By Robert Burns, AP National Security Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Afghans feel less secure than at any recent time, a new Pentagon report (pdf) says, as Afghan battlefield deaths continue to escalate and civilian casualties hit a record high.
In a report Friday to Congress covering war developments since December, the Pentagon cited progress in developing more capable Afghan security forces 15 years after a U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban government. But it also said public opinion surveys indicate Afghans don’t feel better protected.
“Perceptions of security remain near all-time lows,” the report said. Only 20 percent of Afghans surveyed in March called security good. That is a drop from 39 percent a year earlier. In the latest polling, 42 percent of Afghans said security is worse now than during the time of the Taliban, which ruled the country from 1996 to late 2001 when U.S. troops invaded to eliminate an al-Qaida sanctuary. The report called the 42 percent figure a historic high.
The report portrayed the war effort as making modest progress despite the resilience of Taliban forces and continuing weaknesses in the Afghan military.
“The security situation in Afghanistan continues to be dominated by a resilient insurgency; but the Afghan government remains in control of all major population centers and key lines of communication,” the report said.
In response to requests by U.S. commanders, the White House this month broadened the military’s authority to conduct offensive operations against the Taliban. Yet to be determined is whether President Barack…