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DOD Releases Afghanistan Report

The US Defense Department delivered a report to Congress this week providing an update on progress in Afghanistan from the period October 2009 to the end of March 2010.  Titled "Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan", the congressionally mandated report is extensive at 152 pages and covers everything from troop numbers in country to the details of ISAF counter-narcotics policy.

I have not read the entire report yet, but here are some highlights from the Executive Summary:

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Violence is up but Afghanis feel more secure

“Polls consistently illustrate that Afghans see security as improved from a year ago. At the same time violence is sharply above the seasonal average for the previous year – an 87% increase from February 2009 to March 2010.”  The report says that while violence has increased, this is largely due to increased ISAF activity.
 
US, partner-country, and Afghani force levels are increasing

US presence:
 “On March 31, 2010 there were approximately 87,000 U.S. forces and approximately 46,500 international forces in Afghanistan… force levels expected to approach 98,000 by August 2010.”

"The President’s strategy is dependent not only on the application of military capability, but also on increased civilian capacity. Since January 2009, the Department of State (DoS) has more than tripled the number of civilians on the ground in Afghanistan to 992. The increase in civilian personnel is a reflection of the President’s strategy to increase civil military cooperation at all levels of operations."

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Britain to leave Iraq (in shame?), increase troops to Afghanistan

In an anticipated move, Gordon Brown announced that the remaining 4,100 UK troops will leave Iraq by the end of July.  Mr. Brown is quoted by the BBC:
I feel that the task that we set out to do is being done and that's why we can take a decision to bring most of our forces home.
The Times Online is less cheery, characterizing Britain’s withdrawal as “a humiliating proposal that lumps the once-valued deployment with five smaller contingents, including those of Romania, El Salvador and Estonia.”

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"America Wrong, Europe Right" on Afghanistan

Washington Post blogger William M. Arkin says that the "non-lethal European approach" in Afghanistan is right, while the US approach is wrong: "The notion that we can just ship the Iraq surge strategy to the country and win is thoughtless. " He blames Defense Secretary Gates for creating the public image that "if there were more shooters from Europe, somehow the war would be going better."

Arkin, who also served in the U.S. Army as an intelligence analyst in West Berlin from 1974 - 1978, opines:

Complaining about the Europeans is old sport for the Cold Warrior. From decades-old bitching about "burden sharing" to 1990's frustrations with NATO's fighting spirit in the former Yugoslavia, to the era of freedom fries after 9/11, conventional wisdom is that rules of engagement and strategies authored in Paris and Berlin are to blame for American loss. Afghanistan is just the latest refrain, and the normally judicious Gates has taken on an almost Rumsfeldian tone in calling the Europeans weak. Jump on the bandwagon if you like. I'm sure all three presidential candidates could happily articulate some version of Gates' lament on Afghanistan as diversion therapy. But the truth is that hesitant Europeans are right. More firepower isn't going to "win" the war in Afghanistan.
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