Arif Ayub The US Department of Defence has to report every six months to Congress on the situation in Afghanistan in order to receive funding for the operation. The 151 page report covers the period from October 2009 to March 2010, and provides a detailed situation report on the political, economic and military aspects of the situation in Afghanistan. These extensive reports provide a contrast with our situation where we are dependent on foreign reports for military operations in FATA. The contrast is even greater where defence budgets are concerned with the US providing about 400 pages to Congress compared to our meagre four pages to Parliament. This is obviously an area where our defence committees need to focus on. The report gives an accurate though depressing account of the current situation in Afghanistan highlighting the incompetencies of the Afghan government both military and political, and the challenges created because of widespread corruption. The increase in the Taliban influence is clearly outlined with the help of tables and maps showing a remarkable display of objectivity on the part of the authors of the report. The US forces in Afghanistan were at 87,000 in March 2010 and expected to rise to 100,000 by August 2010. These are supplemented by 40,000 international forces and supposedly 134,000 strong Afghan army and 109,000 police. The basic mission remains to clear, hold, build and sustain. The main problem however is that the Afghan government lacks popular support with only 24 percent of the people surveyed supporting the present situation, with Kabul, Herat and Nimroz identified as the only secure provinces. An additional problem for the counter insurgency is that international support is waning with the Dutch leaving Urazgan by December 2010 and Canada leaving Kandahar by 2011. On the other hand, the Taliban insurgents are increasing in strength with improved media campaigns, better organisational capabilities, intimidation of political opponents through target killings, formation of shadow governments in almost all the provinces, and the increasing use of complex IEDs and sophisticated tactics. Insurgents weaknesses are identified as their being dependent on multiple local based tribal networks, layered command structures leading to fissures among insurgent leaders, over dependence on external support, and violence against civilians being counter productive. The militant groups identified include the Taliban, Haqqani group, Hizb-i-Islami (Gulb-uddin), Hizb-i-Islami (Khalis), Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, TNSM Mullah Nazir, Lashkar-i-Islam, Lashkar-i-Tayyaba and IMU (Uzbeks). Commenting on the political and economic situation the report frankly notes that the 2009 elections were marred with allegations of fraud and corruption. On the positive side, the programme for reintegration and reconciliation had been initiated in order to accommodate peacefully into the Afghan society those who renounce violence, sever all ties with Al-Qaeda and abide by the Afghan constitution. The report hopes that this process would blend with the consultative peace jirga (recently held in Kabul). Government revenues had increased to $1 billion but they were still serious deficiencies at all key border crossing points. Torkham and Chaman were rated at only 50 percent functional. The ring road which would be the basic lifeline linking the major Afghan cities is 89 percent complete but the Kajkai Dam (which supplies the Helmand valley and was originally built by the US) is still three years away from providing 100MW due to the security situation in the Helmand and Kandahar area. However, the 100MW gas-fired project is nearing completion in Shibargan. Mobile coverage has reached 40 percent with 12 million users and $1 billion in revenues. Commenting on regional countries the report favourably notes that the Pakistan military has deployed 150,000 troops in FATA and NWFP. China has contracted to provide $300 million annually for the Aimak copper mine. India is providing $1.3 billion for infrastructure development, 1300 scholarships annually, food and medical aid and construction of a dam in Herat Province. The Herat - Mazar-i-Sharif rail link when completed would provide access through Uzbeki-stan to Europe. Iran comes in for particular criticism for continuing to provide lethal assistance to elements of the Taliban, to ensure a positive relationship with potential leaders and hedging against foreign presence. The annual budget for the Afghan defence forces is estimated at $6.6 billion which seems to be an unsustainable figure. The quotas for recruitment in the defence forces continues to be lopsided with Pashtuns at 41 percent, Tajiks 34 percent, Hazaras 12 percent, Uzbeks 8 percent , and others at 5 percent. Unless the US and Afghans find a more equitable solution to ethnic representation the insurgency would continue to be fed on real and imaginary grievances. The conclusion of the report that the security situation has improved within the last six months is completely at odds with the figures, maps and data provided in the report itself. This point is also brought out in the review of the report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies by Anthony H. Cordesman entitled Shaping the War in Afghanistan - The Situation in the Spring of 2010 which makes the following comments: ? The insurgency is loosely organised, increasingly effective and growing more cohesive. ? Insurgents strength is enabled by governments weakness. ? International support for development has not met peoples expectation. ? Afghan security forces competency has lagged behind a growing insurgency. ? Presumed insurgent successes will draw foreign fighters. ? The insurgents are efficient, have strong capability and influence among the population covering 95 districts, mostly in the Pashtun areas. ? Production of opium has surged to 6,000 tonnes. ? The 2,412 civilian deaths in the last six months is causing severe resentment. ? The clear, hold, build and transfer mission is not working. While key population centres have been secured, the coalition has been unable to remove the insurgents, maintain security, provide sufficient relief and reconstruction or effectively involve the Afghan government. The writer is a former ambassador.