Enemy’s Nightmare Coming True in Afghanistan, Mattis Says

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2011 — As U.S. mil­i­tary forces move toward with­draw­al from Iraq and tran­si­tion in Afghanistan, mis­sion require­ments remain numer­ous and strate­gi­cal­ly vital, the head of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand said today.
Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mat­tis, speak­ing before the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, out­lined the sta­tus of oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and oth­er areas with­in his command’s area of respon­si­bil­i­ty.

“Centcom’s main effort is in Afghanistan, where along with our Afghan and coali­tion part­ners, we are mak­ing unde­ni­able progress, though some of our gains at this time remain frag­ile and … reversible,” Mat­tis said.

In the bor­der region between Afghanistan and Pak­istan, he said, al-Qai­da is under the most pres­sure they have expe­ri­enced since 2001. “Over the past year, our ene­mies have lost lead­ers, bat­tle space, maneu­ver room and the ini­tia­tive,” he said.

The great­est suc­cess over the past year has been the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces’ “quan­tifi­able and qual­i­fi­able growth in capa­bil­i­ty,” Mat­tis said, adding that he sup­ports plans to increase Afghan forces by between 45,000 and 70,000 new mem­bers.

“With [their] improv­ing qual­i­ty and com­bat per­for­mance … we are see­ing the enemy’s worst night­mare com­ing of age,” the Cent­com com­man­der said.

“The enemy’s strat­e­gy has been under­cut by the clear com­mit­ment of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty and the Afghan gov­ern­ment to begin, this sum­mer, a process of ful­ly tran­si­tion­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty to Afghan lead by 2014,” Mat­tis said, adding that the pace of with­draw­al will be based on ground con­di­tions.

The over­all cam­paign is on track in Afghanistan, he said, but there will be tough fight­ing ahead as the ene­my tries to regain the ini­tia­tive.

“We must also redou­ble our efforts to address chal­lenges in the areas of gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment in Afghanistan,” he said.

Turn­ing to Pak­istan, Mat­tis said, “We are strength­en­ing and deep­en­ing our secu­ri­ty part­ner­ship with Islam­abad, even as we work to over­come years of mis­trust and mis­un­der­stand­ing on both sides.”

Pak­istan has shift­ed a quar­ter of its army – 140,000 troops — to its west­ern bor­der, and coali­tion forces are con­duct­ing “ham­mer-and-anvil” oper­a­tions in close coop­er­a­tion with Pak­istani forces on either side of that bor­der, Mat­tis said.

Pak­istan has con­duct­ed sig­nif­i­cant coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions over the past decade, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the past two years, he said, and has suf­fered 2,757 troops killed and 8,549 wound­ed.

While the sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan remains his top focus, Mat­tis said, Iraq is gain­ing sta­bil­i­ty and the planned U.S. tran­si­tion from a mil­i­tary- to a civil­ian-led effort is under­way.

“As we tran­si­tion to civil­ian lead in Iraq, it is essen­tial that the State Depart­ment be suf­fi­cient­ly resourced to solid­i­fy rela­tion­ships between the Unit­ed States and Iraq for the future,” he said.

As well, Mat­tis said, Cent­com needs con­gres­sion­al author­i­ties to con­tin­ue advis­ing, train­ing and equip­ping Iraqi forces under the lead of State’s Office of Secu­ri­ty Coop­er­a­tion Iraq.

“Look­ing ahead, we will rede­ploy our mil­i­tary forces from Iraq this year, unless asked to stay by the Iraqi gov­ern­ment and the U.S. gov­ern­ment con­curs,” he said.

Mat­tis said he antic­i­pates al-Qai­da in Iraq and Iran­ian-spon­sored prox­ies will try to dis­rupt progress in Iraq by launch­ing attacks in the com­ing months.

The Cent­com com­man­der said threats in his area of respon­si­bil­i­ty range from Iran and al-Qai­da to the ongo­ing Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict.

Iran, Mat­tis said, cur­rent­ly rep­re­sents the great­est threat to long-term region­al secu­ri­ty.

“We are coun­ter­ing the malign activ­i­ties of the regime, while bol­ster­ing rela­tion­ships with our part­ners,” he said, adding that Iran per­sis­tent­ly rebuffs inter­na­tion­al efforts toward engage­ment.

“[Iran] con­tin­ues to coerce its own pop­u­la­tion and pur­sue activ­i­ties dis­rup­tive to region­al peace and sta­bil­i­ty,” Mat­tis said, “includ­ing sup­ply­ing arms to mil­i­tant prox­ies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sup­port­ing Hezbol­lah in Lebanon.”

The Cent­com com­man­der said he has “no rea­son for opti­mism” about Iran’s pur­suit of nuclear weapons capa­bil­i­ty, grow­ing bal­lis­tic mis­sile arse­nal, and desta­bi­liz­ing region­al influ­ence.

Mat­tis said Cent­com is dis­rupt­ing al-Qai­da and oth­er vio­lent extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions, and is active­ly focused on the extrem­ist threat in Yemen.

“With our inter­na­tion­al part­ners, our spe­cial oper­a­tions forces are putting our most vio­lent ene­mies and relat­ed net­works under increas­ing­ly intense pres­sure,” he said. “At the same time, the pop­ulist-inspired changes that are tak­ing place across the region under­cut the mes­sage of al-Qai­da and oth­er extrem­ist groups.”

Pop­u­lar protests in coun­tries across the region, Mat­tis said, “have achieved more change in 10 weeks than 10 years of al-Qaida’s mur­der­ous cam­paign.”

Con­di­tions in the Mid­dle East rep­re­sent a defin­ing moment for peo­ple in the region and by exten­sion, he said, “a crit­i­cal moment for Cen­tral Com­mand to remain engaged with our part­ners and to clear away obsta­cles to peace and pros­per­i­ty.”

Mat­tis said while Israel and Pales­tine aren’t in Centcom’s area of respon­si­bil­i­ty, lack of progress toward a com­pre­hen­sive Mid­dle East peace affects U.S. secu­ri­ty inter­ests in the region.

“I believe the only reli­able path to last­ing peace in this region is a viable two-state solu­tion between Israel and Pales­tine,” he said. “This issue is one of many that is exploit­ed by our adver­saries in the region, and is used as a recruit­ing tool for extrem­ist groups.”

By con­trast, Mat­tis said, sub­stan­tive progress in the peace process would improve Centcom’s oppor­tu­ni­ties to work with region­al part­ners and sup­port mul­ti­lat­er­al secu­ri­ty efforts. Mil­i­tary lead­ers rec­og­nize Con­gress faces tough deci­sions in the cur­rent con­strained fis­cal envi­ron­ment, Mat­tis said.

“In all of our activ­i­ties at Cen­tral Com­mand, we hon­or the oblig­a­tion to be the best stew­ards pos­si­ble of our nation’s mon­e­tary resources,” he said. “Cent­com has estab­lished strin­gent con­trol mech­a­nisms to exe­cute our fis­cal author­i­ties and to apply increas­ing­ly effec­tive over­sight of all pro­grams.”

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

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