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Pentagon's rosy report of Afghanistan war raises questions

The Pentagon cites 'tangible progress' in the Afghanistan war in a new report, but it neglects to include a key map of Taliban clout and notes problems in the Afghan Army.

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A US soldier sits in front of a house from inside which a tunnel was dug and used by Taliban inmates to escape from the Kandahar's main jail Monday. The jailbreak was a blow to the Afghanistan war.

Ahmed Nadeem/REUTERS

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The Pentagon’s twice-yearly report on security in Afghanistan paints a generally rosy picture of progress there – an assessment that raised eyebrows amidst a deadly attack this week that killed eight American soldiers and one American contractor.

However, the report, released Friday, also warns of some troubling trends that could impact the planned withdrawal of US troops this summer should violence continue apace.

One of these involves the levels of attrition in the Afghan National Army. If these levels continue at their current rate, which has increased steadily this year, “there is a significant risk” that the Afghan army will not meet NATO goals for projected growth, according to the congressionally mandated “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan.”

This could in turn affect the Obama administration’s plans to begin handing control over key areas to Afghan security forces beginning in July 2011. This goal is hampered, too, by the fact that there are currently no Afghan National Police units that are able to operate independently, according to the report.

A senior defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, further cautioned that in the years to come, the cost of training and supplying the Afghan Army and police force, which is more than double the country’s gross domestic product, is going to be a considerable “challenge” for the Afghan government to sustain.

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