General Details Afghanistan Campaign Plan

CAMP EGGERS, Afghanistan, June 6, 2011 — The pop­u­la­tion cen­ters of Afghanistan’s Hel­mand and Kan­da­har provinces and Spin Bolduk on the Pak­istan bor­der con­sti­tute key areas in the fight against the Tal­iban this year, the com­man­der of Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force Joint Com­mand said here today.

Army Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez told reporters trav­el­ing with Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates that the Tal­iban and its ter­ror­ist allies are try­ing to return to the area, which coali­tion and Afghan troops wrest­ed from them over the past year.

“We’ve been able to degrade and attrit their lead­ers and their com­mand and con­trol, which is obvi­ous­ly crit­i­cal to what they are doing,” the gen­er­al said. Over the past year, he added, coali­tion and Afghan forces also have degrad­ed Tal­iban sup­port bases.

But the Tal­iban are “going to go all-out to reverse the loss­es they’ve had in the past year,” the gen­er­al said.

The Tal­iban are going after the gains the coali­tion has made, Rodriguez said, not­ing the Tal­iban will try to kill Afghan trib­al and gov­ern­ment lead­ers, and attack Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.

“We have to con­tin­ue those efforts to get the irre­versible momen­tum that we need and the Afghans’ desire [to main­tain gains made] in the south so we can shift our main effort back to the east,” Rodriguez said. The east is a far more com­plex area because of the mix­ture of tribes that live there, the moun­tain­ous ter­rain and long-estab­lished ties over the Pak­istani bor­der, he explained.

All this is occur­ring as coali­tion forces pre­pare to draw down. The agree­ment signed at NATO’s Novem­ber sum­mit in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, calls for the Afghan gov­ern­ment to have secu­ri­ty con­trol of the coun­try by the end of 2014.

“As we look for­ward to draw­ing down, we have to make those good deci­sions and judg­ments about how to draw down and get more Afghans in the lead while we still con­tin­ue the momen­tum for­ward,” Rodriguez said.

Though it’s a tall order to hold the ter­ri­to­ry in the south, dis­rupt the Tal­iban in the east and draw down coali­tion forces, it can be done because of the increased num­bers and capa­bil­i­ties of Afghan forces, the gen­er­al said. The coalition’s surge in Afghanistan was 40,000 more sol­diers, 30,000 of them Amer­i­can. “The oth­er part that’s not focused on … is there are more than 94,000 Afghan forces,” he not­ed.

At some point, the gen­er­al said, momen­tum for secu­ri­ty will be irre­versible. Com­mu­ni­ties are see­ing the ben­e­fits to being allied with the Afghan gov­ern­ment. Gov­er­nance and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment are com­ing to the areas. Roads, schools, hos­pi­tals, and oth­er infra­struc­ture improve­ments mean build­ings jobs and set the stage for long-term pros­per­i­ty, Rodriguez said.

Once the irre­versible momen­tum is in place in the south, the coali­tion can shift its main effort to the east­ern part of the coun­try, he said.

“It’s all con­di­tions-based,” the gen­er­al added. “It does not mean that you are shift­ing forces. There are a lot of things that go into the main effort: the pri­or­i­ti­za­tion of the [intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance], the pri­or­i­ti­za­tion of mobile Afghan forces –nation­al civ­il order police, the com­man­dos, and so on.”

And Afghan forces are get­ting bet­ter. Afghan units are arriv­ing at their areas bet­ter trained from the start, Rodriguez said, and then they part­ner with coali­tion forces. As time goes by, the Afghan forces — be they police or army — need less and less direct super­vi­sion and guid­ance, the gen­er­al said. And as the army and police get stronger, he added, they get bet­ter recruits.

Afghan forces still need help to oper­ate, he acknowl­edged, with the major short­ages being com­mand and con­trol, intel­li­gence inte­gra­tion, logis­tics, med­ical evac­u­a­tion and high-end spe­cial oper­a­tions forces.

Coali­tion com­man­ders want more Afghan units, the gen­er­al said.

“They are get­ting bet­ter lead­ers all the time, they are get­ting bet­ter num­bers, and [coali­tion com­man­ders] know the over­all plan is to work them­selves out of a job here,” he said.

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

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