, trade is benefiting, albeit slowly, from growing regional integration. Afghanistan is scheduled to join the South Asian Free Trade Area, bringing greater access to and integration with six other countries in the region including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Looking Ahead

The U.S. commitment to Afghanistan is unwavering. Success in Afghanistan is both crucial to global security and is a moral responsibility. Achieving that success will take time, effort, resources, and the sustained interest and commitment of the international community.

Moreover, success will never be achieved through military means alone, but through a comprehensive approach that involves all elements of power: military, diplomatic, and economic. Above all, it will require a sustained effort to continue to develop the capacity of the Afghans themselves. Where we have begun to apply such an approach, real progress is being made. It is critical that we continue to build on the momentum that has been achieved.

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