Afghanistan Now Has Forces, Resources, Petraeus Says

CAMP EGGERS, Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2010 — The forces are now in place to make major strides in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said here today.

Speak­ing at a press round­table with reporters trav­el­ing with Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, Petraeus said all the surge forces are con­duct­ing oper­a­tions. Also, the gen­er­al said, all the orga­ni­za­tions need­ed to train the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces are in place.

Pen­ta­gon offi­cials said the vast major­i­ty of the 30,000 addi­tion­al troops Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma ordered to the coun­try in Decem­ber 2009 are in coun­try, with just a few small units still en route.

We have more than tripled the num­ber of U.S. forces on the ground, NATO nations have con­tributed more forces as well and non-NATO nations as well,” Petraeus, the com­man­der of the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force, said. The num­ber of nations par­tic­i­pat­ing in oper­a­tions in Afghanistan has climbed to 49, he said, while the num­ber of civil­ians on the ground has tripled.

The main efforts in Afghanistan are in Cen­tral Hel­mand and Kan­da­har, the gen­er­al said. Mar­ja – the scene of a Marine and Afghan offen­sive in Feb­ru­ary – is no longer a Tal­iban and nar­co-traf­fick­ing strong­hold and Afghan civil­ians are return­ing to the area.

The dis­trict cen­ter has been rebuilt, the schools re-opened, there is a base health clin­ic and a lot of oth­er civ­il projects have been com­plet­ed or launched,” Petraeus said. Last week, he said, the Afghan gov­ern­ment con­duct­ed a vot­er reg­is­tra­tion dri­ve in Mar­ja that went very well.

How­ev­er, “around the edges of the secu­ri­ty bub­ble around cen­tral Hel­mand … the Tal­iban is fight­ing back,” Petraeus said. “It was a huge­ly impor­tant area to the Tal­iban. Our job is to increase the secu­ri­ty bub­ble in Cen­tral Hel­mand.”

Kan­da­har, he said, is a delib­er­ate cam­paign that was launched with a high tem­po of spe­cial oper­a­tions forces. Sur­round­ing areas, such as Arghen­daub north of the city, have been cleared. Areas to the west of Kan­da­har are being cleared by a brigade from the 101st Air­borne Divi­sion.

In Region­al Com­mand-East, anoth­er 101st Brigade has moved in and has caused sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to the Haqqani net­work in Pak­ti­ka and Khost, the gen­er­al said.

In and around the cap­i­tal of Kab­ul, Afghan forces have the secu­ri­ty lead in five of the six dis­tricts in Kab­ul province, Petraeus said. Kab­ul has one-sixth of the pop­u­la­tion of the coun­try.

Afghan secu­ri­ty forces “are doing quite a good job,” the gen­er­al said. “We want to expand that secu­ri­ty bub­ble, too.”

In Region­al Com­mand-North, the Ger­mans are rolling back Tal­iban infil­tra­tion of the area, pay­ing par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to Kun­duz.

Train­ing the Afghan Nation­al Army and Afghan Nation­al Police is a pri­or­i­ty, Petraeus said, not­ing the devel­op­ment of pro­fes­sion­al and capa­ble Afghan secu­ri­ty forces is key to NATO being able to with­draw its troops safe­ly. He said it is only recent­ly that NATO and the U.S. efforts have been able to get the inputs right for train­ing Afghan forces.

There is a recruit-train-equip mod­el for the police, and the army train­ing gen­er­al­ly has been pret­ty sound,” Petraeus said.

Afghan army and police train­ing has ben­e­fit­ted from the increased empha­sis on lit­er­a­cy train­ing, the gen­er­al said.

It is a true, lim­it­ing fac­tor in some areas,” Petraeus said of the lit­er­a­cy issue. “It’s pret­ty dif­fi­cult to enforce a law you can’t read or to per­form main­te­nance using a tech­ni­cal man­u­al if you can’t read it.”

Petraeus said he was skep­ti­cal about the lit­er­a­cy pro­gram until he saw it in action. The Afghans have tak­en to the pro­gram, he said, not­ing many for­mer­ly illit­er­ate sol­diers and police can now read and write well enough to do their jobs.

The Afghan army is recruit­ing 82,000 more sol­diers and the effort is ahead of the pro­jec­tions, the gen­er­al said. There are, he acknowl­edged, per­sis­tent issues regard­ing leader devel­op­ment and offi­cer and NCO short­ages.

Petraeus said he has a good rela­tion­ship with Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai. NATO and the Afghan gov­ern­ment don’t agree on all things, he acknowl­edged, but not­ed their “con­ver­gence of ideas” is sub­stan­tial and that the two work togeth­er very well.

I think it is a rela­tion­ship where there is can­dor, we do not always come at every issue from the same per­spec­tive, but I think that’s a reflec­tion of the strength of the rela­tion­ship rather than any­thing else,” the gen­er­al said.

Petraeus said he believes that Karzai under­stands the need for bet­ter, more inclu­sive civ­il-mil­i­tary oper­a­tions. Karzai also rec­og­nizes prob­lems with­in his gov­ern­ment, the gen­er­al said, espe­cial­ly issues involv­ing cor­rup­tion. Appro­pri­ate­ly, Petraeus said, the Afghan gov­ern­ment is mov­ing to arrest and pros­e­cute its cor­rupt mem­bers.

Karzai “under­stands that the gov­ern­ment has to earn legit­i­ma­cy in the eyes of the peo­ple,” the gen­er­al said. Improved secu­ri­ty, he added, becomes “the foun­da­tion upon which you build gov­er­nance and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment. That gov­ern­ment needs to be seen as serv­ing the peo­ple.”

Karzai also rec­og­nizes the dan­ger that safe havens inside neigh­bor­ing Pak­istan pose to Afghanistan and NATO, Petraeus said, not­ing the Afghan pres­i­dent is work­ing to improve rela­tions with Pakistan’s gov­ern­ment.

Afghanistan’s pres­i­dent also is con­cerned about civil­ian casu­al­ties, Petraeus said, not­ing that Karzai con­stant­ly is at him to reduce inad­ver­tent Afghan civil­ian loss­es. Petraeus not­ed that while the num­ber of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has increased three-fold, the num­ber of civil­ian casu­al­ties caused by NATO forces has decreased. The Tal­iban, mean­while, rou­tine­ly tar­get inno­cent Afghan civil­ians, he said.

Petraeus said he is get­ting ready to issue a new Commander’s Intent let­ter. In it, he said, he’ll stress to ser­vice­mem­bers the impor­tance of gain­ing an under­stand­ing of Afghanistan’s social and cul­tur­al envi­ron­ment.

We have nev­er had the gran­u­lar under­stand­ing of local cir­cum­stances in Afghanistan that we achieved over time in Iraq,” the gen­er­al said.

In Iraq, Petraeus recalled, U.S. and coali­tion mil­i­tary com­man­ders knew who the local trib­al pow­er bro­kers were, how the social sys­tems were sup­posed to work and how they actu­al­ly func­tioned.

That enabled us enor­mous­ly,” he said. “We are just com­plet­ing the process of get­ting the inputs right here and now we have to employ those inputs.”

U.S. and NATO ser­vice­mem­bers and civil­ians serv­ing in Afghanistan need to learn the local cus­toms, trib­al rela­tion­ships, lead­ers and so on in their areas to be effec­tive, Petraeus said.

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

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