WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2010 — Afghan and U.S. leaders in Afghanistan’s Helmand province ended a detailed assessment of progress in the region on a somber note today.
“On December 7, Pearl Harbor day, I’d like to remember all the families back home. I know what we do out here comes at a great cost, and comes with great sorrow for many families,” Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills, the Regional Command Southwest commander, told Pentagon reporters from Camp Leatherneck, in Helmand province.
Regional Command Southwest was established June 14 to oversee coalition operations in Helmand and Nimruz provinces. Joining Mills in today’s briefing was Gulab Mangal, Helmand provincial governor since March 2008.
“It’s easy sometimes to sit here and to move forces around, and to not understand sometimes the human cost involved,” Mills said. “I do understand it. I do commiserate. I do send my highest sympathies to the families, the friends, the spouses, the children of the many Marines and soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country over here.” Mills said Afghan and coalition forces also have paid a high price for the gains achieved.
“The sacrifice made by the Afghan security forces toward their own security is tremendous, and they do that very, very willingly, and they fight alongside us very, very hard,” the general said.
Mills said the United Kingdom, Denmark and Estonia, all of which contribute troops to Regional Command Southwest, “have sent their very best forward. Their youngsters, who absolutely represent the best our countries have to offer.”
His multinational force of Marines and soldiers go forward to battle knowing the risks, Mills said.
“On a daily basis, they pick up their equipment, they pick up their weapon, they strap it on and they go outside the wire into an environment that is extraordinarily lethal, extraordinarily dangerous,” the general said. “The wounds inflicted are often horrific. Yet they go forward with a sense of courage and a sense of commitment that is absolutely awesome. I salute each and every one of them.”
“I would like to send my best wishes to their families — and my deepest, deepest sympathies to all the families who have lost people in this war, of any nationality,” he added. Mangal, speaking through an interpreter, also expressed his sorrow to the families of those who have died in the war.
“I … appreciate the sacrifices that [United States] and NATO forces have made in Afghanistan, specifically in Helmand province, as a result of which the residents … are enjoying good security, and they see significant positive changes in their lives,” Mangal said.
“I would like to share my condolences with the people of the United States for sustaining these losses, and also … to the people of England, and the families of those soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan,” the governor continued. “Also for those Danish soldiers and Estonian soldiers who have lost their lives.
“I would like to say thank you … [for] all the efforts that all the nations have made in order to bring these changes in Afghanistan,” Mangal added.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)