Accomplishments in Afghanistan Set Stage for 2012 Progress

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2012 — Almost a month into 2012 — a year both Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta and Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the top com­man­der in Afghanistan, called piv­otal to oper­a­tions there — Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force offi­cials said last year’s accom­plish­ments have set the stage for con­tin­ued suc­cess.

“This year offers an oppor­tu­ni­ty to turn a cor­ner,” Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacob­son of the Ger­man army, spokesman for the NATO-led ISAF coali­tion, told reporters dur­ing a Jan. 24 news con­fer­ence in the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul.

“I hope that when we will look back at 2012,” he said, “we will con­tin­ue to see the incred­i­ble progress for the peo­ple of this nation on their path to a well-deserved peace.”

Panet­ta, dur­ing his pre-hol­i­day vis­it to Afghanistan last month, told deployed troops he believes the effort has reached a turn­ing point and empha­sized the impor­tance of what hap­pens there this year.

“We’re mov­ing in the right direc­tion,” Panet­ta said dur­ing a vis­it to For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Sha­rana in remote but strate­gi­cal­ly impor­tant Pak­ti­ka province. “And we’re win­ning this very tough con­flict in Afghanistan.”

Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied com­man­der for Europe and com­man­der of U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand, said in his blog ear­li­er this month he believes that progress will con­tin­ue by focus­ing on the “keys to secu­ri­ty.”

One of these keys, he said, is a uni­ty of effort, with a goal of achiev­ing a sense of “in togeth­er, out togeth­er” among ISAF’s 50 troop-con­tribut­ing nations.

“In the mil­i­tary sphere, that means we have to pull togeth­er smooth­ly on the oars as we all down­size the num­ber of coali­tion troops over the com­ing year,” Stavridis said.

He said he was encour­aged by the long-term com­mit­ment exhib­it­ed by 100 nations and inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions rep­re­sent­ed at the Bonn Con­fer­ence on Afghanistan in Decem­ber.

Stavridis also not­ed con­tin­ued progress dur­ing 2011 in two oth­er key areas: the tran­si­tion to an Afghan secu­ri­ty lead, and con­tin­ued pres­sure on the insur­gents.

Jacob­son report­ed dur­ing this week’s news con­fer­ence that this tra­jec­to­ry is con­tin­u­ing.

Already, “2012 is off to a very rough start for the insur­gency,” he said. He not­ed that it fol­lows anoth­er “tough year” dur­ing 2011, with the insur­gents los­ing key ground and resources and fail­ing to accom­plish their stat­ed goals in Afghanistan.

Mean­while, their lead­er­ship “con­tin­ues to hide across the bor­der in Pak­istan,” los­ing much of their abil­i­ty to com­mand and con­trol their troops, Jacob­son said.

Insur­gent forces in Afghanistan con­tin­ue to use impro­vised explo­sive devices to launch indis­crim­i­nate attacks, he said, despite orders from Mohammed Omar, the Taliban’s spir­i­tu­al leader, to quit harm­ing civil­ians.

While acknowl­edg­ing that they still have the abil­i­ty to launch high-vis­i­bil­i­ty attacks, Jacob­son said “these acts of des­per­a­tion should not fool any­one.”

“I believe the insur­gency is start­ing to under­stand that they can­not con­tin­ue their ter­ror­ist acts of the past against the Afghan peo­ple, and the only clear solu­tion is rein­te­gra­tion into a peace­ful Afghan soci­ety,” he said.

Jacob­son laud­ed sol­id gains dur­ing 2011 that are lay­ing the foun­da­tion for this momen­tum to con­tin­ue.

He cit­ed pos­i­tive trends in terms of offen­sive oper­a­tions against insur­gents, as well as improve­ments in capac­i­ty devel­op­ment with­in the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces.

“Our goals were to increase Afghan lead of secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ties, tar­get key insur­gent lead­ers, retain and expand secure areas and help [Afghan forces] earn the sup­port of the peo­ple through improved secu­ri­ty capac­i­ty and capa­bil­i­ty,” he told reporters.

Jacob­son cit­ed areas of focus for the year ahead to build on and expand these gains.

In the east, for exam­ple, ISAF and Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces “will con­tin­ue to apply max­i­mum pres­sure,” he said, to elim­i­nate the Haqqani and oth­er insur­gent net­works and dis­rupt their logis­ti­cal capa­bil­i­ties through the win­ter and into spring.

This effort sup­ports the vision Allen set for 2012.

Dur­ing Panetta’s vis­it to Kab­ul in Decem­ber, Allen told reporters he sees this year as a time to con­sol­i­date gains already made in Afghanistan’s north, south and west and to extend them east­ward. This, he said, will include “sig­nif­i­cant coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions” to con­tin­ue this year in the Region­al Com­mand East area, with the goal of push­ing the secu­ri­ty zone east of Kab­ul.

Jacob­son said this week that progress also will con­tin­ue in oth­er areas rang­ing from edu­ca­tion to infra­struc­ture to coun­ternar­cotics.

Afghanistan had 175,000 teach­ers in 2011, up from 20,000 in 2012, he report­ed. Eight mil­lion Afghan chil­dren were enrolled in school, com­pared to few­er than 1 mil­lion in 2002. Afghanistan now has more than 6,200 miles of paved roads, with more than 80 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion using them.

Local secu­ri­ty devel­op­ment is pro­gress­ing, too, Jacob­son report­ed. The Afghan Nation­al Army now is almost 180,000 strong, and the Afghan Nation­al Police now has near­ly 144,000 men and women in uni­form, serv­ing local com­mu­ni­ties.

As they grow in num­ber, Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces are assum­ing greater secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty. More than 50 per­cent of Afghanistan is slat­ed to be under Afghan secu­ri­ty con­trol by this spring, Jacob­son said, “and we have every expec­ta­tion that this will increase to 66 per­cent in the very near future.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)