Real test of Kandahar progress may be in June
Published: October 28, 2010
ARLINGTON, Va. — President Barack Obama will assess the progress in Afghanistan this December, but a senior NATO commander said whether the coalition’s main offensive in the heart of Taliban territory has had “genuine success” can’t be determined until June.
British Army Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, the top commander in Kandahar, said Thursday that despite encouraging signs, the coalition won’t be able to truly measure progress in the region until the summer when the traditional fighting season rolls around.
The intensity of Kandahar’s insurgency is seasonal, Carter said. The area isn’t affected by snow like in the mountainous eastern region, but the land gets barren as winter sets in, taking away the lush canopy insurgents normally use to hide. Spring brings harvest season.
In April and May, the poppy harvest — key funding for the insurgency — requires the labor of the young men who would otherwise be dedicating their time to fighting security forces.
So that leaves June to really test whether progress will hold up. Carter said lasting success is largely contingent on getting a stable goverment in place, something that has proved difficult in neighboring Helmand province. And that offensive started months before the one in Kandahar really took off.
But Carter won’t be around for the final verdict. Next week, he’ll hand over command of southern coalition forces to Maj. Gen. James Terry of the 10th Mountain Division.