Afghanistan saw some stability and progress in 2010, however things can easily go wrong in the coming year. As the NATO forces look for an exit, the future of Afghanistan appears as unpredictable as ever.
NATO will start reducing its troops in Afghanistan from July 2011
The 2010 US annual strategy review of Afghanistan showed 'significant' progress in the decade-long war against the Taliban and al Qaeda militants. However, some Afghanistan experts are of the opinion that things are quite the opposite in the war-torn country.
"These days we are getting different echoes out of Afghanistan," said Conrad Schetter, an expert on the AfPak region, in an interview with Deutsche Welle. "The official point of view, for example of the German administration, is that things are on track and they (NATO) are quite successful in Afghanistan. However, if you talk to Afghans, or to people who have just returned from Afghanistan, they give you a very different picture. They tell you that on the one side, the Afghan government is so corrupt, and on the other side the Pakistani government is so unwilling to cooperate that there has hardly been any success against the insurgents in the last year."
Many Afghans also disagree with the US claims of progress. "In my opinion, in 2010, the government did not achieve anything. People's lives have got worse," said a resident of Kabul.
"Long-term" US interests in Afghanistan
Experts believe that President Obama wanted a less hawkish strategy for Afghanistan
The war against Islamist militants is far from over despite the US administration's military surge in the earlier half of 2010. The US also tried to woo the 'moderate' Taliban for a power-sharing arrangement post NATO withdrawal in 2014. Both the US and Afghan governments continued to express their dissatisfaction with Pakistan's counter-terrorism efforts in its recalcitrant northwest, which is considered to be a safe haven for many al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives.
Some analysts are also of the view that the US' strategy to increase troops in Afghanistan didn't turn out to be effective, and that it was more a dictate of the US army generals than US President Obama's own plan.
"I think for Obama it was a very difficult decision, and that is also why he took such a long time to send more troops into Afghanistan. He was favoring a more non-violent approach, but there were some generals in the Pentagon who wanted to go on an offensive," said Schetter, "but one thing should be clear: the Americans won't leave Afghanistan for good. It is clear that they have long-term interests in the country."
Increased civilian deaths
A UN report found a 25 percent rise in civilian casualties in 2010
According to a recent UN report, the civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by 25% in 2010. The UN blamed the militants for most of the deaths. According to the report, there were 6,200 civilian casualties in the first ten months of 2010, including 2,400 deaths and 3,800 injuries.
An Afghan citizen from the Taliban's birth city Kandahar complained:
"We are the victims of this war. We have no security. The government should take care of our security. If we only had security, we could solve other problems ourselves."
On the other hand, more than 700 US and NATO troops have also been killed in 2010, compared to 512 last year, which is a 25 percent increase.
Second post-Taliban elections
An Afghan woman casts her vote in the September elections
Then there were the controversial parliamentary elections of September 2010. Independent election monitors recorded large-scale irregularities. But the fact that nearly five million Afghans came out to cast their votes was considered a success by many.
A less optimistic picture
In July 2010, the whistle blowing website WikiLeaks published more than 91,000 official US documents dealing with Afghanistan. The leaked US cables showed a less optimistic picture of Afghanistan than what the US and Afghan governments had been trying to project publically. The US government's Afghanistan logs also shed light on the corruption of the Afghan government, as well as the US cynicism with Pakistan, which is believed was supporting some Taliban militants, causing a great deal of damage to NATO's efforts in Afghanistan.
Author: Shamil Shams
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein