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U.S. relations with Pakistan have improved, and Pakistani leaders now say they “see a stable and secure Afghanistan as a primary security interest of Pakistan,” the defense official said.

“What we’ve heard from the Pakistanis over the last several months is very promising,” the official added.

“The safe havens do continue to exist … in terms of the security side of things, our objective is to work with the Afghan forces to give them the capability to defend their own territory, including from attacks from the safe havens. That’s going to be a big challenge, but we believe that it’s possible,” the official said.

Military analyst Anthony Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the report shows “real progress” in Afghanistan but not as much as had been hoped before the removal of the 33,000 U.S. surge troops in September.

Although the Afghan army has shown progress in training, Mr. Cordesman said, the attrition rate remains high.

It is “far from clear” whether Afghan soldiers can take the lead in security operations with Afghan police by 2014, he said.

The race is between coalition efforts to prepare the Afghans to take that lead and the end of 2014, when most international troops are scheduled to leave the country, he said.

“It’s far from clear we’re winning that race,” Mr. Cordesman said.