Afghanistan — McChrystal, Eikenberry Express Confidence in Strategy

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2010 — Here for Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai’s vis­it this week with Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and oth­er high-lev­el admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, the top mil­i­tary com­man­der and senior U.S. diplo­mat in Afghanistan both expressed con­fi­dence today that the U.S. strat­e­gy being employed there will suc­ceed.

“See­ing clear­ly the chal­lenges in front of us, I have con­fi­dence that our cam­paign plan will suc­ceed,” Army Gen. Stan­ley A. McChrys­tal, com­man­der of U.S. forces and the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force in Afghanistan, told reporters in the White House brief­ing room.

U.S. Ambas­sador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eiken­ber­ry expressed sim­i­lar con­fi­dence in progress tak­ing shape. “I’ve got cau­tious opti­mism that we’re mak­ing progress right now on an array of areas that are crit­i­cal to our com­bined suc­cess with Afghanistan,” he said.

“We’re hav­ing mil­i­tary suc­cess­es,” he added. “We’re hav­ing suc­cess in terms of work­ing with the gov­ern­ment on a basis of part­ner­ship to steadi­ly improve the capac­i­ty and account­abil­i­ty of the gov­ern­ment. We’re mak­ing a great suc­cess in try­ing to come up with ways to make progress in the econ­o­my.”

Eiken­ber­ry expressed hope that this week’s ses­sions will reaf­firm mutu­al com­mit­ment toward build­ing on this suc­cess while address­ing chal­lenges yet to be con­front­ed. “Our two gov­ern­ments will frankly address these chal­lenges in the next few days, with an eye on devel­op­ing com­mon solu­tions and with con­fi­dence that we have now the nec­es­sary resources, the appro­pri­ate strat­e­gy and the nation­al will to make con­tin­ued progress,” he said.

The top strate­gic pri­or­i­ty in Afghanistan is devel­op­ment of Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces that ulti­mate­ly will secure the coun­try, McChrys­tal told reporters. “Much work lies ahead to mature this force,” he said, “but its growth is large­ly on track.”

Mean­while, McChrys­tal called secur­ing the south­ern part of Afghanistan the top oper­a­tional pri­or­i­ty, and cit­ed addi­tion­al forces flow­ing into Afghanistan to sup­port Afghan efforts as key to its suc­cess.

He not­ed oper­a­tions start­ed 10 months ago into Tal­iban-con­trolled parts of the Hel­mand Riv­er val­ley that expand­ed the Afghan government’s influ­ence there. Ear­li­er this year, more U.S. forces arrived to part­ner with Afghans and secure parts of cen­tral Hel­mand that had remained under Tal­iban con­trol.

Addi­tion­al arriv­ing forces will rein­force ongo­ing efforts to secure Kan­da­har in an Afghan-led oper­a­tion that McChrys­tal said focus­es on the province’s com­plex polit­i­cal and gov­er­nance issues. “These dimen­sions are at the heart of the prob­lem, and their solu­tion will ulti­mate­ly be deci­sive,” he said.

“Our efforts in Afghanistan are ulti­mate­ly about chang­ing the per­cep­tions of peo­ple,” said McChrys­tal, empha­siz­ing the impor­tance he has placed on pre­vent­ing civil­ian casu­al­ties while enhanc­ing secu­ri­ty and oth­er devel­op­ments.

“Afghans long impact­ed by con­flict and strug­gle believe more of what they see than what they hear,” the gen­er­al said. “Only when they expe­ri­ence secu­ri­ty from [insur­gent] coer­cion, and only when they ben­e­fit from bet­ter gov­er­nance, will they begin to believe in the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the future.”

It’s a process McChrys­tal con­ced­ed won’t be easy or hap­pen overnight. “It will demand courage and resilience,” he said. “We encounter increased vio­lence as our com­bined secu­ri­ty forces expand into Tal­iban-con­trolled areas.”

Asked his view of Karzai’s rec­on­cil­i­a­tion plans involv­ing the Tal­iban, McChrys­tal said the most impor­tant thing is that it be “an Afghan solu­tion craft­ed by Afghans.” In addi­tion, such rec­on­cil­i­a­tion efforts must be inclu­sive and “feel fair to every­one,” he said, ensur­ing “every­body has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to rein­te­grate in or rejoin the polit­i­cal process.” McChrys­tal acknowl­edged Iran’s reach into Afghanistan, but said most of it is “fair­ly legit­i­mate.”

“There is evi­dence [and] intel­li­gence that indi­cates some malign activ­i­ty as well,” he said, not­ing insur­gent train­ing and arms ship­ments. “But, they are not sig­nif­i­cant in num­bers, and they have not been enough to change the basic cal­cu­lus of the fight at this point.”

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