Afghanistan — Challenges Clear to U.S.-Afghan Partnership, Mullen Says

KABUL, March 31, 2010 — After vis­its to U.S., coali­tion and Afghan forces in Afghanistan’s Hel­mand and Kan­da­har provinces, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today that “nev­er has our part­ner­ship … been stronger, or the chal­lenges we face, clear­er.”
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen com­plet­ed a rig­or­ous three-day vis­it to Afghanistan that took him to the region of the recent offen­sive in Mar­ja in Hel­mand province. Mullen also attend­ed a “shu­ra” – a meet­ing of com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers — at the governor’s palace in down­town Kandahar. 

In cen­tral Hel­mand, Mullen saw the results of the offen­sive. Though com­bined Afghan and U.S. forces cleared them from many vil­lages, the Tal­iban remain a pres­ence. Intim­i­da­tion remains, but the secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion is improv­ing, the chair­man said. 

Still, he added, the offen­sive was a good exam­ple of how U.S., Afghan and coali­tion forces can work togeth­er to pro­tect the peo­ple of Afghanistan, and it cer­tain­ly has lessons for the upcom­ing fight for Kandahar. 

The city is the very heart of the Tal­iban in Afghanistan, the chair­man said. “Near­ly half of Pres­i­dent [Barack] Obama’s 30,000 troop com­mit­ment has made it to the­ater, with more com­ing every month,” Mullen said. “They are com­ing to Kan­da­har – the cor­ner­stone of our surge effort and the key to shift­ing momen­tum from the ene­my to the Afghan people.” 

While Mullen said he is encour­aged, he added that patience is nec­es­sary not­ing that the oper­a­tion into Mar­ja was launched only 45 days ago. 

The same ideas and elan that went into plan­ning oper­a­tions in Mar­ja will go into Kan­da­har oper­a­tions, the admi­ral said, but the worlds of the two places are far apart, so the tac­ti­cal oper­a­tions won’t be the same. Mar­ja is rur­al, with a pop­u­la­tion of rough­ly 70,000 spread over a large area, and the Tal­iban ruled there for the last two years. Kan­da­har has a pop­u­la­tion of more than 2 mil­lion and has a pletho­ra of tribes, fam­i­ly groups, local pow­er bro­kers and drug lords, Mullen explained. 

“It’s a much big­ger chal­lenge,” he said, “and I think [it] has a much greater poten­tial to achieve the goal of revers­ing [Tal­iban] momentum.” 

U.S. mil­i­tary and State Depart­ment offi­cials talk about using the shu­ra sys­tem as a way to work out thorny issues in the coun­try that help to spur peo­ple to join the insurgents. 

The part­ner­ship between U.S. and Afghan forces also has been cru­cial, Mullen said. “Many of the lead­ers [at the shu­ra in Mar­ja] told me that the secu­ri­ty in many places was much improved – the result of extra­or­di­nary part­ner­ing and Afghan lead­er­ship,” he said. “But so too, did they speak of Tal­iban intim­i­da­tion, local cor­rup­tion and a real eco­nom­ic need.” 

The lead­ers at the shu­ra spoke of edu­ca­tion, roads, health care, help for agri­cul­ture, and the need for jobs, Mullen said. He said he was struck by how nor­mal the requests sound­ed, and that it appeared to him that the peo­ple of Mar­ja just want to get on with their lives. Provin­cial lead­ers have heard these calls, but the capa­bil­i­ty to pro­duce is limited. 

Mullen said the U.S. mil­i­tary shares the desire for secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty through­out Afghanistan that the peo­ple of Mar­ja and Kan­da­har want. “We share the view that Afghan secu­ri­ty forces, prop­er­ly trained and equipped, can pro­tect its cit­i­zens,” he said. 

The oper­a­tion in Mar­ja stands as a tes­ta­ment to that fact. More than 10,000 Amer­i­can troops are in Hel­mand, serv­ing along­side coali­tion and Afghan partners. 

“We still work hard every day to cre­ate secu­ri­ty con­di­tions con­ducive to eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment,” the chair­man said. “We’re undoubt­ed­ly mak­ing progress, as I saw myself. Many vil­lages are safe again. The streets are fill­ing, and the shops are open. 

“I must applaud here the ter­rif­ic work of the Afghan Nation­al Army,” he con­tin­ued. “I heard from more than one Amer­i­can sol­dier and Marine how far the [Afghan army] has come in a short peri­od of time. They fight brave­ly, they fight well, and they lead.” 

Mullen also said he is pleased with the way the Afghan Nation­al Civ­il Order Police oper­at­ed in Mar­ja. Police train­ing has been under-resourced, and local police often have been put on the streets with no train­ing, he said. 

“We know this is a prob­lem, and we are address­ing this,” he said. The peo­ple of the region want the civ­il order police to stay, he added. 

Still, the admi­ral said, con­tin­ued progress is not assured. 

“We have moved to the ‘hold and build’ phase in many areas, and we will find our­selves clear­ing out areas in many oth­ers,” he said. “The Tal­iban con­tin­ue to be per­va­sive and per­sis­tent. It will take more work, and like­ly more blood­shed, to break it loose. 

“Too san­guine an approach is just as treach­er­ous as too lit­tle for­ti­tude to see it through,” he con­tin­ued. “We have learned in this long fight that fail­ure makes itself obvi­ous; suc­cess takes longer to see.” 

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

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →