US still on course for July 2011 Afghanistan pulloutBy Arun Kumar, IANS
Thursday, December 16, 2010
WASHINGTON - The United States is still on course to start withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011 despite “fragile and reversible” progress against insurgents, an official review of the US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan shows.
The review, set to be formally released by President Barack Obama later Thursday, says the US strategy will continue to focus on defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban and continue to move toward the goal of having Afghans take the lead in security in the country in 2014.
The momentum of both Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters has been weakened, despite continued planning of large-scale attacks on Western targets, the White House review said.
But consolidating those gains will require more cooperation from Pakistan to eliminate extremist safe havens along the border with Afghanistan, the report concludes. “The challenge remains to make our gains durable and sustainable.”
Detailing gains made by the US, the report says Al Qaeda’s “senior leadership has been depleted, the group’s safe haven is smaller and less secure, and its ability to prepare and conduct terrorist operations has been degraded in important ways”.
The report, called the ‘Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review’, comes one year after Obama announced the surge of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)