Afghanistan Violence Declines for First Time in Five Years, Pentagon Says

Violence in Afghanistan went down in the past year, reversing five straight years of sharp increases, according to a U.S. Defense Department report to Congress released today.

Still, the insurgency remains “capable” and “resilient,” and its havens across the border in Pakistan “remain the biggest risks to the process of turning security gains into a durable, stable Afghanistan,” according to the report.

The violence dropped particularly in the country’s southwest, west and north, the Pentagon reported. Security in the country’s eastern region remains tenuous, the report said, “as a result of the sanctuary and support that the insurgency receives from Pakistan.”

The report sets the stage for President Barack Obama to proceed with his plan to give the Afghan government full command of its security by the end of 2014. The U.S. has begun to pull out troops under the plan, with the first 10,000 out of almost 100,000 expected to leave by the end of the this year.

“The most significant development during this reporting period is the reduction in year-over-year violence,” the Pentagon said in the congressionally mandated report.

The Pentagon attributed the improved security to increasingly effective joint operations with Afghan security forces. The Afghan National Army numbers more than 170,000 now, and the Afghan National Police exceeds 136,000. They’re due to expand to 195,000 soldiers and 157,000 police officers by October of next year.

Afghan security forces, while growing, continue to have high attrition rates and lack sufficient strength in the leadership ranks, logistics and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, according to the assessment.

Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti, the deputy commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, said yesterday that he’s confident the U.S. can hand over security throughout the country to Afghan control, as planned, by the end of 2014.

To contact the reporter on this story: Viola Gienger in Washington at vgienger@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at Msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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