Joint Command Boss Says ISAF Has Momentum to Succeed

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)