Goals in Afghanistan Remain the Same, Dempsey Says

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2012 — While recent inci­dents have chal­lenged U.S. oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, the long-term objec­tives there remain the same, Army Gen. Mar­tin Dempsey told Char­lie Rose.

The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff appeared on the PBS inter­view show last night. He said the U.S. mil­i­tary is com­mit­ted to con­duct­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion into the March 11 alleged mur­der of Afghan civil­ians by an Amer­i­can staff sergeant in Kan­da­har province. 

Dempsey put the recent inci­dents in per­spec­tive. “We also have to be aware of the fact that we’ve had pos­si­bly 800,000 to 900,000 young men and women rotate through Afghanistan and they’ve served hon­or­ably, they’ve done the right thing, they’ve main­tained their sens­es of dis­ci­pline,” he said. 

The alleged mur­ders, the Quran burn­ing inci­dent last month and images of dead bod­ies being des­e­crat­ed all have con­verged, the chair­man said. “We have to be intro­spec­tive and learn what the past 10 years of war have done to us as a pro­fes­sion,” he said. “In terms of whether these inci­dents have hurt the war effort, our goals and objec­tives remain the same.” 

NATO lead­ers agreed at the 2010 Lis­bon sum­mit to main­tain secu­ri­ty in Afghanistan and train Afghan forces to tran­si­tion to the lead in their own secu­ri­ty by 2014. Afghan gov­ern­ment offi­cials also agreed to these goals and objec­tives, Dempsey said. 

“I think Afghan lead­ers under­stand that, but their out­rage at a par­tic­u­lar instance is under­stand­able,” he said. 

“It should be clear that no one wants to put Afghans in the lead more than we do — when they are ready to be in the lead,” Dempsey said. “That’s the con­ver­sa­tion we’ve been having.” 

There are a num­ber of areas where Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces the army and police are in the lead. By next year that will increase dra­mat­i­cal­ly, the gen­er­al said. 

Already, Afghan forces are respon­si­ble for pro­tect­ing more than half of Afghan cit­i­zens. In 2013, the NATO-led Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force will tran­si­tion more areas to Afghan con­trol. He said there will be “a mile­stone of sorts” next year. 

Dempsey made a recent trip to Afghanistan and came away with the impres­sion that the Afghans want to lead and want to assume respon­si­bil­i­ty. “I think that when giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to lead … — there are capa­bil­i­ty gaps — but when giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do so, they actu­al­ly do bet­ter than we think they will and, impor­tant­ly, they per­form bet­ter than they think they can,” he said. 

Afghanistan is a very poor coun­try with many dis­parate groups, which com­pli­cates efforts in the area, but the Unit­ed States and its allies are help­ing build a sense of nation­hood there, he said. 

Pak­istan is anoth­er wild card in the hand in Cen­tral Asia, and while Dempsey believes the state is more sta­ble, it still faces chal­lenges that ter­ror groups, such as the Haqqani net­work, exploit. The Novem­ber inci­dent where NATO forces killed Pak­istani sol­diers on the bor­der still col­ors rela­tions between the Unit­ed States and Pak­istan and Pak­istan lead­ers closed a NATO sup­ply route. 

The Unit­ed States has qui­et­ly worked with Pak­istani lead­ers to mend rela­tions. “I think the best thing we’ve done is we’ve not con­duct­ed our engage­ment with them with a mega­phone,” he said. “We’ve com­mu­ni­cat­ed with them direct­ly. We’ve com­mu­ni­cat­ed with them pri­vate­ly. We’re back in close con­tact with them along the bor­der. We have been in con­ver­sa­tions about our mil-to-mil rela­tion­ship, about our for­eign mil­i­tary sales, about some of the com­mon chal­lenges of terrorism.” 

The Pak­istani leg­is­la­ture is dis­cussing what the new rela­tion­ship with the Unit­ed States might be. “I’m per­son­al­ly opti­mistic that we can reset the rela­tion­ship in a way that meets both of our needs,” the chair­man said. 

Still, the Pak­istani mil­i­tary lacks the capa­bil­i­ty need­ed to end ter­ror groups using the coun­try as a safe haven. The Pak­ista­nis may have the will to do some­thing, but not the means. “I believe they will do the best they can, but it may not be enough for us,” he said. 

Dempsey used the Haqqani net­work as an exam­ple. He said the net­work has been in place for 20 years and is “inter­twined” into the soci­ety of west­ern Pak­istan. It also received sig­nif­i­cant assis­tance from the Pak­istani Inter-Ser­vices Intel­li­gence orga­ni­za­tion. “I think they’re inter­mar­ried,” he said. 

All this makes it dif­fi­cult for his Pak­istani coun­ter­part, Gen. Ash­faq Parvez Kayani, to deliv­er. Still the gen­er­al said he believes Kayani will do every­thing he can against these ter­ror groups. 

Pak­istan con­tin­ues to have a bleak eco­nom­ic pic­ture, a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion and a pol­i­cy that still regards India as the nation’s exis­ten­tial threat, the chair­man said. 

Afghanistan was the coun­try where al-Qai­da planned the attack on the Unit­ed States that killed 3,000 peo­ple. There has been sig­nif­i­cant progress against the ter­ror group, Dempsey said, and while it still is a fac­tor, its influ­ence has waned and many of its lead­ers are dead or in captivity. 

But the move­ment al-Qai­da rep­re­sents is still a dan­ger on the Ara­bi­an penin­su­la, in Africa and else­where, Dempsey said. “We think those orga­ni­za­tions have an abil­i­ty because it is the 21st cen­tu­ry and they can net­work have the abil­i­ty to pass infor­ma­tion, pass goals and objec­tives, and even exchange mon­ey, ide­ol­o­gy, and peo­ple,” he said. 

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

Team GlobDef

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

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →