Report: Defining Success in Afghanistan

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Executive Summary

  • The New Year finds the situation in southern Afghanistan fundamentally different from what it was at the start of 2010.

The Taliban has lost almost all of its principal safe havens in this area.

Its ability to acquire, transport, and use IED materials and other weapons and equipment has been disrupted.

Local populations have stepped forward to fight the Taliban with ISAF support for the first time in some important areas.

The momentum of the insurgency in the south has unquestionably been arrested and probably reversed.

  • The insurgents do not have momentum anywhere in RC(East). Coalition operations continue to disrupt them in Greater Paktia and are increasingly pushing into their safe havens and support zones in Ghazni, Logar, and Wardak. Insurgents have not been able to conduct a coordinated campaign in Nangarhar or Konar or to make much use of isolated safe havens they retain in Nuristan.
  • Despite alarmist reports from the Intelligence Community and elsewhere, the insurgency is not gaining strength in northern Afghanistan and is extremely unlikely to do so.
  • Direct action operations against terrorists, insurgent leaders and facilitators, narcotics labs, and other key nodes of the various networks that support unrest in Afghanistan have increased both in pace and in effectiveness.
  • From a military standpoint, the counterinsurgency is going reasonably well, insofar as it is possible to judge over the winter. Challenges remain in the areas that have been or are being cleared, and the requirements for the next series of operations are becoming apparent.
  • The theater remains inadequately resourced. The shortfalls, however, are considerably more likely to protract an otherwise successful campaign than they are to make it fail.
  • Political progress has been much more limited, but that is to be expected this early into the implementation of the new strategy. It is too soon to judge the effectiveness of the current approach in this area.

The real test of the security gains in southern Afghanistan will come in late summer 2011, when the insurgent fighting effort can be expected to reach its peak. The seasonal nature of enemy activity makes judging the depth of progress before then extremely difficult.

Read the entire report here. (PDF)

Additional Off-site Authors: 
Frederick Kagan