Today the Department of Defense provided to Congress the semiannual report “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan” covering events during the period from Dec. 1, 2018, to May 31, 2019. The report was submitted in accordance with requirements in Section 1225 of the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act as amended by Sections 1231 and 1531 of the fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017 NDAA.
The principle goal of the South Asia Strategy is to conclude the war in Afghanistan on terms favorable to Afghanistan and the United States. During this reporting period, the United States and its partners used military force to drive the Taliban towards a durable and inclusive political settlement. There have been some notable developments—the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces emerged from the most hard-fought winter campaign since 2002, the U.S. continues to engage in “fight and talk” approach with the Taliban, and despite atypical levels of violence and heavy losses, ANDSF recruitment and retention outpaced attrition for the first time in several reporting periods.
Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilizad remains engaged in exploratory talks with the Taliban aimed at a settlement that reduces U.S. cost in Afghanistan while safeguarding U.S. counterterrorism interests. Increased military pressure on the Taliban, international calls for peace, and Khalilizad’s engagements appear to be driving the Taliban to negotiations. Any durable peace settlement must include guarantees and mechanisms that protect U.S. counterterrorism interests, a reduction in levels of violence, and an intra-Afghan dialogue that leads to an inclusive political settlement and an understanding that the future development relationship between the international community and the future Afghan government, and a drawdown of foreign forces in Afghanistan.
The ANDSF remain in control of most of Afghanistan’s population centers and all of the provincial capitals, while the Taliban continue control large portions of Afghanistan’s rural areas, and continue to attack poorly defended government checkpoints and rural district centers. Terrorist and insurgent groups continue to challenge Afghan, U.S. and coalition forces.
During the reporting period, the ANDSF increased operational tempo and reduced or consolidated checkpoints. The Afghan Special Security Forces curbed misuse, met growth milestones, and increased the number of independent operations it conducted. Finally, the Afghan government instituted a number of leadership changes that are helping them move the ANDSF towards becoming a more professional force. However the Afghan security forces will continue to require sustained train, advise and assist efforts and financial support to overcome shortfalls.