The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai commands support or sympathy in only a quarter of 121 Afghan areas considered "key" by the US military, a Pentagon report said Wednesday.
Ignoring the effects of years of invasion and civilian killings, the report levelled all criticism at US-installed Karzai.
The report was released ahead of Karzai's May 10-14 visit to Washington.
"The overall assessment indicates that the population sympathizes with or supports the Afghan government in 24 percent (29 of 121) of all Key Terrain and Area of Interest districts," the quarterly report to Congress said.
The report, requested by Congress, portrays an insurgency with deep roots and broad reach, able to withstand repeated U.S. onslaughts and to reestablish its influence, while discrediting and undermining the country's Western-backed government.
The assessment follows a U.S.-led offensive in Afghanistan's Helmand province and the capture of several senior Taliban leaders, developments portrayed by the Pentagon as a boost to the momentum behind allied troops in the nearly 9-year-old invasion.
The next phase of U.S. strategy is expected to begin in the coming weeks, as U.S. forces step up operations around the city of Kandahar, the spiritual capital of the Taliban movement.
Karzai has gone from a darling of the international powers who placed him at the head of the Afghan state in 2001 to facing accusations from the United States and other nations that he has allowed unchecked corruption.
The report said that popular anger at his government, which is widely seen as corrupt and inefficient, has allowed the Taliban to "perceive 2009 as their most successful year".
The report concludes that Afghan people support or are sympathetic to the insurgency in 92 of 121 districts identified by the U.S. military as key terrain. Popular support for Karzai's government is strong in only 29 of those districts, it concludes.
The Pentagon also claimed, that Taliban insurgents were coming under "unprecedented pressure".
"From the insurgents' perspective, this strain has been compounded by the recent high-profile arrests of several Pakistan-based insurgent leaders by Pakistani authorities and removal of many Afghanistan-based commanders," it said.
Recent arrests by Pakistan of Afghan Taliban leaders, including the group's No. 2, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, have "increased insurgent leaders' concern over the security of their safe havens" and created financial and logistical problems, the report said.
There are currently about 87,000 U.S. forces occupying Afghanistan, a number expected to rise to 98,000 by the end of August.
AgenciesLast Mod: 29 Nisan 2010, 17:08