Is There Any Progress in the Afghan War?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Megan Ortagus 863-398-6184 cell December 15, 2010

Afghanistan scholar, Carl Forsberg, documents tangible progress in the Afghan war by analyzing the 2010 operations in Kandahar province, the most critical terrain for insurgents

Washington, D.C. - Tomorrow, President Obama will speak to the nation to announce the results of the December Afghanistan war review and discuss what progress has been made since he ordered an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to the frontlines. Prior to the President's speech, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) released Counterinsurgency in Kandahar – Evaluating the 2010 Hamkari Campaign by Carl W. Forsberg, which is the first report in a two-part series that documents the progress and critical challenges in Afghanistan.

"There is no question that the additional Surge forces into Kandahar province have allowed for effective counterinsurgency operations in Southern Afghanistan," ISW scholar Carl Forsberg contended. "Kandahar province is ground zero for the insurgency but the momentum has shifted to NATO forces and away from the Taliban. To make these gains sustainable, critical governance issues must still be addressed."

This two page executive summary and 51 page report carefully describes the counteroffensive campaign in Kandahar province during the summer and fall of 2010. This counteroffensive was part of the broader Hamkari ("cooperation") process, the term given to the combined civil-military campaign to weaken the insurgency by securing Kandahar and improving governance and development. The report also contains eight new maps of Southern Afghanistan and a graphiccharting the phases of coalition military operations from June to November.

Counterinsurgency in Kandahar - Evaluating the 2010 Hamkari Campaign by Carl W. Forsberg

Key findings and recommendations:

  • Kandahar is strategic terrain because it is the heart of the Pashtun south, the birthplace of the Taliban movement, the former de facto capital of the Taliban government, and the home of President Karzai.
  • For the Taliban, contesting Kandahar is important for their attempts to appear a viable rival to the Afghan government.
  • Insufficient troop strength from 2005 to 2009 limited ISAF's ability to target and destroy the enemy strongholds in three key districts: Arghandab, Zhari, and Panjwai.
  • After the Surge troops' operations in Kandahar, many of the fighters in Arghandab, Zhari, and Panjwai laid down their arms when it became clear the Taliban could not resist ISAF assaults. Some joined ISAF cash-for-work programs, which grew from several dozen workers to between 4,000 and 6,000 Afghans a day in Zhari.
  • Coalition operations in Zhari also neutralized the enemy attack network along Highway One. In the first 28 days of October 2010 there were no kinetic incidents on the stretch of highway passing through Zhari, a change from early September when the Taliban were conducting five or more attacks a day.
  • Despite this progress, restoring the Afghan government's legitimacy is ultimately an issue of altering public perception, and progress made in building government capacity will achieve little if overshadowed by perceptions of corruption and factional control over the Kandahar government.

Carl Forsberg was invited to Afghanistan in July 2010 to join a team conducting research for General David Petraeus following his assumption of command.

For media interview requests, please contact ISW communications director Megan Ortagus at 202-293-5550 x.210 or [email protected]

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.