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GAO-10-613R: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

May 5, 2010: 

Congressional Committees: 

Subject: Afghanistan's Security Environment: 

In December 2009, recognizing that the situation in Afghanistan had 
become more grave since the March 2009 announcement of the U.S. 
strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the administration concluded a 
10-week review of the strategy's goals and the methods needed to 
achieve them. In announcing the results of this review, the President 
reaffirmed the core strategic goal of disrupting, dismantling, and 
eventually defeating extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan and 
preventing them from threatening the United States and its allies in 
the future. To meet this goal, the President announced his decision to 
rapidly deploy an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. In 
addition, he pledged a "surge" of civilian experts to help enhance the 
capacity of Afghan government institutions and assist in the 
rehabilitation of key economic sectors. 

Since the President's December 2009 announcement, about 16,000 of the 
additional U.S. troops have gradually deployed to Afghanistan-- 
including about 10,000 as of March 2010 and approximately another 
6,000 since that time--and the number of U.S. government civilians 
present in country has grown by about 200. In February 2010, in what 
senior Department of Defense (DOD) officials have described as the 
first step in a prolonged effort to break the momentum of the 
insurgency where it has been the strongest--southern Afghanistan--
U.S., coalition, and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)[Footnote 
1] launched a campaign to clear insurgent safe havens in the central 
Helmand river valley. According to DOD officials, the intent of these 
operations was to pave the way for reconstitution of the Afghan 
government in Helmand Province, and Defense has indicated that similar 
operations will follow in Kandahar Province. 

We previously reported on security conditions in Afghanistan in 
November 2009.[Footnote 2] This report provides updated information on 
(1) the security situation as gauged by trends in enemy-initiated 
attacks; (2) challenges for U.S. reconstruction efforts posed by 
security conditions; and (3) recent increases in U.S., coalition, and 
Afghan troops and U.S. civilian presence. To address these objectives, 
we incorporated information from our past and continuing work and 
analyzed updated data on attacks. According to Defense Intelligence 
Agency officials, the data they report on enemy-initiated attacks 
represent a reliable and consistent source of information that can be 
used to identify trends in enemy activity and the overall security 
situation in Afghanistan. Moreover, senior DOD officials have used 
enemy-initiated attack levels as an indicator of the security 
situation in overseas contingency environments on several occasions. 
As such, while we acknowledge that these attack data are one measure 
of the security situation and are not intended to provide a 
comprehensive assessment of the Afghan security environment or the 
factors that affect it, we include them in this report for broad 
comparative purposes to identify trends in enemy activity over time. 
In addition to analyzing attack data, we also analyzed updated data on 
troop numbers and civilian presence and reviewed relevant documents 
from DOD, the Department of State (State), and the U.S. Agency for 
International Development (USAID), as well as the administration's Way 
Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Additional details on our scope 
and methodology are provided later in this report. 

Trends in Enemy-Initiated Attacks in Afghanistan: 

DOD attack data as of March 2010 show that the pattern of enemy- 
initiated attacks in Afghanistan has remained seasonal in nature, 
generally peaking from June through September each year and then 
declining during the winter months (see fig. 1). As figure 1 
indicates, while attacks have continued to fluctuate seasonally, the 
annual attack "peak" (high point) and "trough" (low point) for each 
year since September 2005 have surpassed the peak and trough, 
respectively, for the preceding year. Similarly, while attack levels 
have fallen since their August 2009 peak, they remain higher than 
comparable figures from prior years. For example, total attacks 
against coalition forces between September 2009 and March 2010 
increased by about 83 percent in comparison to the same period last 
year, while attacks against civilians rose by about 72 percent. Total 
attacks against the ANSF increased by about 17 percent over the same 
period. 

Figure 1: Average Daily Enemy-Initiated Attacks Reported by Type in 
Afghanistan, March 2004 to March 2010: 

[Refer to PDF for image: multiple line graph] 

Number of average daily attacks per month: 

Month: March 2004; 
Total average daily attacks: 4.13; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 1.42; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 1.52; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 1.19. 

Month: June 2004; 
Total average daily attacks: 5.33; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 2.23; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 1.87; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 1.23. 

Month: September 2004; 
Total average daily attacks: 6.93; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 2.77; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 2.37; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 1.8. 

Oct. 9, 2004: First democratic presidential election in Afghanistan. 

Month: December 2004; 
Total average daily attacks: 4.26; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 2; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 1.13; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 1.13. 

Month: March 2005; 
Total average daily attacks: 3.97; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 1.65; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 1.32; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 1. 

Month: June 2005; 
Total average daily attacks: 8.2; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 3.1; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 2.93; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 2.17. 

Month: September 2005; 
Total average daily attacks: 11.1; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 5.13; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 2.87; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 3.1. 

Sept. 18, 2005: Elections for lower house of National Assembly and 
provincial councils. 

Month: December 2005; 
Total average daily attacks: 5.77; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 2.39; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 1.94; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 1.45. 

Month: March 2006; 
Total average daily attacks: 8.32; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 3.9; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 1.74; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 2.68. 

Month: June 2006; 
Total average daily attacks: 13.67; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 7.53; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 3.17; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 2.97. 

Month: September 2006; 
Total average daily attacks: 23.33; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 14.43; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 4.6; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 4.3. 

Month: December 2006; 
Total average daily attacks: 11.03; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 5.45; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 2.77; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 2.81. 

Month: March 2007; 
Total average daily attacks: 15.55; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 9.03; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 3.77; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 2.74. 

Month: June 2007; 
Total average daily attacks: 22.43; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 14.3; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 3.33; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 4.8. 

Month: September 2007; 
Total average daily attacks: 26.63; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 18.47; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 3.23; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 4.93. 

Month: December 2007; 
Total average daily attacks: 16.23; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 9.87; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 2.68; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 3.68. 

Month: March 2008; 
Total average daily attacks: 20.94; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 11.58; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 5.74; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 3.61. 

Month: June 2008; 
Total average daily attacks: 33.73; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 19.47; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 7.47; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 6.8. 

Month: September 2008; 
Total average daily attacks: 48.93; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 26.83; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 14.83; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 7.27. 

Month: December 2008; 
Total average daily attacks: 33.42; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 17.39; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 10.35; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 5.68. 

Month: March 2009; 
Total average daily attacks: 38.1; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 21.48; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 11.48; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 5.13. 

Month: June 2009; 
Total average daily attacks: 69.83; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 40.17; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 20.8; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 8.87. 

Aug. 20, 2009: Elections for president and provincial councils. 

Month: September 2009; 
Total average daily attacks: 82.2; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 46.83; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 25.47; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 9.9. 

Month: December 2009; 
Total average daily attacks: 54.77; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 30.74; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 18.94; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 5.1. 

Month: March 2010; 
Total average daily attacks: 67.32; 
Average daily attacks - International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces: 40.35; 
Average daily attacks - civilians: 21.42; 
Average daily attacks - Afghan National Security Forces: 5.55. 

Source: GAO analysis of DOD data. 

Note: Data on attacks against civilians include attacks against Afghan 
nationals and other civilians, U.S. and non-U.S. contractors, 
nongovernmental organizations, and Afghan government personnel. Data 
on attacks against the International Security Assistance Force and 
coalition forces include attacks against U.S. and International 
Security Assistance Force military personnel. Defense Intelligence 
Agency officials told us that, in October 2009, they transitioned to 
using a more comprehensive source database of security incidents from 
which to identify enemy-initiated attacks. As such, some of the 
specific attack levels shown in this figure may be slightly higher 
than the attack levels that we noted for the same months in our 
November 2009 report because these numbers have been updated. However, 
the general trend of attacks remains the same as what we previously 
reported. 

[End of figure] 

DOD data indicate that, overall, more than 21,000 enemy-initiated 
attacks were recorded in 2009--an increase of about 75 percent over 
the total number of attacks in 2008. According to the commander of the 
U.S. Central Command, overall security incidents can be expected to 
continue their rise in the summer of 2010, as U.S. and coalition 
partners fight to retake enemy strongholds and, as a result, face an 
increased risk of enemy attacks. According to this same official, the 
resilience of the insurgency has been facilitated by several factors, 
including the porous nature of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, 
the ineffective nature of governance and services in various parts of 
Afghanistan, assistance from militant groups outside of Pakistan and 
Afghanistan, and continued financial support in the form of narcotics 
trafficking revenue and funds from outside of the region. In March 
2010, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that the 
Taliban's resurgence since 2005 had produced a widespread 
paramilitary, shadow government, and extrajudicial presence in a 
majority of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. He also noted that Taliban 
attacks had grown in sophistication and stated that the security 
situation in Afghanistan remained "serious." 

Agencies Cite Security Challenges to Stabilization Efforts in 
Afghanistan: 

State's January 2010 Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization 
Strategy cites reconstruction and development as key elements of the 
overall effort to stabilize Afghanistan and reduce the strength of the 
insurgency. However, the strategy acknowledges that the success of 
such civilian programs in Afghanistan is contingent on improved 
security. In November 2009, we reported that while U.S. and 
international development projects in Afghanistan had made some 
progress, deteriorating security complicated such efforts to stabilize 
and rebuild the country. Since that time, the lack of a secure 
environment has continued to challenge reconstruction and development 
efforts. For example, according to a March 2010 United Nations report, 
[Footnote 3] direct attacks against the aid community have limited the 
accessibility of development program activities in 94 districts 
[Footnote 4] considered very high risk and 81 districts assessed as 
high risk. The following list provides some specific effects of these 
security challenges as cited by U.S. agencies: 

* Delayed programs and increased costs. According to USAID, security 
constraints in Afghanistan have led to longer implementation times and 
higher costs for projects in nonsecure areas. For example, USAID noted 
that militant activity has increased the cost of efforts to supply 
power generators to the Kandahar Industrial Park. Specifically, the 
August 2009 bombing of a warehouse facility resulted in $250,000 in 
damage to the generators, which, as of March 2010, had yet to be 
installed. Similarly, USAID cited difficulty in accessing villages in 
nonsecure areas that are participating in an approximately $40 million 
literacy program, leading to months of delay in the ability of the 
participating villages to complete the program. According to USAID, 
the implementing partner for the literacy program has requested more 
than $600,000 in additional funding from USAID to upgrade security for 
the program. 

* Hampered progress of some counternarcotics operations. As we 
reported in March 2010,[Footnote 5] opium poppy eradication and public 
information efforts in Afghanistan have been constrained by poor 
security, particularly in insurgency-dominated provinces. According to 
State, as opium poppy cultivation becomes more concentrated in areas 
of poor security, opportunities for eradication have become more 
limited. In particular, U.S. officials note that adequate force 
protection is essential for eradication in the south. Similarly, 
security concerns largely dictate how often and how far 
Counternarcotics Advisory Teams can travel outside of their bases of 
operations. For example, in less secure southern areas, such as 
Kandahar, some advisory teams' movements have been limited, while 
other teams have been compelled to retreat to military bases for 
protection. The advisory team in the western Farah province reported 
that its main problem is the lack of security, which restricts it to 
daylight operations in the provincial capital. 

* Limited ability to conduct oversight of ongoing programs. USAID has 
cited the security environment in Afghanistan as a severe impediment 
to its ability to monitor projects. For example, USAID noted that 
solely traveling by road to visit alternative development, food 
assistance, and environmental projects in rural areas of northern and 
eastern Afghanistan is normally not allowed due to security 
constraints, and must consequently be combined with some air travel. 
However, air service in much of the north and east is limited during 
the winter months, which has complicated oversight efforts. Similarly, 
USAID officials are required to travel with armored vehicles and armed 
escorts to visit projects in much of the country. Consequently, as 
USAID officials stated, their ability to arrange project visits can 
become restricted if military forces cannot provide the necessary 
vehicles or escorts because of heightened fighting or other 
priorities. According to USAID, limited monitoring due to security 
concerns has heightened the risk of fraud, waste, and mismanagement of 
its resources. 

Increased Troop and Civilian Presence Is Intended to Help Secure and 
Stabilize Afghanistan: 

According to the U.S. Central Command, as of April 2010, there were 
reportedly almost 84,000 U.S. military personnel[Footnote 6] in 
Afghanistan--a result of the gradual increase in U.S. force levels 
from the 68,000 present in country at the time of the President's 
December 2009 commitment to deploy additional troops to target the 
insurgency, secure population centers, and train the ANSF. Overall, 
the number of U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan is expected to 
increase from 68,000 to about 98,000 once all 30,000 additional troops 
are deployed. 

As of April 2010, there were also reportedly about 40,000 military 
personnel from non-U.S. countries in the International Security 
Assistance Force (ISAF)[Footnote 7]--an increase of about 1,000 from 
the reported December 2009 force level of 39,000. Additionally, ISAF 
reported nearly 113,000 Afghan National Army forces assigned to the 
ANSF as of April 2010--about 13,000 more than were reported as being 
assigned as of December 2009--and current ISAF planning calls for 
further growth of the Afghan National Army to 171,600 personnel by 
October 2011.[Footnote 8] 

In addition to the ongoing expansion of U.S. military presence in 
Afghanistan, the United States has also significantly increased its 
civilian presence in Afghanistan. State's Afghanistan and Pakistan 
Regional Stabilization Strategy identifies additional civilian 
expertise as a key element of stabilization efforts in Afghanistan. 
Overall, the total U.S. government civilian presence grew from about 
360 in January 2009 to approximately 1,000 as of March 2010, including 
an increase of about 200 civilians since December 2009. According to 
State's Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy, the 
United States anticipates increasing civilian staffing by an 
additional 20 to 30 percent over the course of 2010. The strategy also 
identifies expanded civilian presence in Afghan ministries and outside 
of Kabul as a key initiative, and states that several hundred 
personnel are being assigned to more than 50 locations outside of 
Kabul. [Footnote 9] 

Agency Comments: 

We provided a draft of this report to DOD, USAID, and State. All three 
agencies provided technical comments, which we have incorporated 
throughout the draft as appropriate. 

Scope and Methodology: 

This report is an update to our prior work on security conditions in 
Afghanistan and is based on past and continuing work. To address our 
objectives, we incorporated updated attack data from the Defense 
Intelligence Agency, which we used to assess the level of enemy- 
initiated attacks on civilians and on U.S., Afghan, and coalition 
security forces. According to Defense Intelligence Agency officials, 
the data they report on enemy-initiated attacks do not include violent 
incidents that coalition or Afghan security forces initiated, but 
represent a reliable and consistent source of information that can be 
used to identify trends in enemy activity and the overall security 
situation. We have assessed the reliability of these attack data as 
part of our previous work and have determined that they are 
sufficiently reliable for our purposes. Given the Defense Intelligence 
Agency's October 2009 decision to transition to a different source 
database of security incidents from which to identify enemy-initiated 
attacks, we conducted additional reliability checks and determined 
that the attack data remain sufficiently reliable for our purposes. 
The report also incorporates updated data on troop numbers for the 
Afghan National Army, ISAF, and the United States, which we determined 
to be sufficiently reliable for broad comparative purposes to identify 
changes in troop numbers over time. In addition to incorporating 
updated data, we also reviewed relevant documents from DOD, State, and 
USAID as well as the administration's Way Forward in Afghanistan and 
Pakistan. 

We conducted our work from January 2010 to May 2010 in accordance with 
all sections of GAO's Quality Assurance Framework that are relevant to 
our objectives. The framework requires that we plan and perform the 
engagement to obtain sufficient and appropriate evidence to meet our 
stated objectives and to discuss any limitations in our work. We 
believe that the information and data obtained, and the analysis 
conducted, provide a reasonable basis for any findings and conclusions. 

We are sending copies of this report to interested congressional 
committees, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and 
the U.S. Agency for International Development. In addition, the report 
will be available at no charge on GAO's Web site at [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov]. 

If you or your staffs have any questions about this report, please 
contact me at (202) 512-7331 or johnsoncm@gao.gov. Contact points for 
our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found 
on the last page of this report. Key contributors to this report are 
listed in enclosure I. 

Signed by: 

Charles Michael Johnson, Jr.
Director, International Affairs and Trade: 

Enclosure: 

List of Committees: 

The Honorable Carl Levin:
Chair:
The Honorable John McCain:
Ranking Member:
Committee on Armed Services:
United States Senate: 

The Honorable John F. Kerry:
Chair:
The Honorable Richard G. Lugar:
Ranking Member:
Committee on Foreign Relations:
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman:
Chair:
The Honorable Susan M. Collins:
Ranking Member:
Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs:
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye:
Chair:
Subcommittee on Defense:
Committee on Appropriations:
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy:
Chair:
The Honorable Judd Gregg:
Ranking Member:
Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs:
Committee on Appropriations:
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Ike Skelton:
Chair:
The Honorable Howard P. McKeon:
Ranking Member:
Committee on Armed Services:
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Howard L. Berman:
Chair:
The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:
Ranking Member:
Committee on Foreign Affairs:
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Edolphus Towns:
Chair:
The Honorable Darrell E. Issa:
Ranking Member:
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Norman D. Dicks:
Chair:
The Honorable C.W. Bill Young:
Ranking Member:
Subcommittee on Defense:
Committee on Appropriations:
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Nita M. Lowey:
Chairwoman:
Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs:
Committee on Appropriations:
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable John Tierney:
Chair:
The Honorable Jeff Flake:
Ranking Member:
Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs:
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:
House of Representatives: 

[End of section] 

Enclosure I: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

GAO Contact: 

Charles Michael Johnson, Jr., (202) 512-7331 or johnsoncm@gao.gov: 

Staff Acknowledgments: 

In addition to the contact named above, Hynek Kalkus (Assistant 
Director), Aniruddha Dasgupta, Jonathan Mulcare, Arthur Lord, Karen 
Deans, Cindy Gilbert, and Mark Dowling made key contributions to this 
report. Victoria Green, Charlotte Moore, and Jena Sinkfeld provided 
technical assistance. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] The ANSF consists of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan 
National Police. 

[2] GAO, Afghanistan's Security Environment, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-178R] (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 5, 
2009). 

[3] United Nations, The Situation in Afghanistan and Its Implications 
for International Peace and Security (March 2010). 

[4] Afghanistan consists of 365 districts in total. 

[5] GAO, Afghanistan Drug Control: Strategy Evolving and Progress 
Reported, but Interim Performance Targets and Evaluation of Justice 
Reform Efforts Needed, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-291] (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 9, 
2010). 

[6] We did not assess the readiness of U.S. military personnel serving 
in Afghanistan as part of this review. GAO is currently performing a 
separate review of the availability of trained and ready forces for 
Afghanistan and Iraq. 

[7] As of April 2010, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led ISAF 
consisted of troops from 46 countries engaged in efforts to secure and 
stabilize Afghanistan. 

[8] GAO is currently performing a separate review of U.S. efforts to 
develop the Afghan National Army. 

[9] GAO is current performing a separate review of the U.S. civilian 
surge in Afghanistan. 

[End of section] 

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