December 16th, 2010
08:11 AM ET

'Gains remain fragile and reversible'

“These gains remain fragile and reversible.”

From a strictly military point of view, this sentence in President Barack Obama's review of the Afghan war may be the most critical. U.S. and coalition forces can’t turn over security to Afghans if local security forces can’t hold an area — and that’s the key to U.S. forces coming home.

And the key question: Is any of the stated progress actually enduring and permanent?

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, believes that permanent progress has been made in some areas of the south and that has taken away Taliban safe havens, giving them no place to come back to.

In the east, however, attacks by insurgents are up 200 percent in some places and we have the top U.S. commander there telling us the Taliban can regenerate forces constantly with new fighters from Pakistan — no decline.

Note these stats Afghan-wide:
Attacks by insurgents:
– 2010: nearly 20,000 attacks
– 2009: about 11,000 attacks

Airstrikes by the U.S.:
– 2010: more than 2,500
– 2009: about 1,100

"Clearly the Taliban is going to come after the coalition in the spring," one of Petraeus' advisers told us. "They're not going to concede defeat."

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