Afghanistan — Commander: Afghanistan/Eastern Command at ‘Critical Moment’

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2010 — As some 1,500 Afghan lead­ers par­tic­i­pate in Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai’s peace coun­cil to dis­cuss how to rec­on­cile with insur­gents, the com­man­der of NATO’s Region­al Com­mand East said today he has seen increas­ing evi­dence that for­mer fight­ers want to put down their arms and rejoin Afghan soci­ety.

Army Maj. Gen. Cur­tis M. Scaparrot­ti, who also com­mands Com­bined Joint Task Force 82, said vir­tu­al­ly all 14 provinces with­in his area of respon­si­bil­i­ty are expe­ri­enc­ing a com­mon phe­nom­e­non.

Increas­ing num­bers of Tal­iban fight­ers “have made con­tact and want to come back to their com­mu­ni­ty,” he said. “And we’ve had exam­ples of where small-unit com­man­ders have brought eight or 10 fight­ers back in.”

The process typ­i­cal­ly occurs through dis­trict gov­er­nors and sub-gov­er­nors and the tribes, and requires the fight­ers to “guar­an­tee that they won’t return to the fight and that they are pledg­ing their alle­giance to the [Afghan] gov­ern­ment,” Scaparrot­ti said.

Find­ing a way to rein­te­grate for­mer fight­ers is a key focus of Karzai’s peace coun­cil, or jir­ga, under way in Kab­ul. The ses­sion opened yes­ter­day, with near­by rock­et fire fail­ing to dis­rupt the pro­ceed­ings which con­tin­ue today.

“This is an Afghan-led solu­tion, and rein­te­gra­tion, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is Afghan-led,” Scaparrot­ti said. “It’s a gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive.”

As he pre­pares to trans­fer author­i­ty of RC-East and CJTF-82 June 14 to Army Gen. John Camp­bell, com­man­der of the 101st Air­borne Divi­sion, Scaparrot­ti expressed con­fi­dence he’s leav­ing the region in a bet­ter posi­tion than when he and his 82nd Air­borne Divi­sion troops arrived a year ago.

“We real­ize that Afghanistan and Region­al Com­mand East are at a crit­i­cal moment,” he said. In addi­tion to receiv­ing about 4,000 more U.S. troops as part of the surge, the region also is expe­ri­enc­ing an influx of civil­ians from the State and Agri­cul­ture depart­ments and the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment.

As his troops advance a com­bined-action ini­tia­tive, embed­ding with their Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty force coun­ter­parts, Scaparrot­ti said they’re work­ing hand-in-hand with their civil­ian coun­ter­parts.

“We all rec­og­nize that the solu­tion to Afghanistan’s chal­lenges is not only a mil­i­tary solu­tion but a com­bi­na­tion of secu­ri­ty, gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment, which requires both mil­i­tary and civil­ian pro­fes­sion­als to have an effect,” he said.

Mean­while, Scaparrot­ti praised the impact the com­bined action ini­tia­tive is hav­ing on build­ing com­pe­tence and capac­i­ty with­in the Afghan army, police and bor­der police.

The rela­tion­ship begins at the senior lev­els, with deputy com­man­ders and their staffs liv­ing side- by-side with the Afghan Nation­al Army’s 201st and 203rd Corps head­quar­ters, and con­tin­ues through­out the rank struc­ture.

“This nest­ing ensures that we are tru­ly work­ing togeth­er in a syn­chro­nized man­ner to achieve a com­mon goal,” he said.

Dur­ing their last weeks before rede­ploy­ing to Fort Bragg, N.C., Scaparrot­ti said he and his CJTF-82 troops aren’t antic­i­pat­ing any slow­down in the pace of oper­a­tions.

“Insur­gents con­tin­ue to inten­tion­al­ly wage a war of fear and pro­pa­gan­da against the Afghan peo­ple,” he said. “And in con­trast, the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces con­tin­ue to demon­strate increas­ing capa­bil­i­ty to pro­tect the Afghan peo­ple.”

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