Mixed Performance in Latest Report on Afghanistan

The Department of Defense is guardedly optimistic in its latest assessment of the security situation in Afghanistan, according to a report released Friday. Afghan Security Forces “have shown promising but inconsistent progress” in fighting off threats from groups affiliated with al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban. In a positive development, after an October assessment showed the government losing ground to insurgents, this latest report concludes that Afghan forces “quickly responded to and reversed any Taliban gains.” Still, the Obama Administration plans to draw down US forces in the country only as far as 8,400 by January, instead of the 5,500 it announced in 2015. The continued presence is necessary because while Afghan forces “repelled several major Taliban attacks against provincial capitals in several parts of the country,” they relied heavily on US and other coalition allies to support these successes. Without US support, “capability gaps in key areas such as intelligence, aviation, and logistics are improving but still hinder effectiveness.” Despite these ongoing challenges, the report is confident that, taking advantage of the winter lull in fighting to rebuild its forces, the Afghan military can “sufficiently regenerate their combat and policing capability moving into 2017.”