- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Obama administration will identify Pakistan’s continuing support for terrorist havens and the absence of good governance in Afghanistan as key factors that are undermining U.S. and coalition efforts in Afghanistan.

The White House will make public its review of Afghan strategy on Thursday.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said this week the review will focus on strengthening capacity inside Afghanistan and the “ongoing challenge and threat of safe havens in Pakistan.”

The review will conclude that the U.S. has made enough progress in halting the momentum of the Taliban to allow President Obama to keep his promise of commencing troop withdrawal in July 2011.

“We have seen, through counterterrorism, success at degrading senior al Qaeda leaders,” Mr. Gibbs said.

Coalition forces hope to hand over control to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.

U.S. officials and analysts say the review will provide no surprises.

U.S. and Afghan officials are frustrated at Pakistan’s reluctance to give up its support for militant groups.

A U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitive nature of the matter, said it is no secret that Pakistan continues to support terrorist groups, including the Afghan Taliban, members of al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network.

Mr. Gibbs said there is “absolutely no doubt” that terrorist havens inside Pakistan make security and progress in Afghanistan more challenging.

Pakistan’s calculus has not changed throughout the last nine years, and until that does, we are not going to see any progress,” said Jeffrey Dressler, a research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.

Pakistan’s lawless tribal provinces, along the border with Afghanistan, serve as havens for the militants. Several top terrorists have been killed in unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, strikes in this region over the past year.

On a visit to Pakistan this week, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed what he described as “strategic impatience” with Islamabad’s inability to sever links to the militants.

Meanwhile, Army Maj. Gen. John Campbell, commander of coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan, predicted heavier fighting in eastern Afghanistan this winter, according to an Associated Press report.

Marvin Weinbaum, a scholar in residence at the Middle East Institute, said there have been “considerable changes” on the ground in Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south and east, where the coalition forces have stepped up their offensive.

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