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Pentagon signals 'acute' problems in Afghanistan, even as US cuts forces (+video)

The presence of Al Qaeda and Taliban safe havens in Pakistan remains unresolved – and may be beyond the capacity of the US military to fix, a new report to Congress concludes.

The President made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death in a Navy SEAL raid.
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Largely overshadowed by President Obama’s trip to Afghanistan, the Pentagon Tuesday released a congressionally mandated report on the progress of the war that acknowledged a “resilient” Taliban and pointed to “long-term and acute challenges" for a US military whose presence on the ground will decline considerably in many of the most violent areas of the country in the months to come.

Though the report emphasizes some security improvements, plenty of problems that the US military has been grappling with for years remain unresolved. Many are simply “beyond the capability of the US military to address – and beyond the capacity of the military to fix,” says Brian Jenkins, a former special forces officer and senior adviser to the president of the RAND Corp., a defense consulting firm that works closely with the Pentagon.  

First among these, US defense officials widely agree, are the Taliban and Al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan, from which the insurgent fighters who battle US troops “operate with impunity,” the report notes. These remain among “the biggest risks to the process of turning security gains into a durable and sustainable Afghanistan.” 

The Pentagon has for years touted “security gains,” while noting that they are “fragile and reversible.” This week’s report, which is due to Congress every six months, is no different, acknowledging that insurgents “will likely attempt to regain lost ground and influence this spring and summer through assassinations, intimidation, high-profile attacks, and the emplacement of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

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