More Troops Provide ‘Game-Changer’ in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2010 — The addi­tion of U.S. forces in north­ern Afghanistan has changed the face of the NATO mis­sion there, the top U.S. com­man­der for the NATO Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force ele­ment in the region said today.

The addi­tion­al troops – some 6,000-plus – come from 10th Moun­tain Division’s 1st Brigade Com­bat Team and 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Com­bat Avi­a­tion Brigade. The added forces are hav­ing a pos­i­tive effect in secu­ri­ty efforts as well as in train­ing Afghan sol­diers and police, Army Col. Sean Mul­hol­land, deputy com­man­der of Region­al Com­mand North, told Pen­ta­gon reporters in a video news con­fer­ence from his head­quar­ters in Afghanistan.

“That has been a game-chang­er up here,” Mul­hol­land said.

The colonel explained that the 10th Moun­tain Divi­sion troops aren’t respon­si­ble for any par­tic­u­lar bat­tle space. Rather, he said, they are part­nered with Afghan police under the com­mand and con­trol of provin­cial recon­struc­tion teams, which are led by State Depart­ment civil­ians.

“[Their] major task is to raise the lev­el or capa­bil­i­ty of the Afghan Nation­al Police, and they’ve done a great job so far,” he said. “With the 4th CAB, they’ve brought a lot of com­bat pow­er, a lot of agili­ty, a lot of move­ment and mobil­i­ty, and obvi­ous­ly more free­dom of action, to include casu­al­ty evac­u­a­tion for coali­tion forces, [Afghan sol­diers] and Afghan civil­ians.”

About 11,000 troops from 16 nations make up the Region­al Com­mand North foot­print. Maj. Gen. Hans-Wern­er Fritz of the Ger­man army is the top com­man­der there.

Troop num­bers there will remain at the cur­rent lev­el, with no expec­ta­tion for a mis­sion change or with­draw­al in the near future, Mul­hol­land said.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s July 2011 time­line and guid­ance from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of U.S. and inter­na­tion­al forces in Afghanistan, Mul­hol­land explained, rep­re­sents the date in which lead­ers and pol­i­cy mak­ers will begin to dis­cuss tran­si­tion.

“I don’t see any kind of dras­tic draw­downs forth­com­ing in the next few years,” Mul­hol­land said. “It’s going to have to be a timed, phased with­draw­al, obvi­ous­ly tak­ing secu­ri­ty into account.”

Mul­hol­land declined to spec­u­late when Afghan forces would take the lead in north­ern Afghanistan, but he did say he is impressed by the progress of Afghan sol­diers and police. NATO troops have grown con­fi­dent in their Afghan coun­ter­parts, he said.

“I’ve had four tours here in Afghanistan,” the colonel said. “The first tour, [Afghan sol­diers and police] were not up to stan­dard. This fourth tour, I come back and I am absolute­ly sur­prised at the qual­i­ty of their train­ing that they’re now receiv­ing. They are real­ly start­ing to peak in terms of offi­cer and [non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer] pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment and leader train­ing.

“The oth­er fac­tor is the part­ner­ing,” he added. “Gen­er­al Petraeus is absolute­ly on top of and empha­siz­ing part­ner­ing with our Afghan part­ners, whether it be police, Afghan bor­der police or Afghan Nation­al Army.

“Every­one under­stands that in ISAF and under­stands the stan­dards of part­ner­ing,” he con­tin­ued. “So I think we, as ISAF, are get­ting bet­ter at part­ner­ing and help­ing our Afghan broth­ers improve in terms of com­bat [oper­a­tions] and secu­ri­ty [oper­a­tions].”

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

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