President Barack Obama offered Americans an optimistic assessment of the Afghanistan war on Thursday, even as US spy agencies and aid groups express doubts about the progress amid worsening violence.
Obama, under pressure to show results after criticizing his predecessor George W Bush for neglecting the war, said the United States was on track to start pulling out troops next July as planned. He offered no details on the pace of those withdrawals.
A five-page unclassified summary of the White House review said US and NATO forces had made "notable operational gains," halting the Taliban's momentum in many areas and disrupting Al Qaeda.
But it stressed the gains were fragile and reversible and that major challenges remained.
It reported substantial but uneven progress in the US relationship with Pakistan, whose lawless tribal areas are widely seen as the main obstacle to Obama's strategy succeeding because of the relatively free flow of militants across the border into Afghanistan. "I want to be clear, this continues to be a very difficult endeavour," Obama said at the White House. But, he added, "We're on track to achieve our goals."
Karzai not mentioned
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Osama's key ally in the war, did not rate a mention in the document.
The two men have had sometimes-tense relations and critics accuse Karzai of failing to clamp down on corruption and improve governance.
The upbeat assessment of the war by US military officials and the White House is not shared by America's intelligence agencies and aid agencies working in Afghanistan.