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Synopsis

Issued in April 2012, this important Department of Defense report provides an up-to-date status on the war in Afghanistan. The Executive Summary states:

Since initial publication in June 2008, the Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan has provided the U.S. Congress semi-annual assessments on developments in Afghanistan and the state of the international coalition's civil-military campaign. The June 2008 report presented a bleak assessment of the situation in Afghanistan: "The Taliban regrouped after its fall from power and have coalesced into a resilient insurgency." A year later the situation had declined further; as noted in the June 2009 report: "The security situation continued to deteriorate in much of Afghanistan." However, these trends gradually began to change as shifts in strategy were supported by critical resources, and in November 2010, the report for the first time highlighted "modest gains in security, governance, and development in operational priority areas," noting as well their uneven and fragile character. The last three iterations reported that progress has continued to expand, with the most recent report in October 2011 highlighting "important security gains" and "reversal of violence trends in much of the country."

During the current reporting period of October 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and its Afghan partners have continued to build on and expand this progress. The year 2011 saw the first year-over-year decline in nationwide enemy-initiated attacks in five years. These trends have continued in 2012. The performance of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the close partnership between the ANSF and ISAF have been keys to this success. As a result, the ANSF continue to develop into a force capable of assuming the lead for security responsibility throughout Afghanistan. Security progress and the development of the ANSF during the reporting period have enabled the security Transition process to continue in accordance with Lisbon Summit commitments. As of the end of the reporting period, nearly 50 percent of Afghans were living in areas where the ANSF have begun to assume the lead for security.

Despite these and other positive trends during the reporting period, the campaign also continued to face both long-term and acute challenges. The Taliban-led insurgency and its al Qaeda affiliates still operate with impunity from sanctuaries in Pakistan. The insurgency's safe haven in Pakistan, as well as the limited capacity of the Afghan Government, remain the biggest risks to the process of turning security gains into a durable and sustainable Afghanistan. The insurgency benefits from safe havens inside Pakistan with notable operational and regenerative capacity. The insurgency remains a resilient and determined enemy and will likely attempt to regain lost ground and influence this spring and summer through assassinations, intimidation, high-profile attacks, and the emplacement of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Additionally, the Afghan Government continues to face widespread corruption that limits its effectiveness and legitimacy and bolsters insurgent messaging.

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