More Ups than Downs in Afghan Counterinsurgency Fight

WASHINGTON — A coun­terin­sur­gency cam­paign is a lot like a roller coast­er with many ups and downs, said Army Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, com­man­der of the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force Joint Com­mand and deputy com­man­der of U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, Rodriguez said, there have been more ups than downs.

In an inter­view with the “Today Show” yes­ter­day, Rodriguez said the 2014 goal for turn­ing over secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty to the Afghan gov­ern­ment is pos­si­ble, and is a “light at the end of the tun­nel” for Amer­i­can ser­vice­mem­bers.

The gen­er­al stressed that the 2014 date –- endorsed by NATO heads of state at the Lis­bon Sum­mit last week –- will be con­di­tions-based even then. “We’re going to work togeth­er with the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty and the Afghan forces to assume that goal,” he said.

The gen­er­al told “Today’s” Lester Holt that the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force com­man­der in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, had worked close­ly with Afghan leader Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai and oth­ers in set­ting the date. The ques­tions come to “how we can go for­ward in this and how long it’s going to take and what their objec­tives are and what our goals are,” the gen­er­al said.

Tac­ti­cal lead­ers –- squad, pla­toon, com­pa­ny and bat­tal­ion com­man­ders –- car­ry the brunt of the coun­terin­sur­gency strat­e­gy, and progress is uneven in an asym­met­ric con­flict like that in Afghanistan, Rodriguez said.

“We’re hav­ing more ups than downs, and we’re mov­ing in the right direc­tion and mak­ing progress,” he said. “The advan­tage real­ly gets done over that ene­my by the great lead­ers that you have at every lev­el, inno­v­a­tive ser­vice­men and women, and just a tremen­dous think­ing orga­ni­za­tion that learns and gets bet­ter every day.”

There are more than 130,000 NATO troops -– with about 90,000 Amer­i­cans –- in Afghanistan. U.S. lead­ers say that this is the first time the mis­sion to Afghanistan has been ade­quate­ly resourced. The end-game is to train Afghan police and sol­diers to assume secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty. Offi­cials in the Pen­ta­gon and in Kab­ul expect that in the spring announce­ments will be made for areas or provinces that will be turned over to Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.

At its heart, what will make the coun­terin­sur­gency strat­e­gy suc­cess­ful is that Afghans do not want the Tal­iban back. They remem­ber the repres­sion and ter­ror and do not want a repeat, Rodriguez said.

“We just have to help them build enough capac­i­ty so that doesn’t hap­pen in the future,” he said. “The entire process that we’re work­ing on –- the tran­si­tion –- is all about irre­versibil­i­ty. And we’re going to pay atten­tion to that every step of the way.”

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

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