By Karen Parrish, American Forces Press ServiceDecember 16, 2010
WASHINGTON (Dec. 16, 2010) -- The Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review, released today, offers a national security staff-led assessment of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
A summary of the report reaffirms the strategy's "core goal" to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al-Qaida in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and prevent its return to either country.
Specific components of the strategy are working well, the summary notes, particularly in weakening al-Qaida's senior leadership in Pakistan and arresting the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan.
The challenge remaining, the review summary states, is "to make our gains durable and sustainable."
Durable progress rests on denying al-Qaida safe haven in western Pakistan and restoring basic stability and security in Afghanistan, according to the review.
The surge of U.S. and international military and civilian resources beginning in July has enabled progress and is "setting the conditions to begin the responsible reduction of U.S. forces in July 2011," the summary states.
Though weakened, al-Qaida remains a threat to the United States and its interests, and Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to be the operational base for the group responsible for the 9/11 attacks, the summary's authors wrote. Pakistan is central to U.S. efforts to defeat al-Qaida and related groups, and there has been "substantial but uneven" progress in relations with that country over the past year, they added.
"We worked jointly in the last year to disrupt the threat posed by al-Qaida, and Pakistan has made progress against extremist safe havens, taking action in six of seven agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas," the summary's authors wrote.
The review recommends greater cooperation with Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan and advises linking effective development strategies with military action as the best means to deny insurgent safe havens.
"In 2011," the summary says, "we must strengthen our dialogue with both Pakistan and Afghanistan on regional stability," a dialogue that will continue in part through meetings between the secretary of state and foreign ministers from both countries.
U.S. strategy is setting the conditions to begin transition to Afghan security lead in early 2011 and to begin a responsible, conditions-based U.S. troop reduction in July of 2011, according to the review summary.
"Moreover, at the recent NATO Lisbon Summit, we forged a broad Afghan and international consensus, agreeing on a path to complete transition by the end of 2014," the summary's authors wrote. "Even after we draw down our combat forces, the U.S. will continue to support Afghanistan's development and security as a strategic partner, just as the NATO-Afghanistan partnership affirms the broader and enduring international community support to Afghanistan."
Progress is most evident in the gains Afghan and coalition forces are making in clearing the Taliban heartland of Kandahar and Helmand provinces, according to the review summary, and in the significantly increased size and improved capability of Afghan security forces.
"ISAF and the Afghan government have also adopted a robust partnering plan that has accelerated tactical-level development of Afghan forces' leadership and units, although significant development challenges remain," the summary notes.
"Consolidating those gains will require that we make more progress with Pakistan to eliminate sanctuaries for violent extremist networks," the summary concludes. "Durability also requires continued work with Afghanistan to transfer cleared areas to their security forces."