The second of Jeffrey Dressler's two reports on Helmand for the Institute for the Study of War argues that US Marines and Coalition forces have made "remarkable gains" in the province by taking back key terrain previously controlled by the Taliban.(The first report can be found here).
Dressler argues that Taliban supply lines have been disrupted, that safe havens and support zones have largely been removed and that the Taliban has been forced out of the main populated areas in Garmser, Nawa, Marjah and Nad Ali.
As a result, Taliban-initiated violence have fallen considerably since its peak in 2009. In Marjah, for example, daily security incidents have dropped from several dozen to single digits. While the 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army has improved with mentoring, police were found to be so predatory that tribal elders have helped in the recruitment of indigenous police who more accurately represent the local tribal makeup.
The military action has successfully disrupted the narcotics trade, with estimates that insurgents received around 50 per cent less money from the Helmand drug trade in 2010 compared to 2009, resulting in a cash flow problem for them.
Problems remain, says Dressler, including political interference from allies of President Karzai and also a lack of capable civil servants.
Reconstruction projects have helped attract local support for the government, with around 4,000 people employed each day. Schools and healthcare facilities have been built. Furthermore, 71 percent of Helmand residents currently describe their living conditions as "good," an increase of 27 percent since late last year. Of those surveyed, 59 percent give positive marks to the availability of jobs, up nearly 50 percent from last year.