Flournoy: Coalition Continues Progress in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2011 — Despite recent high-pro­file attacks, the inter­na­tion­al coali­tion is mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant progress in Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s top pol­i­cy offi­cial said today.

Recent vio­lence in Afghanistan, such as an Oct. 29 sui­cide bus bomb­ing that killed 10 Amer­i­cans in Kan­da­har and the Sept. 13 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kab­ul, remind­ed Amer­i­cans that “bring­ing about a peace­ful Afghanistan is far from com­plete,” Mich�le Flournoy, under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, said at the Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions in New York.

Such iso­lat­ed attacks should not cause peo­ple to think that U.S. and NATO oper­a­tions are “doomed,” Flournoy said. Events on the ground prove “momen­tum has shift­ed in Afghanistan and the strat­e­gy is work­ing.”

Flournoy, a for­mer term mem­ber of the coun­cil who just returned from her sev­enth trip to Afghanistan in two years, said the coali­tion is degrad­ing the insur­gency, build­ing up Afghan forces, and hold­ing ter­ri­to­ry.

A semi­an­nu­al Defense Depart­ment report to Con­gress last week shows that vio­lence decreased dur­ing the spring-sum­mer fight­ing sea­son this year for the first time in at least five years, Flournoy said. “This is the most sus­tained down­turn in ene­my-ini­ti­at­ed vio­lence, so far, in Afghanistan,” she said.

The improved secu­ri­ty is mak­ing it increas­ing­ly hard for insur­gents to hold ground, Flournoy said.

The insur­gency con­tin­ues to ben­e­fit from sup­port in Pak­istan, the under­sec­re­tary said, and cor­rup­tion hin­ders reforms. But mil­lions more Afghans have access to edu­ca­tion, health care and polit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, she not­ed. Afghanistan’s gross domes­tic prod­uct has increased at about 12 per­cent each year in 10 years, and exports are up 30 per­cent since the Tal­iban were in pow­er, she added.

“These sta­tis­tics offer per­spec­tive and, I believe, hope, … with more and more Afghans see­ing the extrem­ist world­view as noth­ing but a dead end,” Flournoy said.

The Unit­ed States and NATO have been suc­cess­ful in Afghanistan because of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s deci­sion in 2009 to surge coali­tion per­son­nel, then build up Afghan forces, the under­sec­re­tary said. Afghan secu­ri­ty forces are on track to meet both quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive goals, and increas­ing­ly take the lead in secu­ri­ty and human­i­tar­i­an oper­a­tions, Flournoy told the group. Coali­tion forces are on the verge of trans­fer­ring more ter­ri­to­ry to Afghan con­trol, plac­ing half the country’s pop­u­la­tion under Afghan secu­ri­ty, she added.

That process will con­tin­ue until Afghan forces are in con­trol of secu­ri­ty for the whole coun­try in 2014, Flournoy said, but that will not end U.S. involve­ment.

“We have no inten­tion of aban­don­ing Afghanistan,” Flournoy said. “We have done that before, with ter­ri­ble con­se­quences.”

As the Unit­ed States draws down troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. focus increas­ing­ly will turn to eco­nom­ic growth, includ­ing cat­a­loging the country’s min­er­al wealth and part­ner­ing with Sil­i­con Val­ley, Calif., tech­ni­cal entre­pre­neurs on incu­ba­tors, she said.

“The [his­to­ries] of our two nations have become very inter­twined,” Flournoy said. “We share the com­mon core goal of dis­rupt­ing and defeat­ing transna­tion­al ter­ror­ist net­works that emanate from that region.”

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