NATO Commander Cites Continued Progress in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2011 — After a three-day trip to Afghanistan, the top U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand and NATO mil­i­tary offi­cer report­ed pos­i­tive secu­ri­ty trends and con­tin­ued momen­tum in tran­si­tion­ing secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty to Afghan forces.

“Over­all, the trip rein­forced my sense that we are mak­ing good progress in the secu­ri­ty sec­tor,” Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis wrote in his “From the Bridge” blog after vis­it­ing Kab­ul, Kan­da­har and War­dak.

“I can see the progress,” the admi­ral wrote, “espe­cial­ly in the devel­op­ment of the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces and the ongo­ing tran­si­tion.”

Stavridis said his brief­in­gs with com­mand­ing gen­er­als in the Afghanistan’s south­ern and east­ern sec­tors, where most of the secu­ri­ty chal­lenges lie, gave him cause for opti­mism. “It is clear that they have sol­id plans, suf­fi­cient forces and are mak­ing steady inroads into the insur­gency,” he wrote.

For exam­ple, twice as many Afghan troops than coali­tion troops are serv­ing in both the south and east, he not­ed. Mean­while, ene­my attacks are down 10 per­cent nation­wide, and even more in the south and south­west.

“This is a big improve­ment over the past cou­ple of years,” Stavridis wrote. The fight­ing sea­son, he added, “has clear­ly been a dis­ap­point­ment to the Tal­iban,” who’ve been forced to take up a defen­sive pos­ture.

Mean­while, Afghan secu­ri­ty forces are lead­ing more oper­a­tions, which Stavridis called “a good sign that the tran­si­tion to Afghan-led secu­ri­ty oper­a­tions is well under way and work­ing.”

Twen­ty-five per­cent of the Afghan pop­u­la­tion is now under Afghan lead for secu­ri­ty, he not­ed. That per­cent­age, he added, is slat­ed to dou­ble with­in the next few months and ulti­mate­ly to reach 100 per­cent by the end of 2014.

But even as this progress con­tin­ues, Stavridis said, the insur­gents’ abil­i­ty to move across the porous Pak­istan-Afghanistan bor­der region con­tin­ues to present “a seri­ous chal­lenge to our efforts.”

One of the most-strik­ing impres­sions from his trip, he said, came when vis­it­ing a lit­er­a­cy train­ing class for Afghan Nation­al Police recruits in War­dak province.

The train­ing, con­duct­ed by the NATO Train­ing Mis­sion under in Afghanistan under the com­mand of Army Lt. Gen. William B. Cald­well IV, is part of an ongo­ing effort to increase lit­er­a­cy among Afghan secu­ri­ty forces. To date, 200,000 have been through or enrolled in the train­ing.

Stavridis said he was impressed by the fast-paced course­work he wit­nessed, not­ing that the young police recruits are “hun­gry to learn.”

“This will be a very long, last­ing con­tri­bu­tion to the secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty in Afghanistan,” he wrote.

Look­ing to the future, Stavridis rec­og­nized oth­er chal­lenges: gov­er­nance, cor­rup­tion that one Afghan observ­er called a “sec­ond insur­gency” and eco­nom­ic prob­lems, among them.

Upcom­ing inter­na­tion­al con­fer­ences in Istan­bul and Bonn and the NATO sum­mit in Chica­go next spring will need to help in address­ing these prob­lems, he said.

Stavridis said he remains pos­i­tive about Afghanistan.

“When I look back at where we were in the spring of 2009, I can see the progress — espe­cial­ly in the devel­op­ment of the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces and the ongo­ing tran­si­tion,” he wrote. “My sense at this moment is that there is indeed hope in the time ahead, along with all the chal­lenges.”

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