Safe havens in Pakistan to blame for 'slow US progress'
America hindered by failure to stop Taliban gains, says Pentagon report
A DAMNING progress report on the US-led military campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan claimed yesterday that progress was hindered by Pakistan's failure to shut down more havens for terrorists.
The hard-hitting Pentagon report said that: "Efforts to reduce insurgent capacity, such as safe havens and logistic support originating in Pakistan and Iran, have not produced measurable results."
The Defence Department report on the war effort covering the six months up to September 30 added that, "Pakistan's domestic extremist threat and the 2010 floods reduce the potential for a more aggressive or effective Pakistani effort in the near term".
The coalition has made more inroads in Afghanistan in the seven weeks since the end of the period covered by the report, State Department and Pentagon officials said. Troops have intensified operations in the Taliban's heartland in and around the city of Kandahar and cleared key areas of militants.
Still, militant groups holing up in Pakistan's ungoverned northwest cross over the mountainous border for attacks in Afghanistan, according to the report.
Pakistan's militants also won converts on their own territory by providing relief in areas affected by floods earlier this year.
Pakistan's army leaders recently agreed to allow US and coalition officers to set up an office in Quetta, a city near the border with Afghanistan. American officials believe the Afghan Taliban leadership is based in Quetta.
The report's findings, along with conditions on the ground since then, will feed an administration assessment of the war effort due for completion in December. Army General David Petraeus, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is seeking to show progress so he can begin to hand over some territory to Afghan control next year.
Plans for the coming months include an offensive to expand security from the capital of Kabul into surrounding provinces, particularly in eastern Afghanistan. Coalition operations have pressured militants in that region and disrupted networks of the Taliban and the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, which has links to the Taliban.
President Barack Obama a year ago authorised 30,000 additional troops to be brought in during 2010 to step up the fight, with a timetable to begin reducing numbers by July 2011. Most of the added forces were in place by October, increasing the US contingent to about 95,000.
The Taliban was able to regroup and adapt its techniques even as the US and its partners pumped in additional troops, according to the report. The coalition was able to hold or gain ground most in areas where it has stayed the longest, such as the central part of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan.
The coalition and Afghan forces "gradually are pushing insurgents to the edges of secured population areas in a number of important locations," officials said in the report.
The Afghan government and the coalition "continue to face a resilient enemy that exploits governance gaps and continues to fight to retain long-standing sanctuaries." (©Bloomberg)