Afghanistan — Coalition Makes Progress, Regains Momentum, General Says

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2010 — Coali­tion forces are mak­ing steady progress in Afghanistan, and the coali­tion and gov­ern­ment are regain­ing the momen­tum from the Tal­iban, the com­man­der of the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force Joint Com­mand said today.

But Army Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, who com­mands the corps-sized group, is not san­guine about the progress.

“The sit­u­a­tion remains seri­ous, and we still face a tough and resource­ful insur­gency,” he said in a tele­con­fer­ence with Pen­ta­gon reporters. “But the momen­tum is begin­ning to shift to the Afghan forces’ advan­tage.”

The influx of 40,000 more U.S. and coali­tion troops this year and the new strat­e­gy they’re pur­su­ing are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the coun­try, the gen­er­al said, but it will take time for con­crete gains to emerge. Rodriguez assert­ed that the Afghan peo­ple are gain­ing con­fi­dence and that the coun­try is head­ed in the right direc­tion.

The Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces are doing bet­ter and are tak­ing the lead in many areas, Rodriguez said, not­ing that a recent com­man­ders’ con­fer­ence in the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul looked at ways that coali­tion and Afghan com­man­ders can improve plans and com­mu­ni­cate bet­ter.

Hel­mand and Kan­da­har provinces are the main bat­tle­ground in Afghanistan, and civ­il-mil­i­tary coop­er­a­tion is a key fac­tor for win­ning in these areas, the gen­er­al said. Afghanistan’s nation­al and provin­cial gov­ern­ments are work­ing with local lead­ers to expand the influ­ence and deliv­er ser­vices to the cit­i­zens, he said.

“They’re insti­tut­ing and expand­ing respon­sive gov­ern­ing process­es and civ­il capac­i­ty where there was none six months ago,” the gen­er­al told reporters. “The inde­pen­dent direc­tor of local gov­er­nance is bring­ing togeth­er Kandahar’s senior lead­er­ship with the provin­cial coun­cil mem­bers, dis­trict elders, local min­istry rep­re­sen­ta­tives and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the cen­tral gov­ern­ment in Kab­ul. They’re build­ing con­sen­sus on the way for­ward to keep improv­ing gov­er­nance and ser­vice deliv­ery.”

Offi­cials across the spec­trum are try­ing to syn­chro­nize civ­il efforts with secu­ri­ty efforts, Rodriguez said.

Afghan secu­ri­ty forces increas­ing­ly are lead­ing secu­ri­ty plan­ning, Rodriguez said. Secu­ri­ty offi­cials are work­ing to secure polling places for the Sep­tem­ber elec­tions and are pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty for a Kab­ul con­fer­ence also planned for that month.

“About 85 per­cent of the Afghan Nation­al Army are now part­nered with coali­tion forces,” Rodriguez said. “Those part­ner­ships will keep build­ing capac­i­ty of the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces and increas­ing­ly allow the police and army to take the lead.

“And that is exact­ly what they want to do,” he con­tin­ued. “There’s no short­age of courage and com­mit­ment across the ranks of the good lead­ers in the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces.”

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