Afghanistan — Winning is NATO’s Mission in Afghanistan, Petraeus Says

WASHINGTON, July 4, 2010 — The objec­tive in Afghanistan is to win, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said today as he for­mal­ly assumed com­mand of the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Force in Afghanistan.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, right, for­mal­ly assumes com­mand of NATO’s Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force dur­ing a July 4, 2010, cer­e­mo­ny at the command’s head­quar­ters in Kab­ul, Afghanistan.
NATO pho­to by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bradley Lail
Click to enlarge

After receiv­ing the green flag of the NATO-led force and the blue flag of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, Petraeus said ISAF and the Afghan gov­ern­ment are engaged in a test of wills with the enemy. 

“Our ene­my is doing all that they can to under­mine the con­fi­dence of the Afghan peo­ple,” he said in front of NATO’s head­quar­ters build­ing in the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul. “In so doing, they are killing and maim­ing Afghan civil­ians on a dai­ly basis.” 

Speak­ing in front of assem­bled U.S., inter­na­tion­al and Afghan lead­ers, the gen­er­al said the Tal­iban and al-Qai­da are using women and chil­dren to launch attacks and to intim­i­date the population. 

Petraeus spoke direct­ly to fears among Afghans that the Unit­ed States and inter­na­tion­al part­ners will walk away from the coun­try. The Unit­ed States, ISAF and allied nations are com­mit­ted to a sus­tained effort in Afghanistan, Petraeus said. 

“Cer­tain­ly, the char­ac­ter of our com­mit­ment will change over time,” he said. “Indeed, Afghans and the cit­i­zens of ISAF coun­tries look for­ward to the day when con­di­tions will per­mit the tran­si­tion of fur­ther tasks to Afghan forces. In the mean­time, all of us at ISAF pledge our full com­mit­ment to pro­tect your nation from mil­i­tants who allowed al-Qai­da sanc­tu­ary when they ruled the country.” 

The gen­er­al called his assump­tion of com­mand a change in per­son­nel, but not in pol­i­cy or strat­e­gy. The coun­terin­sur­gency effort put in place by for­mer com­man­der Army Gen. Stan­ley A. McChrys­tal will remain, he said, and pro­tect­ing the peo­ple of Afghanistan is key to that effort. 

“To be sure, I will — as any new com­man­der should, togeth­er with ISAF, Afghan and diplo­mat­ic part­ners –exam­ine our civ­il-mil­i­tary effort to deter­mine where refine­ments might be need­ed,” he said. “But our mil­i­tary objec­tives remain the same: Togeth­er with our Afghan part­ners, we must secure and serve the peo­ple of Afghanistan.” 

A major por­tion of that mis­sion is to train and sup­port Afghan secu­ri­ty forces and to increase the effec­tive­ness of the Afghan gov­ern­ment, Petraeus said, so Afghan sol­diers and police and gov­ern­ment offi­cials can pro­tect the peo­ple and deliv­er ser­vices to the pop­u­la­tion. “In pur­su­ing these tasks,” he added, “we clear­ly must pur­sue the insur­gents relentlessly.” 

The gen­er­al spoke direct­ly to the more than 130,000 sol­diers, sailors, air­men, Marines and civil­ians of ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan. “I pledge to do all that I can to pro­vide the best lead­er­ship, direc­tion and exam­ple that I can muster,” he pledged. 

Recent months in Afghanistan have seen hard fight­ing and an increase in ISAF and Afghan secu­ri­ty force casu­al­ties. Reduc­ing unin­tend­ed civil­ian casu­al­ties is a must, Petraeus told the ISAF team, but “as those on the ground strive to achieve that intent, we will not hes­i­tate to bring all assets to bear to pro­tect you and the Afghan forces with which you are fight­ing shoul­der to shoulder.” 

Uni­ty of will and pur­pose are cru­cial to suc­cess in Afghanistan, the gen­er­al not­ed. “We are all – civil­ian and mil­i­tary, Afghan and inter­na­tion­al – part of one team and one mis­sion,” he said. “Indeed, we all rec­og­nize the grave threat that the Tal­iban, al-Qai­da and oth­er asso­ci­at­ed syn­di­cates of extrem­ists pose to this coun­try, to this region and to the world.” 

The coali­tion and the Afghan gov­ern­ment can­not accom­plish the mis­sion with­out work­ing togeth­er, Petraeus emphasized. 

“Each of your orga­ni­za­tions brings tremen­dous com­mit­ment and unique skills and attrib­ut­es to the team or teams at work in Afghanistan,” he said. “I look for­ward to what our orga­ni­za­tions will accom­plish togeth­er as we rein­force a cul­ture here that rec­og­nizes that coop­er­a­tion is not optional.” 

Noth­ing is easy in Afghanistan, Petraeus said, and the fight is at a crit­i­cal moment. The threat from al-Qai­da remains, he said, and all must guard against allow­ing the ter­ror net­work to re-estab­lish sanc­tu­ar­ies in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks on the Afghan peo­ple and free­dom-lov­ing nations around the world. 

Progress has tak­en place in Afghanistan Petraeus said, not­ing that more than 7 mil­lion Afghan chil­dren are in school. Immu­niza­tion rates for Afghan chil­dren are between 70 and 90 per­cent, he added, and cell phones – once banned – are ubiquitous. 

“Kab­ul is a busy, bustling city, as are Her­at, Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalal­abad,” he said. “Roads and bridges and oth­er infra­struc­ture have been built, and the future holds even greater promise, if we can resist those who want to turn the clocks back in Afghanistan rather than let the march of progress con­tin­ue. With the surge of coali­tion forces and the growth of Afghan part­ners, we have a new oppor­tu­ni­ty to do just that.” 

Dur­ing a talk with Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai yes­ter­day, Petraeus said, he sup­port­ed the president’s com­mit­ment to inclu­sive­ness, trans­paren­cy, integri­ty and account­abil­i­ty. “I look for­ward to work­ing with each of you to make his watch­words real­i­ties,” he said. 

The new com­man­der rec­og­nized McChrystal’s contributions. 

“We have all worked hard togeth­er over the last year and a half to get the inputs right in Afghanistan – to build the orga­ni­za­tions need­ed to car­ry out a com­pre­hen­sive civ­il-mil­i­tary coun­terin­sur­gency cam­paign, to get the best indi­vid­u­als pos­si­ble in charge of those orga­ni­za­tions, to ensure we have our plans and con­cepts right and to gar­ner and deploy the forces and oth­er resources need­ed to imple­ment those plans and con­cepts,” he said. 

“No one did more in help­ing get the inputs right than Gen­er­al McChrys­tal,” he con­tin­ued, “and the progress made in recent months in the face of a deter­mined ene­my is in many respects due to the vision, ener­gy and lead­er­ship he pro­vid­ed dur­ing his time as [com­man­der].”

Petraeus was serv­ing as com­man­der U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand when Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma chose him to replace McChrys­tal, who resigned amid con­tro­ver­sy over remarks attrib­uted to him and his staff in a mag­a­zine arti­cle. As Cent­com com­man­der, Petraeus had inti­mate knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan and well-estab­lished rela­tion­ships with allies in the region. 

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

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