The goal of the US campaign this year was to increase the number of secure districts so that ISAF and hopefully the Karzai government can distribute a wide variety of public goods in order to gain legitimacy. That is why the US has committed its strategic ground reserve as part of a counter-insurgency surge in the Pashtun heartland.
If the surge was successful, the number of districts that are secured would be increasing. The Wall Street Journal reports that this is not the case:
The Wall Street Journal was able to view two confidential “residual risk accessibility” maps, one compiled by the U.N. at the annual fighting season’s start in March 2010 and another at its tail end in October. The maps, used by U.N. personnel to gauge the dangers of travel and running programs, divide the country’s districts into four categories: very high risk, high risk, medium risk and low risk.
In the October map, just as in March’s, nearly all of southern Afghanistan—the focus of the coalition’s military offensives—remained painted the red of “very high risk,” with no noted improvements. At the same time, the green belt of “low risk” districts in northern, central and western Afghanistan shriveled.
The U.N.’s October map upgraded to “high risk” 16 previously more secure districts in Badghis, Sar-e-Pul, Balkh, Parwan, Baghlan, Samangan, Faryab, Laghman and Takhar provinces; only two previously “high risk” districts, one in Kunduz and one in Herat province, received a safer rating.
The fighting season in Afghanistan is weather dependent. Fighting and maneuvering large bodies is possible after the winter melt throughout the summer and then as the snow closes the mountain passes and makes most of the roads and tracks barely passable. The winter creates stasis for the insurgents as they can not easily move large bodies between districts so whatever local forces are in an area during the winter are about all that will be in that area come March.
So if a net of fourteen more districts have become more dangerous and less capable of allowing a civilian development component, this year went to the insurgents and not the counter-insurgents.