WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2012 — Afghan national security forces and the International Security Assistance Force have the right plan, the momentum and the will to succeed in the country, the commander of ISAF Joint Command said at a Pentagon news conference today.
Army Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti’s command, based in the Afghan capital of Kabul, directs day-to-day military operations in Afghanistan.
The general said he sees progress in the country, but that he also is realistic and knows hard fighting lies ahead.
The transition to Afghan security lead began last year when seven areas began transferring to Afghan control, with 11 more areas joining the process late last year.
“Currently, approximately 50 percent of the Afghan population has entered the process of transition, and the Afghan government and local communities throughout Afghanistan are increasingly taking the lead for their own security, governance and development, all without any significant spikes in the violence,” Scaparrotti said.
Getting the Afghan army and police in the lead is the goal of the allied effort in the country. The general said the Afghan national security forces “are improving, and they are increasingly demonstrating their ability to protect the people.”
Polls indicate that 81 percent of the Afghan population has respect for the police, and 59 percent report they have access to a police station within 30 minutes of where they live. “That’s up 42 percent since 2009,” the general said.
Progress is evident at both the top and lower levels of the Afghan forces, the general said. Afghan leaders developed Operation Naweed — Operation Good News in English — to chart the way forward over the next fighting season. At the other end of the spectrum, he added, there is also progress.
“I can tell you personally from experience and from feedback from others, these [Afghan] soldiers will fight, particularly at the company level,” Scaparrotti said. “There’s no question about that. And they’re going to be good enough as we build them to secure their country and to counter the insurgency that they’re dealing with now.”
The middle grades — battalion, brigade and corps leaders — will need more time to become effective leaders, the general said. In the U.S. Army, leaders say it takes 16 to 17 years to develop battalion commanders and 20 to 22 years to build brigade commanders.
Developing logistics and maintenance capabilities also will take more time, Scaparrotti said, but they are absolutely crucial for the Afghan military to take the security lead.
But overall, the general told reporters, he is “guardedly optimistic.” More than 300,000 Afghans serve in the army or police. Civilians are free to move around most of the country, and the number of insurgent support bases has been reduced. The Afghan people trust their own security forces. “I believe this trust and sense of security will increase as the Afghan forces step into the lead,” he said.
The general said his forces will continue to pursue the Taliban relentlessly and will work to use Afghan forces effectively. ISAF personnel will continue to work with the national, provincial and district governments to ensure economic gains follow security progress, he added.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)