Commanders Re-balance Strategy in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2010 — Com­man­ders in Afghanistan are re-bal­anc­ing the strat­e­gy to con­front the real­i­ties on the ground, the vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.
NATO Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force lead­ers have been mak­ing adjust­ments to what has pri­mar­i­ly been a coun­terin­sur­gency cam­paign, Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright told atten­dees at the Gov­ern­ment Exec­u­tive 2010 Lead­er­ship Brief­in­gs held at the Nation­al Press Club.

“The COIN strat­e­gy is bal­anced by a coun­tert­er­ror­ism strat­e­gy,” Cartwright said. “When we start­ed, we prob­a­bly were more aligned with coun­terin­sur­gency. The empha­sis is shift­ing.” The exis­tence of ene­my safe havens neces­si­tates the shift, the gen­er­al said. Tal­iban and for­eign ter­ror­ists can launch attacks in Afghanistan, then escape over the bor­der into the Trib­al Areas of Pak­istan. There, the ene­my is able to rest, refit and plan fur­ther attacks with their lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion intact. “We need to reduce those lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and reduce that flow to the best of our abil­i­ties,” Cartwright said. “So the bal­ance of the force that was real­ly weight­ed more toward coun­terin­sur­gency is start­ing to shift to have an ele­ment of coun­tert­er­ror­ism larg­er than we thought we were going to need when we start­ed.”

The effort will aim to cut ene­my lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Cartwright said. It also will tar­get ene­my sup­ply lines, he added, and dis­rupt ene­my attempts to replace per­son­nel. “The shift has start­ed to take effect,” the gen­er­al said. “If you look at Iraq or oth­er con­flicts, you will see that as we start­ed, we had this strat­e­gy. Then we get bat­tle­field report­ing and intel­li­gence assess­ments. Ear­ly on, they will almost always diverge and then they start to come back togeth­er if you are doing the cor­rec­tion.” This has tac­ti­cal and strate­gic ram­i­fi­ca­tions, Cartwright said, not­ing that all lead­ers need to be on the same page.

“Are you win­ning the bat­tles and los­ing the war or are you, in fact, under­stand­ing the strate­gic side of this equa­tion and try­ing to bring the strate­gic and tac­ti­cal in line with this equa­tion?” he said. “That way, your objec­tives can be rein­forced [by] each oth­er.”

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

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