KABUL, Afghanistan — One year after President Barack Obama ordered a troop buildup to halt the Taliban's momentum, the war in Afghanistan has not broken decisively in favor of U.S.-led forces — at least not yet.
While NATO forces have routed insurgents from strongholds in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban's strongest region, the militants have opened new fronts in the north and west and stepped up attacks in the east.
At the same time, the surge has exacted a high price: More than 680 international troops, including at least 472 Americans, have been killed in 2010, making it the deadliest year of the war. Hundreds of Afghan civilians have also died, most as a result of Taliban attacks.
There has been little progress in dislodging the militants from their sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan. A corrupt and ineffectual Afghan government remains a fragile pillar of the U.S. war strategy. And many Afghans expect the Taliban to return to their southern strongholds when the winter snows melt.
The White House's year-end report on the war, to be released this week, is expected to express confidence that Afghan forces can take the lead in securing the country by the end of 2014, but also raise troubling questions about Pakistan's efforts to root out militants.
Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has called for patience, saying that the extra 30,000 U.S. troops, along with about 10,000 additional NATO forces, finished arriving at the end of August — roughly nine months after Obama ordered the buildup on Dec. 1, 2009.
In northern Afghanistan, security has deteriorated for the past two years in Kunduz and surrounding provinces, hideouts for the Taliban, al-Qaida and fighters from other militant factions, including the Haqqani network.
Using Badghis province as a hub, the Taliban also has spread its influence in western Afghanistan and now controls several districts.
Petraeus says that in the past few months the coalition has arrested the Taliban's momentum in parts of eastern Afghanistan and in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, the focus of the U.S.-led campaign.
According to the coalition, 2,469 insurgents were captured and 952 were killed during the 90-day period ending Dec. 2.