175 DSC 11 E rev. 1 FINAL- TRANSITION IN AFGHANISTAN: ASSESSING THE SECURITY EFFORT
SVEN MIKSER (ESTONIA), GENERAL RAPPORTEUR
II. REVIEWING THE CAMPAIGN: RESOURCES AND STRATEGY
III. REGIONAL PROGRESS REVIEW AND ASSESSMENT
IV. GENERAL CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT
V. NATO TRAINING MISSION IN AFGHANISTAN
VI. THE AFGHAN LOCAL POLICE INITIATIVE
VII. TARGETING THE ENEMY’S LEADERSHIP
VIII. THE ROLE OF PRIVATE SECURITY COMPANIES
IX. COUNTER-NARCOTIC EFFORTS
1. At the November 2010 Lisbon Summit NATO member states clearly re-affirmed their enduring long term commitment to a sovereign, independent, democratic, secure and stable Afghanistan. Members pledged their commitment to the Afghan people and to an Afghanistan that will never again be a safe haven for terrorists and terrorism. The Lisbon Summit Declaration underlined that the UN-mandated, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan ‘remains the Alliance’s key priority’, and welcomed the important progress that had been made to date. Strategically, the declaration bound the future security of the Alliance with the future security of Afghanistan by asserting ‘Afghanistan’s security is directly linked to our own security’, whilst welcoming the valuable and increased contributions made by ISAF partners.1
3. NATO’s senior leadership has been adamant that transitions will be based on conditions on the ground rather than driven by any political calendar or deadline, following joint Afghan and NATO/ISAF assessment and decision. Looking toward the end of 2014, member states expressed their intent that Afghan forces will assume full responsibility for security across the whole of Afghanistan. After transition, NATO forces are slated to remain in a supporting role.4
4. The killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has fed into a reassessment in many NATO capitals regarding how rapidly withdrawals from Afghanistan could and should occur. The June 2011 speech by US President Obama, in which he announced the phased withdrawal of previously ‘surged’ US troops, has increased focus on the transition strategy and the ability of the Afghans to provide their own security and governance within the 2014 timeframe. It has also prompted other NATO member states to announce their own withdrawal/end of combat mission dates. It should be noted that, for all the strategic and political repercussions of bin Laden’s death, the event has had little impact on day to day operations in Afghanistan itself.
5. This discussion also occurs in the context of continued insecurity in Afghanistan, as 2010 was the most lethal year for both Afghan civilians and NATO personnel and the first six months of 2011 have been the most lethal for Afghan civilians since this conflict began.5 Recent data collected by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) suggests that total insurgent attacks between January and March 2011 have soared 51% higher than last year. The increase in the number of attacks between seasons is also higher than the same period in 2010. March 2011 saw 1,102 attacks, averaging 35 per day, even surpassing the August 2009 peak surrounding the Presidential elections.6 The deliberate targeting by the insurgency of high-profile Afghan officials involved in the transition process also presents a significant challenge.
6. Given these developments, this report, prepared for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Defence and Security Committee, differs significantly from a previous draft presented to the Committee in May. It is intended to assess, insofar as possible given the resources at our disposal, the evolution of the security situation in Afghanistan. It is deliberately limited in scope in that reports by the other Committees of the Assembly are treating other critical areas such as governance, development, and the role of neighbouring countries.
7. This report will cover the issues that most clearly occupy the realm of security. Thus the elements of ISAF strategy that are covered include: the ongoing military operations and their impact on the enemy and on the establishment of zones of stability; efforts to continue to develop the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), principally through the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan (NTM-A), as well as standing up local security forces; the ongoing controversy of the role of private security companies; and efforts to address the narcotics problem.
8. One key judgment should be made clear at the outset: the results of the surge of troops that flowed into Afghanistan between December 2009 and November 2010 remain open to interpretation. While important security gains have indubitably been made in the South and Southwest of the country, and despite the impressive progress of the Afghan security forces, insecurity remains pervasive enough to suggest that sustained effort will remain necessary if gains are to be consolidated. To put it more succinctly, the hard-won progress gained by international forces on behalf of the Afghan people and our own populations is real; but it remains fragile.
9. In 2010-2011, the Afghanistan campaign was waged largely based on counter-insurgency strategy (COIN). Buoyed by a ‘surge’ of more than 30,000 troops completed in November 2010, ISAF and ANSF forces launched combat operations to clear and hold more locations across Afghanistan. Largely as a result of these operations, and as expected by military planners7, there was an upsurge in violence in 2010 as the more numerous international forces spread into more areas and thus came more frequently into direct contact with insurgents.8 An outline of the strategic plan facilitated by these operations is found below; the sections which follow afterwards provide an overview of the locations of major ISAF/ANSF operations and an assessment of the current security situation in these areas.
10. The ISAF campaign strategy focuses on three main efforts:9
11. Central to this COIN strategy is the conditions-based transition of security responsibility to ANSF. In September 2010, the Joint Afghan-NATO Inteqal Board (JANIB) met for the first time to discuss transition.10 In March 2011, the first output from the JANIB outlined the prospects for beginning transition in some areas this year.11 This was a joint agreement between NATO and the Afghan leadership, involving the respective chains of command, with the final decision made by President Karzai. General Petraeus, former COMISAF, highlighted that “this is a process, not a single event” and that there are various stages to successful transition.12
12. As of June 2011, there were approximately 90,000 US Forces and approximately 42,381 international forces in Afghanistan.13 The 30,000 US personnel increase that arrived in 2010 was comprised of three separate force packages, each built to provide specific capabilities essential to achieving the main goals of the campaign plan, particularly in Regional Command South (RCSouth) and Regional Command East (RC-East). The US force surge was completed in November 2010. Moreover, NATO welcomed force pledges from 40 countries in a range of capabilities including operations, tactics, and training. ISAF received pledges of 9,700 additional personnel from NATO and non-NATO partners since President’s Obama’s December 2009 speech and General Petraeus said that, overall, ISAF had the inputs right.14
13. The ISAF concept of operations is depicted in Figure 1. The main operational effort remains focused on the Central Helmand River Valley, where comprehensive civil-military efforts are aimed at bringing improved governance, development and security to the more than 500,000 Afghans living in these six districts.
15. RC- East assessment
16. Regional Command – South (RC-South)
17. RC-South assessment
18. However, a recent spate of assassinations, suicide bombings and attacks has raised concerns about a change of tactics amongst insurgents in this area, whose conventional capabilities have been significantly weakened by ISAF efforts.31 The victims of these targeted attacks have included President Karazai’s brother, Ahmed Wali, who was the key power broker in Kandahar city and was reportedly assisting the allies with their efforts to negotiate a political settlement with the Taliban.32
19. Regional Command – Southwest (RC-Southwest)
20. The main effort for RC-Southwest, and indeed ISAF, still remains operation Moshtarak in the Central Helmand River Valley. This operation has sought to extend the authority of the Afghan Government to the previously ungoverned Nad-e-Ali District, including the town of Marjah. Operations were conducted in 2010-2011 to clear areas, capture and kill insurgents and support development and legitimate governance in this area. Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (CIED) operations were also conducted in northern Helmand. RC-Southwest implemented measures to counter the movement of illicit materials and drugs with interdiction operations resulting in the destruction of illicit drugs valued at approximately US$135 million. RC-Southwest partners ANSF on approximately 77% of all its operations, of which 8% had Afghan Forces in the lead.34
21. RC-Southwest assessment
22. Regional Command West – (RC-West)
23. Regional Command – North (RC-North)
25. Commanders report that RC-North has traditionally been among the most secure in the country51 and progress has been made in the last 12 months. Unfortunately, a December 2010 poll found that northern Afghans believed their living conditions were worsening markedly and Taliban activity was increasing.52 Commanders were concerned about losing momentum and preventing a return of the insurgency to these cleared areas during spring/summer 2011.53 The biggest remaining challenges are to ensure that recent gains are sustained and expanded in the Baghlan-Kunduz corridor, a vital effort to encourage the local population to support the government and security forces.54
26. Regional Command – Capital (RC-Capital)
27. RC-Capital assessment
28. Figure 2 shows the regional command structure of the ISAF operation in relation to the Afghan provinces and usefully portrays the evolution of the security situation in these RC’s. As indicated, since the implementation of the surge, overall progress in improving the wider security situation in Afghanistan has been slow. Figure 2 also shows how insecure RCs South and Southwest remain despite the improvements over the last year. While there have been localised tactical successes in delivering security, as yet these have failed to deliver strategic results.59
29. There remain significant and widespread challenges to both security and governance in many areas. The insurgency continues to retain momentum in certain areas and is targeting high profile non-military targets, such as hospitals, hotels and high level officials.60 Violence between March and September 2010 was at its highest ever rate with insurgent attacks increasing nearly 55% over the previous quarter and by 65% compared to the third quarter of 2009.61 There have also been over 25 attacks by ANSF or ANSF impersonators on NATO soldiers and Afghan officials over the last two years.62
30. Military planners have long suggested that the insurgency’s activity in summer 2011 would be an indicator of its continuing capability.63 Unfortunately, early evidence seems to indicate that such attacks have continued at an alarming rate throughout the summer fighting season. May 2011 was one of the most violent months on record, with 1,571 insurgent attacks launched. June 2011 showed only a 2% reduction on this figure.64 May was also the deadliest month for Afghan civilians on record, with 368 being killed according to the United Nations (of these, 82% of the casualties were caused by the insurgency and 12% by NATO forces).65
31. As outlined in last year’s Defence and Security Committee General Report on ‘Preparing the Afghan National Security Forces for Transition’, progress with the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan (NTM-A) was the ISAF success story of 2010. The following paragraphs provide an update on this progress, on targets for 2011, and outline the remaining challenges for the training mission.
32. As of March 2011, ANSF numbers sat at almost 285,000, representing Afghan army strength of 159,363 and Afghan National Police at over 125,589. The 92,000 more Afghan soldiers and police represents an over 42% expansion of the ANSF between November 2009 and March 2011, including an over 57% increase in the size of the ANA alone over during this period. It is currently projected that by October 2011 total ANSF numbers will reach 305,000.66 This will be facilitated by the fact that 58,000 police and soldiers are in training everyday at present. As of July 2011, evidence suggests that ANSF numbers will be increased to around 352,000 by summer 2012.67
33. There has also been good progress in improving the quality of the ANSF. Literacy is critical for developing leaders and sustaining equipment. Over the last year there has been a successful drive to increase literacy in the ANSF. In 2008 literacy rates were 14%; currently 85% of ANSF recruits now have basic literacy when leaving training.68 Between March 2010 and March 2011 there has been a 136% increase in ANSF personnel in literacy training.69 Moreover, 80% of the police and 95% of the army now receive their pay via electronic funds transfer, greatly reducing the opportunities for corruption, and both the police and army are now paid a living wage that meets or exceeds the national standard of living.
34. Focus has also been placed on properly equipping the ANSF. US$7,7 billion has been invested in Afghan equipment since November 2009. Army and police forces are now equipped with quality weapons, tactical gear and technical equipment, including radios, biometric devices and protective wear. All ANSF boots and uniforms are now made in Afghanistan, creating indigenous industrial capability. With a further US$4,9 billion to be spent on equipment, officials suggest that advances in literacy should overlap to ensure correct stewardship of equipment and protection of this investment.70
35. Progress has also been made in improving the trainer-recruit ratio. NTM-A is now at 73% of manning requirements, up from 25% one year ago. ANA instructor ratios in basic training have jumped from 1:79 to 1:29 during this period. Initiatives have also been introduced to improve the quality of life of the ANSF, such as better food, rotation of operational units and individual leave packages. Such initiatives help improve manpower figures by attracting new recruits and retaining those in the forces, as does greater emphasis on personnel accountability within the ANA. At present, 74% of those completing their two-year contracts sign up for further service.71 NATO officials have consistently urged nations whose combat forces are relieved by the transition process to re-invest their efforts by allocating their resources to the training mission. NTM-A recently warned a visiting Assembly delegation of a prospective shortfall of 470 trainers in March 2012, and a continuing shortfall of 450 Police Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams.
36. “The NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan (NATC-A) is an NTM-A/CSTC-A organisation that builds air power in Afghanistan along four lines of operation: aircraft build; airmen build; infrastructure build; and operational capability. The institutional development of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) integrates these four lines of operation by building a professional, self-sustaining institution”. In January 2011 the AAF had 56 aircraft, or approximately 38% of the planned build of 146 aircraft. Personnel strength was approximately 4,728 airmen in March 2011. This total increased by 1,239 personnel over the March 2010 strength of 3,389 personnel, a gain of almost 40%.72
37. The NTM-A realises that growth alone will not set the conditions for irreversible transition. It has therefore set out its main priority for 2011 as training Afghan trainers and instructors. The development of quality Afghan trainers and instructors, who are capable of leading and training their force and eventually assuming responsibility for training are the essential building block for institutional self reliance and eventual transition. The development of a quality train-the-trainer system in 2011 will underpin efforts to create a self generating and self sustaining ANSF.73
38. The other four critical areas to be developed in 2011 are: accelerated leader development, continued building of literacy and vocational skills, inculcation of an ethos of stewardship and the development of enduring institutions, systems and enablers. To rapidly overcome leadership shortfalls in the ANA and ANP, and to create professional Non-Commissioned Officers and Officers, new officer candidate schools will come on stream in spring 2011 to train both ANSF branches’ new leaders. In literacy, the NTM-A aims to have 100,000 ANSF in training by fall 2011 and the focus is now on continuing literacy development and building of vocational skills such as logistics, communications and engineering, amongst others. The inculcation of good stewardship within the ANSF involves imbuing the importance of responsibility, accountability and maintenance at all levels of training and education. Finally, security institution capacity building will underpin and support progress made within ANSF through developing strategic planning, budgeting and resourcing, and improving the national level systems necessary to sustain the Afghan security forces.74
39. Attrition is probably the most fundamental obstacle to the NTM-A mission. In July and August 2010, consistent with the seasonal violence trends, attrition rates increased above the monthly average, to 3% and 2,4%, respectively. As of May 2011 they were still too high, at 2,3%, or about 30% a year.75 If the levels of attrition seen throughout the last five months continue, it is assessed there is a ‘significant risk’ to the ANA growth target for October 2011.76 Despite the initiatives outlined above, progress is slow and attrition has not declined fast enough, but it has trended downward of late. Attrition needs to be steady below 2% for the ANA to reach its manpower targets. The ANP has an acceptable annual attrition rate of 18% as of June 2011.77
40. While careful attention is being paid to the ethnic composition of the ANA in particular, success in recruiting southern Pashtuns has so far proved elusive. Forty four per cent of the population of Afghanistan are Pashtuns, a figure reflected in the composition of the army. However, only 3% of soldiers are southern Pashtuns. With more targeted recruitment and 2010’s gains in central Helmand, there have been some improvements in the recruitment of southern Pashtuns, but more needs to be done to ensure ethnic balance. Of note, in March 2011, 201 southern Pashtuns were recruited into the ANA, a slight decrease from February, and representing 80% of the monthly target.78 The ethnic make-up of the ANSF has serious implications not only for its credibility across the whole of Afghanistan, but also in determining where its loyalty lies. Moreover, retirement schemes for senior officers have been introduced to help enable more professional and less patriarchal army leaders to reach senior positions.
41. The long term sustainability of the NTM-A and the ANSF post-transition is another concern. Currently, the NTM-A receives over US$1 billion per month from the United States of America and US$400 million from the NATO Alliance. However, when seen against total expenditure in Afghanistan of over US$110 billion per annum, the NTM-A cost tag is relatively small. Commander NTM-A also predicts that a full strength ANSF will cost between US$6-8 billion per annum to sustain post transition. Given the fact that Afghan annual GDP is estimated at US$15,51 billion,79 there are obvious concerns about the ability of the Afghans to sustain the ANSF without massive continued economic support from NATO member states post-transition.
42. In September 2010 the Afghan Local Police Initiative replaced other various indigenous local Afghan security programmes, most the Afghan Public Protection Force.80 This had been a relatively successful trial programme using local militias to provide security in Wardak province. The ALP Initiative is a temporary (two to five year) village-focused programme that complements COIN efforts and Village Stability Operations by targeting selected areas with limited to no ANSF presence to shape conditions for improved security, governance, and development. Thus, the ALP supports ISAF efforts by further expanding and extending security and stability through village stability operations in remote areas. The Afghan Ministry of Interior subsequently identified 68 locations for ALP elements of 250-350 personnel and stood up the first eight sites in September 2010.81
43. The ALP Initiative allows for transition of its eligible personnel to regular ANSF or other forms of employment. Therefore, the Initiative does not detract from ANSF growth, but helps close a gap in security coverage. ALP personnel trained and organised into village watch teams and supported by ISAF Special Operations Forces, will serve as an early warning and initial village defence element against insurgent activity. The ALP does not count toward approved ANP endstrength. As of April 2011, there were 34 validated/operational districts, 29 districts pending validation, and 14 pending approval for ALP elements. The projected total number of ALP is foreseen to be in the region of 30,000.82
44. At present, more time is needed to accurately assess the viability and effectiveness of the ALP Initiative. NATO has stated that numerous control measures will be implemented to mitigate Afghan Government concerns that this effort does not reconstitute the warlords’ militias that once terrorized Afghanistan, exacerbate tribal or ethnic imbalances, or undermine the authority of the state. However, recent anecdotal evidence suggests that this is indeed happening in the some areas where ALP forces have been rolled out, and that locals often believe they are no better than the Taliban.83 Ultimately, the Initiative’s reliance on a tribal strategy can only succeed as part of a nation-wide Afghan ownership of security and it must be seen in this context.84
45. There is growing evidence that the 2010 campaign waged across Afghanistan against mid and top level insurgent commanders has largely been successful. As these operations have been conducted by a combination of Special Operations Forces (SOF) and conventional ground forces, much data remains classified. However, according to military commanders, 2010 has been the insurgency’s worst year since 2001-2002. Enabled by good intelligence, the tempo of SOF and ground force operations have been greatly increased over the last year. In 2010, a tripling in the number of raids resulted in the killing of more than 1,200 insurgents, including some 300 thought to hold leadership roles, according to ISAF.85 There were 1,600 ISAF SOF operations launched in the first three months of 2011, an average of 18 a night, and almost 3,000 insurgents were captured or killed in these raids.86 It appears these operations have had a significant impact on insurgent capability. General Petraeus has stated that “the momentum of the Taliban has been halted in much of the country and reversed in some important areas.”87
46. In southern Afghanistan, fighters have been eliminated in “industrial numbers” convincing both ISAF and indigenous Afghan officials “that the initiative has really shifted.”88 This increased focus on killing or capturing mid-level insurgent commanders and degrading insurgent groups also appears to have borne results in RC-Southwest and RC-East.89 Although militarily confident, officials still caution that a failure in Afghan governance could fracture these extensive gains. The biggest point of potential failure is if the Kabul Government stunts governance at the periphery. Thus, lack of credible local governance alternatives to the insurgency is still hampering the reintegration programme in many areas.
47. Keeping extended pressure on the insurgency is a key tenet of the COIN strategy which seeks to separate reconcilable fighters from the hardliners. In June 2010 a Peace Jirga gave President Karzai the mandate to pursue peace negotiations to end the conflict. Re-conciliation and re-integration efforts have been undertaken by the Afghanistan Peace and ReIntegration Programme, steered by a national-level High Peace Council. While there is some evidence to suggest that these efforts have delivered local successes, to date there has been only “modest” momentum in persuading insurgent fighters to quit and re-integrate, according to General Petraeus.90
48. The insurgency consists of a number of actors. The Haqqani Network is a strong, triballybased group led by Sarajudin Haqqani in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and eastern Afghanistan. Traditionally considered a client of Pakistan’s intelligence services, and host to al-Qaeda, the Haqqani Network is the most ideologically committed group facing ISAF forces in Afghanistan. They also remain ideologically close to al-Qaeda and therefore represent the largest insurgent group least open to Kabul’s peace initiatives.91 The Haqqani network has developed ties with the Tehrik-I-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) federation of insurgent groups that is aligned against the Pakistani government and its recent counter insurgency efforts in FATA. The TTP are currently assessed to be another of the “irreconcilables” by analysts.92 The same applies to the originally Pakistani-sponsored LashkareTaibi (LeT), the group responsible for the Mumbai attacks of November 2008, who also operate in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region.93
49. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-I-Islami Gulbuddin (HiG) is perhaps the least significant of Afghanistan’s major insurgent groups.94 HiG has previously had ties with the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).95 Its main area of operation is in northeastern Afghanistan, such as the provinces of Kunar, Laghman and Paktia. While it is unlikely that Hekmatyar himself could ever serve in the Afghan government, his organisation remains the insurgent group believed to be the most open to eventual reconciliation with Kabul. This is supported by evidence that Hekmatyar has previously issued statements conducive to possible negotiations with the Afghan government,96 that he may have links with Hizb-I-Islami Afghanistan (HiA) party members in the Kabul government97 and that some HiG members have already defected.98
50. Criminal networks involved in drugs smuggling, kidnapping and illicit mining also exist, as do “accidental guerrilla” local actors. In theory, both these broad and disparate groups could be reconciled given the right initiatives at local level. The same goes for the warlords and corrupt officials whose primary goal is to maintain their localised power bases. As outlined above, there are some prospects for reconciliation, but these remain hampered by the lack of cohesion amongst the insurgents, their differing ideological standpoints and their sponsors. As one commentator has observed, the Afghans are “perfectly comfortable fighting whilst talking”.99 Buoyed by the statement of a drawdown date beginning in July, most groups appear to be content to sit on the fence for the moment.100
51. Drone strikes, both as ISAF missions within Afghanistan and as unilateral missions in the Afghan-Pakistani border regions, have also caused significant attrition to insurgent and terrorist cells operating in these areas. According to one estimate, the number of CIA armed drone missions in Pakistan’s tribal regions doubled between 2009 and 2010, to 100 combat flights.101 Owing to the classified nature of data and different metrics, exact numbers of insurgents killed and the ratio of insurgent kills to civilian deaths remain hotly debated, but around a 65:35 ratio has been suggested by experienced commentators.102 Strong anecdotal evidence suggests that while there have been undoubtedly many collateral damage incidents, these missions do have a direct impact on terrorist plots against NATO members.103 While the role of drones in Afghanistan differs somewhat due to the more conventional nature of fighting there, they have also been successful in eliminating insurgent and terrorist commanders, with estimates putting al-Qaeda numbers at only 50-100 in the country at present.104
52. In keeping with the Kabul government’s desire to reform both western and indigenous private security companies (PSCs) operating in Afghanistan, President Karzai stated he would be disbanding all private security companies’ operations within four months of his August 2010 decree.105 Amidst the international clamour and uncertainty this created, not least due to the vital role the 50,000 PSC guards play in maintaining Afghan security, immediate disbandment was shelved in favour of an investigation into PSC operations. This Afghan government probe accused 16 firms of violations that include employing too many guards, failing to pay taxes for up to two years, and keeping unregistered weapons and armoured vehicles.
53. While NATO member states generally support Karzai's intentions, they depend on private guards to perform tasks that would otherwise be given to military units. Therefore, there has been an effort to negotiate concessions to keep private guards at their embassies and military bases, as well as guard foreign-funded development projects including roads and power plants. Thus, the major concern has been over the pace and extent of disbandment rather than the process itself.106
54. In February 2011 the international community and the Government of Afghanistan agreed a twelve month bridging strategy in relation to the reform of PSC operations. This strategy allows for the continued use of PSCs for one year, while concurrently developing the capabilities and capacity of the Ministry of Interior’s Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) whilst reducing, but not eliminating, the role of PSCs in providing Afghan security.107 A training facility for the APPF intended to process 1,000 guards per month is currently under construction.108
55. Reports suggest the agreement will allow embassy and base security to remain a western PSC responsibility. Further, development projects will continue to be allowed to contract for private guards and security services indefinitely. Under the new plan, reconstruction projects will be permitted to have 500 of their own guards, or up to 1,000 if they pay a one-off fine. For contracts requiring greater numbers of guards, the companies will be expected to recruit, train, arm and pay new APPF guards and will then take control of the contract after 12 months. If the APPF proves unable to discharge its responsibilities, the private company would remain in control.109
56. ISAF counter-narcotic strategy has two main goals: “1) counter the link between narcotics and the insurgency and significantly reduce the support the insurgency receives from the narcotics industry; and 2) address the narcotics-corruption-insurgency nexus and reinforce the government of Afghanistan.”110 At the tactical level this strategy holds that ISAF, partnered with ANSF forces, ignore poppy farmers and small suppliers and target large scale traffickers. This is seen as a key tenet of the population-centric COIN strategy currently being employed. In the RCSouth and RCSouthwest, where poppy cultivation, trafficking and the insurgency are strongest, ISAF focus has remained on military efforts.
57. United Nations authorities are forecasting a slight reduction in overall opium cultivation in Afghanistan for 2011, with a strong increase in the north and northeast offset by decreases in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, which have benefited from the Governor Led Eradication programme.111 Total opium yield and opium produced figures actually fell by almost 50% in 2010, but this decline resulted primarily from disease rather than decreases in cultivation, and has actually driven prices up, leading to the increased cultivation seen in the north and north eastern provinces.112
58. An earlier United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) report also found that “the statistical association between poor security and poppy cultivation was strong. Almost all villages with very poor security and most villages with poor security were cultivating poppies. In general, villages in insecure areas had a high probability of cultivating poppies, and villages in areas with good security were less likely to have poppy cultivation. Security was of general concern in most areas in the Southern region (Helmand, Uruzgan and Kandahar). In the Western region Badghis, Nimroz and Farah provinces had also poor security conditions.113
59. Afghan National Security Forces, with support from ISAF, seized over 49,000kg of opium, heroin and morphine between September 2010 and March 2011.114 During this period, ISAF continued to expand its capacity and improve its targeting support. It is fully operational and continues to provide support for law enforcement investigations and military operations by analyzing key trafficking networks. To disable the networks’ resiliency, ISAF targets network functions – safe havens, movement, communications and finance – rather than only individuals. These efforts are sorely needed. To put the above figures into perspective, it was estimated that 750,000kg of wet, unrefined opium pitch left insurgent controlled areas in 2008. As yet, ISAF has been unable to determine the exact financial benefit of drug trafficking for the insurgency, but total insurgent annual revenues from the narcotics trade are estimated to be in the region of US$ 430 million.115
60. Making a definitive assessment of a situation as complex as the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan is extraordinarily difficult. The following paragraphs will recapitulate what your Rapporteur sees as the most important indicators of progress at this time.
61. The advancement of the military campaign between early 2010 and mid 2011 was clear: definite, visible tactical successes were achieved in the areas of Afghanistan that ISAF and US forces have concentrated on, through intensive military-civilian effort and a high expenditure of blood and treasure.
62. For example, the central Helmand towns of Nawa, Garmsir, Lashkar Gar, Nad-e-Ali and Marjah, benefiting from focused efforts, are now relatively secure; governance and development efforts have also made progress in these areas. Military success was also visible in the traditional heartland of the Taliban, the Kandahar districts of Panjwai, Zhari and Arghandab, where former insurgent areas have been cleared and held after heavy fighting, handing the Taliban a string of tactical defeats.
63. The insurgency has been defeated tactically and operationally where it has fought ISAF ground forces, suffering severe losses. Importantly, coalition special forces raids and drone attacks have reduced the ranks of mid-level insurgent leaders.
64. Equally significant is the fact that efforts to train and equip the Afghan National Security Forces during this period have continued to bear fruit, largely thanks to the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan. Notwithstanding attrition, ANSF numbers are due to hit 305,000 in October 2011, and are to increase to a goal of 352,000. The quality of new recruits is improving, especially in literacy, as is their equipment. The Afghan Air Force has also continued to grow in capability. The number of trainers in relation to Afghan forces has been vastly increased. While Afghan forces are not yet self-sufficient, they are more frequently leading effective responses to security incidents.
65. Counter-narcotics efforts have continued, with poppy cultivation decreasing marginally across Afghanistan in 2010 and in the first six months of 2011. Seizures of narcotics almost doubled between September 2010 and March 2011, even if progress in developing Afghan counter-narcotic capability continues to be a challenge.
66. The progress achieved in the areas outlined above has been challenged on several counts. Conventional battlefield successes against the insurgency have pushed it towards new tactics, including attacks against high-profile Afghan officials and symbols of the international community. Progress in establishing zones of security has not been sufficiently matched by the provision of services by Afghan officials to local populations. Key elements of the insurgency continue to benefit from safe havens that allow for planning and replenishment of its efforts.
67. On the home front, contributing nations are looking forward to an eventual conclusion of the operation. Since the previous draft of this report, several strategically significant announcements have been made about the eventual withdrawal of national contingents from the Afghan campaign. In June 2011, President Obama outlined the phased withdrawal of the over 30,000 ‘surge’ of U.S troops he had ordered to Afghanistan, with 10,000 troops withdrawn by the end of 2011 and another 23,000 by September 2012. In 2010, the Netherlands ended its combat mission and withdrew most of its 1,900 troops. Canada’s 3,000 troops ended their combat mission in Kandahar in July, though many of these were reinvested into the training mission. The German Parliament voted in January to begin withdrawing its 4,900 soldiers by the end of 2011, marking the first time that ISAF’s third largest contributor set a time frame for bringing its soldiers home. Britain, which has the second-largest contingent with 9,500 troops, is withdrawing 450 troops by the end of 2011 and another 500 in 2012.116 The British have also stated that they will withdraw all combat troops by 2015. France is withdrawing 1,000 of its 4,000 troops by the end of 2012.117 Poland has stated it will bring its 2,600 troops home by 2014. Belgium has said it will halve its 600 strong contingent in Afghanistan in early 2012.118
68. There is also legitimate concern about diminishing support amongst the local Afghan population for the ISAF presence in Afghanistan, a dynamic made worse by incidents of civilian casualties and events (such as the burning of the Koran by a fundamentalist US pastor) that are skilfully exploited by the Taliban for propaganda purposes.
69. Clearly, those hoping that the ‘surge’ of troops that began over one year ago would serve as a panacea for the problems of Afghanistan may consider themselves disappointed. Indeed, even the advocates of the surge would concede that what progress has been made is fragile and reversible.
70. However, despite these challenges, the context of NATO’s engagement and the overall gains made thus far should not be forgotten. To name only a few, it is by any measure significant that a decade ago only 9% of Afghans had access to basic medical care; today that figure is close to 85%. Under the Taliban, one million children were in school; today this figure is seven million, a third of whom are girls.119 Afghanistan also has developed a vibrant and free media sector; and more than five million Afghan refugees have returned home.
71. The Alliance’s ongoing engagement is not only a major contributor to Afghanistan’s past and future success but also a requirement for the security of NATO’s member states. Indeed, the need to prevent Afghanistan from ever again becoming a haven for international terrorism has not diminished. This underlines the importance of ensuring that the transition process unfolds based on assessment of the conditions on the ground rather than the political imperatives in troop contributing nations; even if the killing of Osama bin Laden allowed a senior US official to see the strategic defeat of al-Qaeda “within reach”,120 the relationship between the ability of the United States of America and its allies to kill or capture senior al-Qaeda leaders on the one hand, and the readiness of the Afghan domestic security situation for transition on the other, remains ill defined.
72. Looking forward, in President Karzai’s long-term vision, the Alliance’s continued efforts are supporting his country’s transition towards a “stable, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan” that will lift its “people from poverty to prosperity and from insecurity to stability”.121 The Afghanistan of the future could become a nexus of regional economic cooperation, fully participating in the international community based on the rights and obligations of a 21st century state.122
73. Alliance members should ensure that the Afghan people are able to continue building on the fragile but very real gains made in Afghanistan, through steadfast partnership, including a deliberate, well-planned and commonly executed conclusion to combat operations when appropriate. The sacrifices we have endured collectively, and the progress these sacrifices have achieved, demand no less.