Gates, Karzai Discuss Way Ahead in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2010 — There are now enough resources in Afghanistan to deliv­er “tan­gi­ble and last­ing results,” Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said dur­ing a joint news con­fer­ence with Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai here today.

The two lead­ers had met ear­li­er in the day to dis­cuss issues such as com­bat­ing cor­rup­tion in the Afghan gov­ern­ment, civil­ian casu­al­ties and the U.S. military’s grad­ual tran­si­tion of respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty to Afghan forces begin­ning in July 2011.

Karzai told reporters his dis­cus­sions with Gates “detailed the progress we have made so far and what remains to be done.”

Near­ly all of the 30,000 U.S. troops Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma ordered to Afghanistan in Decem­ber 2009 have arrived, Gates said. The U.S. forces are con­duct­ing oper­a­tions along with 7,000 addi­tion­al ser­vice­mem­bers sent from NATO and non-NATO allies.

The Unit­ed States has tripled the num­ber of civil­ians in Afghanistan and pro­vid­ed many more train­ers for Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.

But the addi­tion­al resources for the Afghanistan cam­paign are not con­fined to inter­na­tion­al forces. “The size and capa­bil­i­ties of the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces con­tin­ue to grow in num­ber and in qual­i­ty,” Gates said. Afghan forces have grown by more than 60,000 in the past nine months, he said, reach­ing the annu­al recruit­ing goal three months ear­ly.

Afghan troops are work­ing with the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force, Gates said, with about 85 per­cent of the Afghan kan­daks, or bat­tal­ions, part­ner­ing with ISAF units. The Afghans and ISAF units are “train­ing togeth­er, plan­ning togeth­er and fight­ing togeth­er, with Afghan forces increas­ing­ly tak­ing the lead,” the sec­re­tary said.

Mean­while, the Tal­iban, the Haqqani net­work and their al-Qai­da allies have fought back. U.S., coali­tion and Afghan forces had expect­ed the fight­ing to inten­si­fy, Gates said, as they pushed back to take – and hold – more and more vil­lages and cities.

While there have been more allied casu­al­ties, “our ene­mies are pay­ing a very steep price and feel­ing more pres­sure than ever,” the sec­re­tary said. “That will only inten­si­fy as Afghan and coali­tion oper­a­tions expand, bring­ing secu­ri­ty to com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ple the Tal­iban has ter­ror­ized.”

This pres­sure should lead to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and rein­te­gra­tion in Afghanistan and there already are small groups that are putting down their arms rather than fight Afghan and coali­tion forces, Gates said.

Mean­while, despite increased mil­i­tary oper­a­tions, the num­bers of civil­ian casu­al­ties caused by inad­ver­tent coali­tion and Afghan actions are drop­ping, Gates said.

We will con­tin­ue to make every effort to avoid harm­ing inno­cent civil­ians in our oper­a­tions alto­geth­er,” he said. “How­ev­er, at the same time the Tal­iban lead­er­ship has under­tak­en a bru­tal cam­paign against Afghan civil­ians and assas­si­na­tion of Afghan offi­cials.”

The sec­re­tary announced that the Unit­ed States is rewrit­ing the rules for con­tract­ing and for­eign assis­tance mon­ey to ensure it does not fuel cor­rup­tion. The U.S. embassy and U.S. Forces Afghanistan are work­ing togeth­er to put in place new pro­ce­dures and con­trols to ensure this. “We ful­ly sup­port the Afghan gov­ern­ment in its own efforts to address cor­rup­tion,” Gates said.

The Afghan pres­i­dent told reporters his gov­ern­ment will fight cor­rup­tion, but that it must be done in accor­dance with Afghan law.

We should fight cor­rup­tion, but cor­rup­tion must be fought legal­ly and cor­rect­ly, not in man­ner of ban­dit­ry or a vio­la­tion of the rights of the peo­ple,” Karzai said.

Gates reit­er­at­ed the U.S. military’s role after July 2011 – the date that Oba­ma set for a con­di­tions-based begin­ning of tran­si­tion to the Afghans for secu­ri­ty. The coalition’s mil­i­tary role will change over time, but one con­stant will be the long-term com­mit­ment of the Unit­ed States to the Afghan peo­ple, he said.

Pres­i­dent Karzai and I dis­cussed the impor­tance of the strength­ened U.S.-Afghan Strate­gic Part­ner­ship Dec­la­ra­tion now being devel­oped by our two gov­ern­ments,” the sec­re­tary said.

Gates said the U.S. mil­i­tary is not “turn­ing off the lights” in July 2011.

If the Tal­iban real­ly do believe that Amer­i­ca is head­ing for the exits next sum­mer in large num­bers, they will be deeply dis­ap­point­ed and sur­prised to find us very much in the fight,” he said.

The Unit­ed States will have forces in Afghanistan after 2011, the sec­re­tary said, not­ing that Amer­i­ca and Afghanistan will con­tin­ue to have a long-term mil­i­tary, polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic part­ner­ship.

We learned our les­son in turn­ing our back on Afghanistan in 1989, and we have no inten­tion of doing so again,” Gates said.

The Unit­ed States, he said, will con­tin­ue to dis­rupt, dis­man­tle and defeat al-Qai­da and its extrem­ist affil­i­ates in Afghanistan, Pak­istan and oth­er areas they may try to gath­er.

Our suc­cess will be crit­i­cal for the future of the Afghan peo­ple, for the sta­bil­i­ty of the region and for the long-term secu­ri­ty inter­ests of the Amer­i­can peo­ple and our allies,” Gates said.

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

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