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With coalition forces stepping up their effort in parts of Afghanistan, Mr. Dressler said, the Taliban are reluctant to return to their sanctuaries across the border because they are worried the coalition will gain the upper hand in their absence.

“The Taliban want to maintain a constant presence, because they are unsure what the situation will be like if they were to leave and then return,” Mr. Dressler said, adding that the Taliban’s reluctance to return to their sanctuaries is not a sign of a shift in Pakistan’s strategy.

An Afghan official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, said if Pakistan had abandoned its strategy of supporting militant groups in order to maintain influence in Afghanistan, there would have been a “dramatic drop” in violence.

“There is enough evidence indicating that unless Pakistan gives up support for terrorists, it will be hard to defeat these groups,” the Afghan official added.

Following a visit to Afghanistan last week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said troops in eastern Afghanistan are engaged in “a disruption activity and a blocking activity to stop the Taliban who are coming across the border from making it to Jalalabad and to Kabul.”

The absence of good governance in Afghanistan rivals the havens as a top concern for the U.S. and its coalition partners.

“In the eyes of Afghans, whether or not they see their government as legitimate is really key. We have to pay close attention to that,” Mr. Dressler said. “Gains on governance and corruption will be an iterative process.”

The Afghan official said criticism of Afghan President Hamid Karzai would be unhelpful. The international community should focus on “a more constructive path,” he said.

“The U.S. and the international community have not done enough to build the rule of law in Afghanistan. They have paid far more attention to security, and this has come at the cost of good governance,” the Afghan official said.

An assessment from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Wednesday underscored the fragile state of security in Afghanistan.

ICRC said a proliferation of armed groups has made it difficult for humanitarian-aid groups to help people in need. It predicted that Afghans would continue to face conflict-related challenges in 2011.

“In a growing number of areas in the country, we are entering a new, rather murky phase in the conflict, in which the proliferation of armed groups threatens the ability of humanitarian organizations to reach the people who need their help,” said Reto Stocker, head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan.

“One armed group may demand food and shelter in the evening; then, the next morning, another may demand to know why its enemy was given sanctuary,” he added.

The ICRC said civilian casualties in the conflict have increased in comparison with previous years.

The release of the review comes on the heels of the death of Richard C. Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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