By Mike Mount
Insurgents remain determined in Afghanistan where their attacks rose only slightly during the heaviest period of fighting this year, according to a Pentagon report that also found insurgent safe havens in Pakistan remain a key threat to long-term Afghan security.
The bi-annual report to Congress made available to reporters on Monday also touted the just-completed U.S. troop surge as a success, and noted that American forces are turning more of the fighting over to their Afghan counterparts and suffering fewer casualties.
Although the report said Taliban insurgents have lost some of their punch since their 2010 peak, they remain "resilient and determined" and "will likely attempt to regain lost ground and influence" through assassinations, high-profile attacks, the use of roadside bombs and other violence.
Insurgent attacks were up about 1 percent between April and September, which covers the annual fighting season, according to report.
The uptick in violence was mainly due to a shortened poppy harvesting season, which allowed low-level insurgents who work in that business to fight sooner than usual, and increased operations by international and Afghan Security forces in key areas.
The increase mainly was seen between April and June, while a bigger drop was recorded in the summer months compared to the same period last year.
The report touted the nearly two-year troop surge, which ended in September, as a success and noted that enemy-initiated attacks dropped by 12 percent during that time.
U.S. and international forces are conducting fewer operations while Afghan forces are doing more of the fighting.
Fewer coalition casualty numbers are "what you would expect when you are doing less fighting, but Afghan numbers are up," according to a senior U.S. defense official.
The report also noted continued movement of insurgents over the border into safe havens in Pakistan, an issue that has complicated efforts to put Afghanistan on a more secure footing.
Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan remains volatile because of the ease of movement by insurgent organizations such as the Haqqani network and other groups, which finance anti-Afghan and coalition operations, according to the report.
"Safe havens in Pakistan persist despite improving ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as better U.S.-Pakistan relations, according to the American defense official.
The report said that insurgent safe havens in Pakistan as well as "limited institutional capacity of the Afghan government and endemic corruption" comprise the greatest risks to long-term stability and sustainable security in Afghanistan."
The report also examined the overall increase in "insider attacks" on U.S. or coalition training forces.
"The rise in insider attacks has the potential to adversely affect the coalition's political landscape," according to the report. "It remains clear that the insider threat is both an enemy tactic and has a cultural component," according to the report.