As President Obama ponders his next move in Afghanistan, he will not have been cheered up much by the most recent Government Accountability Office report on the security environment in the country. It shows that Afghanistan's security situation has deteriorated significantly since 2005, affecting all aspects of US and allied reconstruction operations:
"As we reported in April 2009, the rise in enemy-initiated attacks on civilians and on US, Afghan and coalition security forces has resulted from various factors, including a resurgence of the Taliban, the limited capabilities of Afghan security forces, a thriving illicit drug trade, and threats emanating from insurgent safe havens in Pakistan."
The report says the most recent data available (August 2009) showed the highest rate of enemy-initiated attacks since Afghanistan's security situation began to deteriorate.
"Overall, nearly 13,000 attacks were recorded between January and August 2009 - more than two and a half times the number experienced during the same period last year and more than five times the approximately 2,400 attacks reported in all of 2005."
It notes that violence has generally been concentrated in the eastern and southern regions of Afghanistan where U.S. forces operate, with insurgents making increasing use of IEDs, suicide attacks and attacks targeting infrastructure and development projects.
The report notes that US officials cite poor security as having caused delays, disruptions, and even abandonment of certain reconstruction projects, while also hampering management and oversight of such efforts. It mentions the case of the Kajaki dam, where vital supplies can no longer be transported by road and have to be brought in by air.
A letter to the GAO from Drew Luten, acting assistant administrator from USAID's bureau of management, (and included as an annexe to the report) spells out the extent of the problems:
"Under the section of the draft report regarding oversight of programs due to security concerns, the ongoing security situation in Afghanistan has made comprehensive and direct oversight of ongoing programs difficult. I would further note that due to the deteriorating security situation in the South and East of the country, monitoring of the delivery of heath services has been significantly hindered or stopped in some areas. Additionally, the USAID Agriculture Rapid Response program had three top engineers resign in one month due to threats against them and their families."