Conditions conducive to troop drawdown: Pentagon
WASHINGTON (PAN): Conditions on the ground are conducive enough to begin a drawdown of troops from Afghanistan as scheduled, the Pentagon told the US Congress on Friday.
However, tough fight lies ahead as the Taliban would try to regain the momentum they lost over the last six months, the Department of Defense said in a half-yearly report.
"Overall, a sound strategy and sufficient resources have given the coalition sufficient momentum to capitalise on these gains through the summer and, in July 2011, to begin the process of transitioning security to the Afghan government," the Pentagon said.
Nonetheless, the months ahead would see setbacks as well as successes, it added, warning there would be difficult fighting and tough losses as the insurgent tried to regain momentum and key areas lost over the past six months.
The report said the 2010 surge of foreign troops and civilian personnel and the ongoing surge of Afghan security forces allowed ISAF to get the inputs right in Afghanistan for the first time. As a result, security gains have been made.
"The ANSF continue to translate training into operational capacity, and are now regularly operating side-by-side with ISAF troops and proving themselves increasingly capable in combat,” said the 122-page report."
Progress in governance and development was slower than security gains in the reporting period, but there were notable improvements, particularly in the south and southwest.
Overall, the report acknowledged, the progress across Afghanistan remained fragile and reversible, but the momentum generated over the last six months had established the necessary conditions for the commencement of the transition.
"The Taliban remained enormously unpopular during this period, with 75 percent of the population believing it would be bad for the country if the Taliban returned to power (compared to 68 percent at the end of the last reporting period)."
Although the country was currently reliant on international aid, economic growth was steady, and there was great future potential to generate revenue through mineral extraction and new regional economic trade agreements, the Pentagon continued.
"Nonetheless, external support will continue to be critical in the near and medium term to help mitigate shortfalls in infrastructure, human capacity, security, and anticipated government revenue," it concluded.
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