‘Safe havens in Pakistan remain the insurgency’s greatest enabler’: DoD report

The Department of Defense released its biannual report on Afghanistan today. The October 2011 “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan” is a 138-page document that attempts to cover all aspects of the Afghan war. Beginning on page 59, the DoD outlines the state of the insurgency and ISAF’s efforts to establish security. The section leads off by stating that Pakistan’s safe havens remain the number one problem in establishing security:

Safe havens in Pakistan remain the insurgency’s greatest enabler and have taken on increased significance as ANSF-ISAF operations continue to clear key insurgent safe havens in Afghanistan. Safe havens in Pakistan, which directly support insurgent operations in Afghanistan, have grown more virulent during the reporting period, and represent the most significant risk to ISAF’s campaign.

The majority of insurgent fighters and commanders operate in or near their home districts, and low-level insurgent fighters are often well-integrated into the local population. Out-of-area fighters comprise a relatively small portion of the insurgency; typically a source of technical expertise, these fighters tend to be more ideological in nature and less tolerant of local norms.

Taliban senior leaders remain capable of providing strategic guidance to the broader insurgency and channeling resources to support their operational priorities. Pakistan-based senior leaders exercise varying degrees of command and control over the generally decentralized and local Afghan insurgency. Within Afghanistan, leadership structures vary by province. In general, the insurgency is led by a shadow governor and a military commander at the provincial level, who oversee district-level shadow governors and lower-level military commanders.

The DoD report notes that although Pakistan supports the Haqqani Network, ISAF seeks to work with Pakistan to contain the Haqqani Network and the Taliban’s activities (as if Pakistan is actually interested in doing so):

Despite the apparent progress in limiting the effects of cross-border attacks, high-profile attacks executed in Afghanistan near the end of the reporting period were directly attributable to insurgents within Pakistan. A series of attacks, including the September 13 complex attack on the U.S. Embassy, ISAF Headquarters, and Afghan Government buildings; the suicide attack on September 10 against Afghan Chief of Police Sayed Abad in Wardak Province; and the August 13 attack on the British Consul were carried out by the Haqqani Network and directly enabled by Pakistani safe haven and support. Addressing insurgents emanating from Pakistan is critical to the success of ISAF’s campaign and Afghanistan’s future; ISAF will continue to assist Pakistan in denying the Taliban and Haqqani Network safe haven from which they can plan and conduct attacks against ISAF, the ANSF, and the Afghan Government.

And the US military said al Qaeda still plays a role in the Afghan insurgency, albeit a small one, despite the death of Osama bin Laden (page 59). I disagree that the Taliban has sought to distance itself from al Qaeda; there is little evidence to support this assertion other than some vague press releases that were targeted at English-language news outlets:

Despite the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May, the Taliban’s relationship to al Qaeda continues. Although the personal relationship between Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and bin Laden represented one of the most important and influential links between the two groups, al Qaeda leadership continues to view the Taliban and the conflict in Afghanistan as integral to the organization’s continued relevance and viability. Al Qaeda’s global agenda, however, does come into conflict with the Taliban’s domestic and regional goals. As a result, the Taliban has publicly sought to distance itself from al Qaeda; following bin Laden’s death, Taliban leaders emphasized the indigenous nature of the insurgency and stated the insurgency would not be weakened. Al Qaeda’s most significant enabler in Afghanistan remains the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network, which will likely leverage this relationship as they continue to seek relevance in Afghanistan.

Oddly enough, there is no mention of al Qaeda- and Taliban-linked terror groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Jihad Group, despite the fact that ISAF often names these groups in press releases that document special operations forces raids against them.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Vyom says:

    There are so many groups and personals missing from the report….. I think this report does not count much as it is public. They have their different classified assessment.

  • Charu says:

    Sigh! Time and again military bureaucratic inertia and over-analysis slowly strangles their front line fighting forces to death. In the US it is the Pentagon that is at fault, and in India it is the civilian leadership that continues to walk the extra mile down the valley of death. The leadership of PakMil Inc., have paid little for their treachery, so let’s give them Afghanistan and Kashmir for peace in our time!

  • Charley says:

    Hot pursuit is the first answer. Declaring some PakMil officers as enablers would be the second. How I wish the Konduz airlift never happened – we saved these PakMil officers working for Taliban so they could kill our troops another day.


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