Gains Remain ‘Fragile and Reversible’: The One Year Af-Pak Review

Dec 16, 2010 6:42am

The White House has released a 5-page overview of the annual Af-Pak review. Much of this we reported two nights ago.

You can read it here.

The core goal “remains to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al-Qa’ida in the region and to prevent its return to either country.”

Components that are “working well”:

  • “al-Qa’ida’s senior leadership in Pakistan is weaker and under more sustained pressure than at any other point since it fled Afghanistan in 2001”;
  • In Pakistan the foundation is being established “for a strategic partnership based on mutual respect and trust, through increased dialogue, improved cooperation, and enhanced exchange and assistance programs”;
  • In Afghanistan, “the momentum achieved by the Taliban in recent years has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas, although these gains remain fragile and reversible.”

‪‪Components that still need work:

  • Denying AQ’s “safe haven in the tribal areas of western Pakistan”;
  • In Afghanistan, it’s proving tough to establish “basic stability and security in the face of a resilient insurgency that finds shelter in a neighboring sanctuary;”
  • “More broadly, we must continue to place the Afghanistan and Pakistan challenges in larger and better integrated political and regional contexts.”
  • The conditions are being created, the report says, to start withdrawing US troops in July 2011.

‪‪More details:‪


  • Pakistan-based leadership and cadre of al-Qa’ida “has been depleted, the group’s safe haven is smaller and less secure, and its ability to prepare and conduct terrorist operations has been degraded in important ways.”
  • Killing AQ senior leaders has “diminished – but not halted – the group’s ability to advance operations against the United States and our allies and partners, or to support and inspire regional affiliates”;
  • “Even achieving these goals, however, will not completely eliminate the terrorist threat to U.S. interests. There are a range of other groups, including some affiliated with al-Qa’ida, as well as individuals inspired by al-Qa’ida, who aim to do harm to our nation and our allies. Our posture and efforts to counter these threats will continue unabated”;
  • “Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to be the operational base for the group that attacked us on 9/11.”
  • “The presence of nuclear weapons in the region also lends” to Pakistan’s AQ “distinct status."


  • Progress in the US-Pakistan relationship “substantial, but also uneven”;
  • Pakistani forces took action against extremist safe havens in six of seven agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) – “gains came at great cost, as Pakistan has endured thousands of casualties in their military ranks and among their civilian population from terrorist attack”;
  • BUT more cooperation with Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan is needed to combat safe havens there – and denial of safe havens also requires effective development strategies.


  • “we are setting the conditions to begin transition to Afghan security lead in early 2011 and to begin a responsible, conditions-based U.S. troop reduction in July 2011,” not to mention work from NATO Lisbon Summit “agreeing on a path to complete transition by the end of 2014”;
  • “reduced overall Taliban influence and arrested the momentum they had achieved in recent years in key parts of the country. Progress is most evident in the gains Afghan and coalition forces are making in clearing the Taliban heartland of Kandahar and Helmand provinces”
  • significantly increased size and improved capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Coalition forces have “exceeded ANSF growth targets, implemented an expanded array of programs to improve the quality and institutional capacity of the ANSF, and sharply improved their training effectiveness.”
  • More needs to be done to “support and encourage further development of local police forces to promote security and stability across the country, especially in rural areas. Emphasis must continue to be placed on the development of Afghan-led security and governance within areas that have been a focus of military operations”;
  • “gains remain fragile and reversible.”
  • “We are also supporting Afghanistan’s efforts to better improve national and sub-national governance, and to build institutions with increased transparency and accountability to reduce corruption”;
  • “As we shift to transition, a major challenge will be demonstrating that the Afghan government has the capacity to consolidate gains in geographic areas that have been cleared by ISAF and Afghan Security Forces.”

-Jake Tapper

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