Challenge in Af-Pak is to make gains durable: US review

The US administration`s Af-Pak strategy has resulted in substantial gains in the war against terrorism, but the challenge now is to make these gains "durable and sustainable".

Updated: Dec 16, 2010, 18:10 PM IST

Washington: The US administration`s
Af-Pak strategy has resulted in substantial gains in the war
against terrorism, but the challenge now is to make these
gains "durable and sustainable", a review of the one-year-old
American policy said on Thursday.

President Barack Obama had announced the Af-Pak policy
last year as he unveiled a 30,000-strong troop surge to
Afghanistan, amid plans to bring back US troops by next July
in a conditions-based drawdown.

"While the strategy is showing progress across all
three assessed areas of al Qaeda, Pakistan and Afghanistan,
the challenge remains to make our gains durable and
sustainable," a five-page overview of the report says.

With regard to al Qaeda, the report says the US must
must remain focused on making further progress toward the
strategic defeat of Osama Bin Laden-led organisation which
will require the sustained denial of the group`s safe haven in
the tribal areas of western Pakistan, among other factors.

"And in Afghanistan, we are confronting the inherent
challenges of a war-torn nation working to restore basic
stability and security in the face of a resilient insurgency
that finds shelter in a neighboring sanctuary.

"More broadly, we must continue to place the
Afghanistan and Pakistan challenges in larger and better
integrated political and regional contexts," the report said.
The core goal of the US strategy in Afghanistan and
Pakistan "remains to disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat"
al Qaeda in the region and to prevent its return to either
country, said the first review report that will be release
later tonight.

Specific components of its strategy for Afghanistan
and Pakistan are working well and there are notable
operational gains, it said.

It said the al Qaeda`s senior leadership in Pakistan
is weaker and under more sustained pressure than at any other
point since it fled Afghanistan in 2001.

In Afghanistan, the momentum achieved by the Taliban
in recent years has been arrested in much of the country and
reversed in some key areas, although these gains remain
fragile and reversible, it said.

"The accelerated deployment of US and international
military and civilian resources to the region that began in
July 2009 and continued after the President`s policy review
last fall has enabled progress and heightened the sense of
purpose within the United States government, among our
coalition partners, and in the region," the review said.

As a result, the US strategy in Afghanistan is setting
the conditions to begin the responsible reduction of US forces
in July 2011, it said.

"This review also underscores the importance of a
sustained long-term commitment to the region in Pakistan, by
way of our growing strategic partnership; and in Afghanistan,
as reflected by our own long-term commitment, as well as the
NATO Lisbon Summit`s two outcomes: the goal for Afghans to
assume the lead for security across the country by 2014, and
NATO`s enduring commitment beyond 2014," the report said.

The Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review was
directed by President Obama in December 2009 to be a National
Security Staff (NSS)-led assessment of US strategy in
Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Obama had directed it be diagnostic in nature. The
2010 annual review began with a data collection phase
conducted from October 12 through November 10.

A series of eight working-group and deputy-level
meetings were convened from November 16 through December 1 to
discuss various inputs, identify findings, and assess the
trajectory and pace of progress.

A draft classified report, which took into account
significant comments from departments and agencies, was
reviewed in a series of formal Deputies, Principals, and NSC
meetings held from December 3-14.

Inputs to the review came from across the US
government.

An inter-agency team visited Afghanistan and Pakistan
from October 25 through November 4 to discuss the situation
with key leaders in the field and witness elements of the
strategy first-hand.

In addition, the review built heavily on the outcomes
of the November 20 NATO Summit held in Lisbon.

Finally, in coordination with the US embassies in
Pakistan and Afghanistan, the US Mission to NATO, and the
Department of State, the review included consultation with key
allies and partners on the situations in the two restive
neighbouring states.

PTI