NATO, Afghan Forces Make ‘Huge’ Gains in North

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2011 — Coali­tion efforts in north­ern Afghanistan have become more rel­e­vant over the past year with the addi­tion of new capa­bil­i­ties from U.S. forces, the top com­man­der for the NATO Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force ele­ment in the region said today.
“I see a huge dif­fer­ence when I com­pare to 2006,” Maj. Gen. Markus Kneip of the Ger­man army, com­man­der of Region­al Com­mand North, told Pen­ta­gon reporters in a video news con­fer­ence from his head­quar­ters in Afghanistan. “The capa­bil­i­ties are far more rel­e­vant to the job, [and] the incor­po­ra­tion of U.S. forces is mak­ing a [pos­i­tive] change.”

Kneip held the same post in 2006. He com­mands about 12,000 troops from 16 nations, includ­ing some 6,000 U.S. sol­diers, most­ly from the 170th Infantry Brigade Com­bat Team from Baumhold­er, Ger­many, and the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Com­bat Avi­a­tion Brigade from Fort Car­son, Colo. The addi­tion of U.S. forces there last spring with their much-need­ed avi­a­tion assets improved aer­i­al sur­veil­lance and pro­vid­ed attack heli­copter and med­ical evac­u­a­tion capa­bil­i­ties that have made a big dif­fer­ence, the gen­er­al said.

“When U.S. troops arrived, [Region­al Com­mand North] became more active,” the gen­er­al said. “Spe­cial oper­a­tions forces are real­ly [mak­ing] a dif­fer­ence, [and] con­ven­tion­al forces take no breaks and are doing a great job every day.”

The face of the fight, in terms of capa­bil­i­ties, changed dras­ti­cal­ly, Kneip’s deputy com­man­der, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mul­hol­land, added.

The num­ber of Tal­iban and oth­er insur­gents in the area has been reduced a great deal, Mul­hol­land said. Twelve senior Tal­iban lead­ers are gone, he added, due to the pres­sure placed on them by the U.S. capa­bil­i­ties, as well as through com­bined oper­a­tions with Afghan forces, which are becom­ing more con­fi­dent with each mis­sion.

Civ­il capa­bil­i­ties such as provin­cial recon­struc­tion teams, female engage­ment teams and pro­grams to re-inte­grate insur­gents back into soci­ety also are con­tribut­ing to the pos­i­tive trend, he said.

“Much of the Tal­iban in the north have cleared out and moved to Pak­istan,” he said. “The dif­fer­ence now is that more capa­bil­i­ties have arrived. The pop­u­lace feels good about secu­ri­ty through­out [the north] and is pret­ty opti­mistic about the Afghans start­ing to take con­trol of the gov­ern­ment.”

Mul­hol­land said troops in the north will con­tin­ue their progress by instill­ing con­fi­dence in the Afghan peo­ple.

“We are engag­ing [local lead­ers and Afghans] 24/7,” he said. “There’re a lot of pos­i­tive things that are hap­pen­ing, because we’re stay­ing the course. We will con­tin­ue to put relent­less pres­sure on the ene­my and help our part­ners take care of the Afghan peo­ple.”

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

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