- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Pentagon report on the war in Afghanistan made public on Tuesday concludes there are some signs indicating Afghan locals are turning against the Taliban, but stated that progress in the war is slow.

“Progress across the country remains uneven, with modest gains in security, governance, and development in operational priority areas,” said the latest report to Congress, “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan.”

The report said that “our strategy is beginning to have cumulative effects and security is slowly beginning to expand” noting that “although significant challenges exist, some signs of progress are evident.”

The report said the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is producing signs of progress.

“Indications of local resistance to insurgents continue to emerge alongside positive indications, such as newly opened schools and police stations,” the report said.

Required twice a year by Congress since 2008, the progress report on the Afghan war will be followed by a White House review of the war effort due on the president’s desk next month.

Last week, the White House gave up on its initial goal to begin a major withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011.

President Obama last week asked NATO allies to remain in Afghanistan until 2014, when the military now expects to begin handing over responsibility to the Afghan military for security.

The report presents a mixed picture on efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. On the one hand, it points to increased capabilities of the Afghanistan National Security Forces, the local army that U.S. commander Gen. David H. Petraeus hopes his forces will train well enough to be able to take over local security efforts so U.S. troops can withdraw in 2014.

But the report also said local political institutions remain ineffective and corrupt.

“Widespread corruption complicates efforts to recruit, train, and retain quality personnel,” the report said. “Poor inter-ministerial coordination and the slow appointment of key cabinet and governorship offices limit effective governance.”

ISAF officers have long complained that the CIA continues to support Ahmed Wali Karzai, half brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who critics assert is one of Afghanistan’s most powerful heroin traffickers.

The report said the Taliban remains a threat to topple the government of Mr. Karzai.

“The Taliban have sufficient organizational capability and support to pose a threat to the government’s viability, particularly in the south. If the security situation erodes, regional stability will rapidly decline as well,” the report said.

Iran continues to be active in supporting all sides in the conflict. While Iran continues to try to influence the Karzai government in Kabul it is also providing “covert support for various insurgent and political opposition groups.”

Specifically, “Iran continues to provide lethal assistance — including weapons and training — to elements of the Taliban,” the report said, noting that the support is “inconsistent with their historic relationship.”

The report said China continues to view Afghanistan as an investment opportunity. “Chinese companies are investing in Afghanistan, but progress is slow on the largest project, the $4 billion investments by the China Metallurgical Group Corporation and the Jiangxi Copper Corporation in the Aynak copper mine in Logar Province.”

Chinese companies have recently sought to monopolize the world market on rare earth minerals needed for producing computer chips and other high technology equipment. Afghanistan is estimated to have some of the world’s largest rare earth mineral reserves.

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