Chairman Optimistic That Afghan Forces Will be Ready by 2014

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Feb. 12, 2012 — A quick trip to Afghanistan this week, and meet­ings with lead­ers and troops there, encour­aged the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces will be ready by 2014 to take the com­bat lead.

Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey spent time in Kab­ul with Afghan Min­is­ter of Defense Abdul Rahim War­dak, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, com­man­der of Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force–Afghanistan and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, and the ISAF staff.

The chair­man also met with U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bol­ger, com­mand­ing gen­er­al of the NATO Train­ing Mis­sion-Afghanistan, and his staff. For NTM-A, 6,000 inter­na­tion­al train­ers and advis­ers at 70 train­ing sites in 21 provinces recruit and train Afghan sol­diers and police.

With U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, com­man­der of ISAF Region­al Com­mand-East and com­mand­ing gen­er­al of the Army 1st Cav­al­ry Divi­sion, Dempsey vis­it­ed for­ward oper­at­ing base Shank in Log­ar province to meet Army Col. Mark H. Lan­des, com­man­der of the 3rd Brigade Com­bat Team, 1st Armored Divi­sion, and his Task Force Bull­dog lead­er­ship team.

“The intent was to try to knit togeth­er the cam­paign plan at the nation­al lev­el with the ANSF cam­paign plan, and then to see how a local com­man­der, a colonel-lev­el com­man­der, is imple­ment­ing it,” Dempsey told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

When he trav­els over­seas, Dempsey has an office in an Airstream trail­er called the Sil­ver Bul­let that’s secured to the floor of a C-17 air­craft.

There, on his way home from brief vis­its to Afghanistan and to meet with defense offi­cials in Egypt, Dempsey writes notes to the spous­es or par­ents of some of those he’s met in Afghanistan to let them know their son or daugh­ter or hus­band is doing okay.

“What I learned, in a very encour­ag­ing way, is that [the cam­paigns and imple­men­ta­tion are] very well knit togeth­er,” he said.

Each of their plans com­ple­ment­ed the oth­er ” … and we are achiev­ing the goals that the alliance estab­lished in Lis­bon to get us to [20]14,” the chair­man added.He was refer­ring to the 2010 sum­mit in Por­tu­gal of NATO heads of state and their agree­ment with Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai to grad­u­al­ly with­draw com­bat forces by 2014.

“One of the very point­ed ques­tions I asked [of the tac­ti­cal com­man­ders] was, How are the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces doing?” the chair­man said.

“I got the same answer every time,” he added. “That they are doing very well. That they’re not ready to stand on their own yet but [the com­man­ders] think, with anoth­er fight­ing sea­son loom­ing and the effort to con­tin­ue build­ing their capa­bil­i­ties over time, the next year, the year after, kind of in a rolling con­ver­sion, [the ANSF] will be able to take the lead in com­bat oper­a­tions.”

Dempsey gets a lot out of even short trips to the war zone because he likes to talk to peo­ple, and he was once in the busi­ness of build­ing a nation­al secu­ri­ty force.

Dur­ing the sum­mer of 2003 he took com­mand of the 1st Armored Divi­sion and deployed to Iraq as part of Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom. He was the first com­man­der of Mul­ti-Nation­al Division–Baghdad.

Then from 2005 to 2007 he was com­man­der of Mul­ti-Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Tran­si­tion Com­mand-Iraq.

Dempsey said he has to under­stand the process­es that make things work — the U.S. gov­ern­ment, NATO, the Afghan gov­ern­ment, and any oth­er process that affects mil­i­tary oper­a­tions.

“But you also it seems to me have to gain a feel [for things], and you can’t gain a feel from Wash­ing­ton,” he added.

“The chair­man — any chair­man — has to get out, look peo­ple in the eye, walk the ground … have a pri­vate moment with Min­is­ter War­dak,” Dempsey explained, “and … ask him how he’s doing … and in so doing gain a feel that you can then com­bine with your under­stand­ing and have a rea­son­ably good chance to come to the cor­rect con­clu­sion.”

What Dempsey learned in Iraq is that build­ing any kind of secu­ri­ty force requires three pil­lars of effort.

“You’ve got to build the basic block­ing and tack­ling of fight­ing, and you’ve got to build an insti­tu­tion that can pay them, pro­vide logis­tics and edu­cate them,” he said.

“In the mid­dle of that you’ve got to part­ner with them ini­tial­ly … and then migrate or evolve to embed­ded teams [in which] they’re doing the heavy lift­ing,” Dempsey said. “That’s what I learned doing this in Iraq.”

In Afghanistan, he said, what he learned and felt on his vis­it is that “where we are now with the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces is we’re begin­ning to build that insti­tu­tion that will even­tu­al­ly be able to sup­port them and, in so doing, make them self reliant.”

The chair­man addedthat ” we’re begin­ning to migrate from the part­ner­ship role to the embed­ded train­ing team and that’s actu­al­ly quite encour­ag­ing. … Each [pil­lar] is begin­ning to become a lit­tle clear­er.”

The big ques­tion, he said, is will they be ready?

“The answer I’m com­ing back with is, at least in the snap­shot that I took on this trip, and I’ll add oth­er snap­shots over time, … is that they will,” the chair­man said.

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