Year in review:
2012's top stories
In early November, Pakistan released nine Taliban prisoners, hailed as a key step to coaxing the militant group into peace negotiations to end the 11-year-old war in Afghanistan.
The possibility of a negotiated settlement was one of several positive developments this year in Afghanistan, where violence is commonplace and reports on Afghan corruption and setbacks to the training of Afghan forces flood the media.
Coalition deaths fell in 2012, as more responsibility for security went to the Afghans. After peaking in 2010 at 711 friendly forces killed, that figure dropped to 566 last year, and through Dec. 15, was just under 400. U.S. deaths, always about three-quarters of the coalition total, followed suit. Deaths from insider attacks, once referred to as “green-on-blue” attacks, have plummeted in recent months.
Through October, Afghan defense forces or militants in Afghan uniforms killed more than 50 coalition servicemembers, about 13 percent of allied deaths. There were only two attacks in November, and one this month.
Kandahar City appears to have turned a corner. The birthplace of the Taliban movement was the target of tens of thousands of U.S. troops as part of the surge President Barack Obama ordered soon after he entered the White House in 2009.
After fierce fighting in Kandahar City and along the “rat lines” in the Arghandab Valley and the Shah Wali Kot area, U.S. deaths had by late 2011 fallen 91 percent over the previous year, and deaths of Afghans had dropped by 54 percent. Schools have opened by the hundreds and markets are thriving. GIs even had Thanksgiving dinner at the governor’s mansion — the former home of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.