Washington: The US would begin a
"responsible, conditions-based" withdrawal of troops from
Afghanistan in July 2011, President Barack Obama`s Af-Pak
review said today, while acknowledging that the gains achieved
in the war-torn country remained "fragile" and "reversible".
The overview of the annual review on Afghanistan and
Pakistan also asserts that the US` main objectives in
Afghanistan are to deny safe haven to al Qaeda and to deny the
Taliban the ability to overthrow the Afghan government.
"As a result of our integrated efforts in 2010, we are
setting the conditions... to begin a responsible,
conditions-based US troop reduction in July 2011," the review
Noting that it is determined to achieve the target of
complete transition of security to Afghan forces by 2014,
the White House said the US is committed for a long term
presence in Afghanistan which has been a victim of instability
and civil war for three decades now.
At the recent NATO Lisbon Summit, world countries forged
a broad Afghan and international consensus, agreeing on a path
to complete transition by the end of 2014, it noted.
"Beyond these targets, and even after we draw down our
combat forces, the US will continue to support Afghanistan`s
development and security as a strategic partner, just as the
NATO-Afghanistan partnership affirms the broader and enduring
international community support to Afghanistan," the report
According to the review report, the surge in coalition
military and civilian resources along with an expanded special
operations forces targeting campaign and expanded local
security measures at the village level, has reduced overall
Taliban influence and arrested the momentum that the militants
had achieved in recent years in key parts of the country.
"Progress is most evident in the gains Afghan and
coalition forces are making in clearing the Taliban heartland
of Kandahar and Helmand provinces, and in the significantly
increased size and improved capability of the Afghan National
Security Forces (ANSF)," it said.
"While the momentum achieved by the Taliban in recent
years has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in
some key areas, these gains remain fragile and reversible.
Consolidating those gains will require that we make more
progress with Pakistan to eliminate sanctuaries for violent
extremist networks," the report said.
It acknowledged that it will take time to eventually
defeat al-Qaeda and said Pakistan and Afghanistan "continue to
be the operational base for the group that attacked us on
The report said the US is taking steps to prevent
terrorist groups from regenerating over time or reestablishing
a safe haven in the region that would pose a strategic threat
to America and its allies.
"There has been significant progress in disrupting and
dismantling the Pakistan-based leadership and cadre of
al Qaeda over the past year," it said.
The report said the "presence of nuclear weapons in the
region also lends to its distinct status, highlighting the
importance of working with regional partners to prevent
extremists, including core al Qaeda, from acquiring such
weapons or materials."
The US remains committed to deepening and broadening
partnerships with Pakistan and Afghanistan in a way that
brings the country closer to the defeat of al Qaeda and
prevents terrorist groups that pose a strategic threat to "our
homeland, our allies, and our interests from re-establishing
safe havens in the region," it said.
Durability also requires continued work with Afghanistan
to transfer cleared areas to their security forces, it said.
The report said the US is supporting Afghanistan`s
efforts to better improve national and sub-national governance
and build institutions with increased transparency and
accountability to reduce corruption -- key steps in sustaining
the Afghan government.
"We have supported and focused investments in
infrastructure that will give the Afghan government and people
the tools to build and sustain a future of stability," it
The Afghan Ministries of Defence and Interior, with
help from the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, have exceeded
ANSF growth targets, implemented an expanded array of
programmes to improve the quality and institutional capacity
of the ANSF and sharply improved their training effectiveness,
ISAF and the Afghan government have also adopted a
robust partnering plan that has accelerated tactical-level
development of Afghan forces` leadership and units, although
significant development challenges remain.
Efforts are also underway to support and encourage
further development of local police forces to promote security
and stability across the country, especially in rural areas.
"Emphasis must continue to be placed on the development
of Afghan-led security and governance within areas that have
been a focus of military operations," the review report said.
The Af-Pak Annual Review was directed by Obama in
December 2009 to be a National Security Staff (NSS)-led
assessment of American strategy in Afghanistan and