Afghanistan — Defense Officials Cite Progress, Challenges in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2010 — U.S. and inter­na­tion­al forces are mak­ing progress in south­ern Afghanistan despite a tough and resource­ful insur­gency, defense offi­cials told Con­gress today.

Under­sec­re­tary of Defense for Pol­i­cy Michele Flournoy and U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand com­man­der Army Gen. David H. Petraeus tes­ti­fied before the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. They cit­ed the need to con­tin­ue work­ing toward Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s goal to begin a respon­si­ble draw­down of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by July 2011. 

Petraeus took ill dur­ing the ques­tion-and-answer por­tion of the hear­ing, which he blamed on dehy­dra­tion. By that point, he had deliv­ered his open­ing state­ment to the pan­el. He returned about 30 min­utes lat­er and offered to con­tin­ue, but the com­mit­tee sus­pend­ed the ses­sion until tomorrow. 

“July 2011 is not the date where we race for the exits; it is the date where, hav­ing done an assess­ment, we begin a process of tran­si­tion of tasks to Afghan secu­ri­ty forces, based on con­di­tions and begin a process of a, quote, ‘respon­si­ble draw­down of our forces,’ ” Petraeus said just before he appeared to faint, refer­ring to Obama’s Decem­ber speech to U.S. Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my cadets in West Point, N.Y. “That is the pol­i­cy, and I sup­port it. I sup­port the pol­i­cy of the president.” 

In his open­ing state­ment, Petraeus not­ed that of the 30,000 addi­tion­al troops Oba­ma direct­ed be sent to Afghanistan, near­ly 21,000 are already there. The deploy­ment is slight­ly ahead of sched­ule, he added, not­ing that by August, almost all of those forces will be in country. 

Mean­while, efforts also are on track to increase the size and capa­bil­i­ty of Afghanistan’s sol­diers and police, Petraeus said. More than 231,000 Afghans make up their secu­ri­ty forces today, near­ly 80,000 more than what filled the ranks a year ago. Gains in recruit­ing and reduced attri­tion are appar­ent, he said, but much work still is required to sus­tain that progress as well as in devel­op­ing Afghan mil­i­tary leaders. 

Set­ting con­di­tions to tran­si­tion secu­ri­ty to the Afghans is “cen­tral to achiev­ing progress,” Petraeus added, cit­ing improve­ments made in the U.S.-Afghan forces’ part­ner­ship. “Con­sid­er­able progress is made in get­ting the con­cepts right, for devel­op­ing the ANSF, and also in devel­op­ing the struc­tures need­ed to imple­ment those con­cepts,” he said. 

Petraeus also not­ed the gains being made by increas­ing U.S. civil­ian par­tic­i­pa­tion in Afghanistan projects by mem­bers of the State Depart­ment and the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment. Their con­tri­bu­tions, he said, have allowed for new efforts to occur in “key areas” through­out the country. 

Such efforts are ongo­ing in the cen­tral Hel­mand oper­a­tion in Mar­ja, where insur­gent sanc­tu­ar­ies have been seized, but not with­out resis­tance. Focus now is shift­ing to Kan­da­har, where forces will focus on an “inte­grat­ed civ­il-mil­i­tary approach to secu­ri­ty, gov­ern­ment and devel­op­ment,” he said. 

“There will be noth­ing easy about any of this,” the gen­er­al said. “Indeed, I not­ed sev­er­al months ago dur­ing my annu­al pos­ture hear­ing that the going was like­ly to get hard­er before it got eas­i­er. That has already been the case, as we have seen recently.” 

Yet progress is being made in Afghanistan, Petraeus said. 

“So far, we believe we have been mak­ing grad­ual but impor­tant progress,” Flournoy told the Sen­ate pan­el, echo­ing Petraeus. “The coali­tion is con­test­ing the insur­gency more effec­tive­ly in more places and with more forces.” 

Flournoy not­ed that the insur­gency “is both resilient and resource­ful,” and that insur­gent activ­i­ty in April and May resumed in Mar­ja and much of cen­tral Hel­mand. How­ev­er, recent insur­gent attacks, she said, indi­cate a “pos­si­ble reduc­tion in some of their oper­a­tional capacity.” 

The per­cent­age of attacks with mul­ti­ple means has steadi­ly dropped since its peak in Feb­ru­ary, Flournoy explained. Also, she added, the aver­age num­ber of casu­al­ties per attack is few­er than 2009 levels. 

Mean­while, local Afghans in the region have expressed their will­ing­ness to report road­side bombs, weapons and insur­gent activ­i­ty. This, Flournoy said, sug­gests “grow­ing pock­ets of con­fi­dence” among local Afghans and indi­cates their will­ing­ness to sup­port inter­na­tion­al forces and the estab­lish­ment of secu­ri­ty and governance. 

In turn, she said, the admin­is­tra­tion remains com­mit­ted to the Afghanistan mis­sion and sup­port­ing its peo­ple in a long-term effort. 

“As the inter­na­tion­al mil­i­tary pres­ence begins to shift from a com­bat role to an advise-and-assist role, it will be absolute­ly vital to ensure a more robust and long-term inter­na­tion­al civil­ian assis­tance effort focused on capac­i­ty build­ing, gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment,” Flournoy explained. “The U.S. sup­ports an Afghan-led process that seeks to bring back into soci­ety those who cease vio­lence, break ties with al-Qai­da, and live under the Afghan con­sti­tu­tion and all of its requirements.” 

Though the out­come for Afghanistan is far from deter­mined and Obama’s strat­e­gy is only in its ear­ly phas­es, Flournoy said she is con­fi­dent that more progress will be evi­dent by December. 

“It’s only a mat­ter of months since the president’s announce­ment,” she said. “None of what we are doing in Afghanistan involves quick fix­es. These are long-term prob­lems, and their solu­tions will require patience, per­sis­tence and flex­i­bil­i­ty. But we are mak­ing progress; some­times slow, but we believe, steady.” 

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

Team GlobDef

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

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →