Gates: Afghanistan Progress Exceeds Expectations

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2010 — Results achieved by U.S. troops “surged” to Afghanistan begin­ning last sum­mer have been greater than expect­ed, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said today.
“The mil­i­tary progress made in just the past three to four months, since the last of the addi­tion­al 30,000 U.S. troops arrived, has exceed­ed my expec­ta­tions,” Gates said.

Gates, Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton, and Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma at the White House today as the pres­i­dent announced find­ings of the Afghanistan and Pak­istan Annu­al Review, released today. 

Fol­low­ing the president’s remarks, Gates dis­cussed mil­i­tary suc­cess to date in meet­ing the president’s core goal of dis­rupt­ing, dis­man­tling and defeat­ing al-Qai­da in the Afghanistan-Pak­istan region. 

The Tal­iban con­trol far less ter­ri­to­ry today than they did a year ago, Gates said. Dur­ing his last trip to Afghanistan a week ago, he added, he observed U.S., coali­tion and Afghan efforts across the coun­try and met with troops and com­man­ders on the ground. 

“I saw per­son­al­ly how inter­na­tion­al and Afghan forces have halt­ed Tal­iban momen­tum through­out the coun­try, and are revers­ing it in their tra­di­tion­al strong­holds of Kan­da­har and Hel­mand,” he said. “The sense of progress among those clos­est to the fight is palpable.” 

Coali­tion forces and their Afghan part­ners in Kan­da­har have “tak­en new ter­ri­to­ry, cleared it, secured it and held it, and … are now in the process of link­ing their new­ly estab­lished zone of secu­ri­ty with those in Hel­mand province,” the sec­re­tary said. 

While fight­ing in some areas remains fierce, he said, it is achiev­ing its objec­tives of revers­ing Tal­iban momentum. 

“As we expect­ed and warned, U.S., coali­tion and Afghan forces are suf­fer­ing more casu­al­ties as we push into these areas long con­trolled by the Tal­iban,” he said. “Fight­ing in the east … has also picked up. But as a result of the tough fight under way, the Tal­iban con­trol far less ter­ri­to­ry today than they did a year ago.” 

Gates said the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces have been cen­tral to the effort in con­tain­ing insur­gent activ­i­ty. The strat­e­gy review indi­cates growth of those forces in both size and capa­bil­i­ty is ahead of sched­ule, he said. 

“More than 65,000 have joined the fight this year, and vir­tu­al­ly all of them are now rifle qual­i­fied, as opposed to only a third of them in Novem­ber of 2009,” said Gates, not­ing Afghan troops now are respon­si­ble for secu­ri­ty in the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul and increas­ing­ly are tak­ing the lead in Kan­da­har, where they make up 60 per­cent of the fight­ing forces. 

“They are per­form­ing well in part­ner­ship with coali­tion troops, and will con­tin­ue to improve with the right train­ing, equip­ment and sup­port,” the sec­re­tary said. The growth of local secu­ri­ty ini­tia­tives is help­ing com­mu­ni­ties pro­tect them­selves against the Tal­iban while deny­ing insur­gents sanc­tu­ary and free­dom of move­ment, he said. As the review indi­cates, Gates said, Pak­istan also plays a crit­i­cal role in achiev­ing U.S. strat­e­gy in the region. 

“Pak­istan has com­mit­ted over 140,000 troops to oper­a­tions in extrem­ist safe havens along the bor­der of Afghanistan, in coor­di­na­tion with Afghan and coali­tion forces on the Afghan side,” he said. 

Gates said that while U.S. offi­cials believe Pak­istan can and must do more to shut down the flow of insur­gents across the bor­der, “it is impor­tant to remem­ber that these kinds of mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in the trib­al areas would have been con­sid­ered unthink­able just two years ago. And the Pak­istani mil­i­tary has simul­ta­ne­ous­ly been con­tend­ing with the his­toric flood­ing that has dev­as­tat­ed much of the country.” 

The sec­re­tary expressed con­fi­dence that the president’s goals will be met. 

“While our progress in Afghanistan, as both the pres­i­dent and Sec­re­tary Clin­ton have said, is frag­ile and reversible, I believe that we will be able to achieve the key goals laid out by the pres­i­dent last year and fur­ther embraced by oth­er NATO heads of state in Lis­bon,” he said. “That is, for Afghan forces to begin tak­ing the secu­ri­ty lead in the com­ing year, and for the Afghan gov­ern­ment to assume secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty coun­try­wide by the end of 2014.” 

The secu­ri­ty tran­si­tion already has begun in places such as Kab­ul, Gates added, will accel­er­ate in the spring and sum­mer, and grad­u­al­ly con­tin­ue over time, based on con­di­tions on the ground. 

“I’d like to close with a spe­cial word of thanks and hol­i­day greet­ings to our troops and their fam­i­lies, and espe­cial­ly to those who are serv­ing in Afghanistan,” the sec­re­tary said. “It is their sac­ri­fice that has made this progress pos­si­ble. I regret that we will be ask­ing even more of them in the months and years to come.” 

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

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →