U.S. Showing Mixed Signs of Progress in Afghanistan
    2010-05-08 11:35:33     Xinhua      Web Editor: Zhang Jin
 
The U.S war effort in Afghanistan is showing mixed signs of progress, as U.S. troops gear up for an offensive in Kandahar in the southern part of the war torn country.

A recent Pentagon report contained good news and bad news for Washington. On one hand, the Taliban believes last year marked its best year since the start of the conflict nearly a decade ago, and the group boasts an adequate supply of weapons and cash, the report said.

But the report also found that the "continuing decline in stability in Afghanistan, described in the last report, has leveled off in many areas over the last three months of this reporting period." The report also said that polls show that Afghans view security as improved since a year ago.

Still, members of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday voiced concern that U.S. forces lack the proper support to allow them to achieve success, reported CQ Politics.com.

While members of both parties of the United States praised some of U.S. forces' progress against the Taliban, they also noted a number of problems, including meeting requests to provide an adequate number of trainers for Afghan security forces, reported CQ politics.com.

Ranking member Howard McKeon, a Republican from California, said the Pentagon is too slow to provide technology that would neutralize insurgent projectiles to defend its bases in the war ravaged country. He said the situation was "disconcerting" and that there is evidence that such systems saved hundreds of lives in Iraq, reported CQ Politics.com

Chairman Ike Skelton , a Democrat from Missouri, said that there are positive signs but expressed concern over what he called continuing weakness of local government, adding that the government still can not deliver the leadership and services needed to persuade Afghans to take the U.S. side against the Taliban, reported CQ Politics.com.

U.S. President Barack Obama has dispatched an additional 30,000 troops to the battle frayed country since December in a bid to increase security and ramp up Afghan forces' capacity before the U.S. handover of security duties, which is expected in July 2011.

In an admission of the tough job ahead, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan David Petraeus said last week that his troops would face difficulties in Kandahar, where thousands of U.S. and NATO forces are readying themselves for an upcoming offensive.

"There have been tough moments here in Kandahar in recent weeks - that is well known. And we know that there will be more tough moments in the weeks and months ahead," said Petraeus, as reported by the Associated Press.

"As we learned in Iraq, and as we have re-learned in Afghanistan, when you fight to take away the momentum and the sanctuaries and the safe havens of the enemy, the enemy fights back. And that can be difficult and tough to fight," he said.

U.S. forces are moving into the area in a bid to secure places that have seen a spate of Taliban attacks in recent months, according to the Associated Press.

NATO's Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan Mark Sedwill on Thursday warned that U.S. and NATO forces could see more fatalities, on top of last year's record number, the Guardian newspaper reported last week.

What's more, the nearly decade-old U.S. fight could drag on another four years and U.S. involvement in the battle-ravaged country could continue another decade, Sedwill said.

Malou Innocent, foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute think tank, said four years may prove to be an understatement.

"The international community is committed to strengthening the capacity of the Afghan government. Sadly, prolonged foreign investment will reward corruption, undermine domestic initiatives for long-term reform and fiscal sustainability and prolong Kabul's dependency on the international community," said Innocent.

Last year saw the most U.S. fatalities to date. According to icasualties.org, 316 U.S. troops were killed in 2009, and a total of 1055 have been killed since the conflict began in 2001 on the heels of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

But in spite of those and other worrisome factors, there have also been some of what observers describe as positive developments.

In spite of an 87-percent rise in violence from February 2009 to March 2010, 59 percent of Afghans believed their government was on the right track, according to the Pentagon report.

Innocent also said rudimentary education, civil sector reform, and medical development have improved significantly since the fall of the Taliban regime.

Still, security has worsened in recent months and half the country is inaccessible to agents of the United Nation's refugee agency.

The agency is reliant on Afghan partner groups or local staff to enter areas hosting tens of thousands of refugees to whom it aims to provide aid, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told reporters in Geneva on Wednesday.
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