KABUL  - nato-led forces in Afghanistan on Tuesday gave themselves an upbeat report card for 2011, claiming successes on the battlefield, in the classroom and in preparing to hand over to Afghan forces.

In a "remarkably successful" year, Taliban insurgents had been forced onto the back foot in their southern stronghold, said International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson.

"The success has been so great that insurgents have largely lost control of the area and now rely on IEDs (improvised-explosive devices) as their primary method of attack," he said  And in the east, troops "significantly disrupted the Haqqani network through Operations Shamshir and Knife Edge, where coalition forces captured or eliminated over 500 insurgent leaders and fighters last fall"  The Taliban faction has been blamed for a series of high-profile attacks in Kabul, including a 19-hour siege on the US embassy on September 13. The network is based in the Afghan-Pakistan border region, which Jacobson said would remain a key focus for operations.

Kabul itself had "become a thriving commercial capital, able to absorb and respond to spectacular attempts to disrupt security with resolute response to insurgent attacks, leaving the insurgents largely in a state of failure."

Jacobson said Afghan forces were clearly in control of the city, as part of a phased transition ahead of a pullout of NATO combat troops in 2014. His remarks came in stark contrast to perceptions that security has worsened in the Afghan capital over the last 12 months with a series of spectacular attacks on Western targets, such as the US embassy siege.

The United Nations has also disagreed with NATO assessments, saying in September that the number of security incidents was up 39 percent on the first eight months of 2010, while ISAF said they were down two percent.

But Jacobson said the Afghan army was now almost 180,000 strong, the police had nearly 144,000 men and women in uniform, and by spring 2012 more than 50 percent of Afghanistan would be under Afghan control.

Turning to social developments, he said that in 2011 there were more than 175,000 teachers in Afghanistan compared to 20,000 in 2002, with more than eight million children in school compared to less than one million in 2002.

Last year was also "outstanding" in anti-narcotics operations, with more than 97,975 kilograms of opium, 8,823 kilograms of heroin, 61,168 of marijuana, and 148,875 of hashish seized.

In contrast to the successes of the foreign forces and the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai, the insurgents had "a tough year", Jacobson said.

"They lost key ground and resources in 2011. They were not able to accomplish any of their stated goals for Afghanistan, whilst their leadership continues to hide across the border."

But in the propaganda war, the Taliban made their own assessment of the past year some 10 days ago with what they called a "formal proclamation of victory".

"Militarily successful resistance against a gigantic international alliance, full presence on the whole soil and overall perseverance" had forced "invading countries" to review their policies, the insurgents said in a statement.

This was a reference to Washington's moves towards peace talks and plans for a Taliban political office in Qatar to facilitate negotiations, as well as the decision by the US-led coalition to withdraw combat forces by 2014.

The coalition countries were "fed up militarily and logistically with this war and are planning for retreat," the Taliban said.