NATO Undeterred By Insurgent Attacks, General Says

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2011 — The mes­sage to insur­gents was made clear by a senior offi­cial from the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force Joint Com­mand as he spoke to Pen­ta­gon reporters today.

“We’re not going to aban­don Afghanistan,” said British army Maj. Gen. Tim Evans, chief of staff for the Inter­na­tion­al Joint Com­mand head­quar­ters. “And even past 2014 there’s talk of the strate­gic part­ner­ship [where] we will be giv­ing sup­port to the peo­ple of Afghanistan.”

“We are going to be here to [2014] and beyond,” he added. “We are deter­mined to work toward our goal of rid­ding Afghanistan of these ter­ror­ist sanc­tu­ar­ies.”

Recent insur­gent attacks in Afghanistan include the Sept. 13 assaults on the U.S. Embassy and oth­er tar­gets in Kab­ul, and the truck bomb that explod­ed Sept. 10 near a com­bat out­post in War­dak province, wound­ing 77 U.S. sol­diers and killing five Afghans, includ­ing a child.

Such attacks have been inef­fec­tive, Evans said, not­ing the insur­gents have resort­ed to such high-pro­file assaults to “exag­ger­ate their influ­ence.”

The insur­gents “are try­ing to get media atten­tion with such attacks and under­mine the con­fi­dence of Afghan secu­ri­ty forces and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty,” he said. “These sorts of attacks have the oppo­site effect, and just stiff­en our resolve.”

In Kab­ul, Afghan secu­ri­ty forces “dealt with the sit­u­a­tion with min­i­mal ISAF assis­tance demon­strat­ing, once again, that they do have the capa­bil­i­ty to do so,” Evans added.

Evans attrib­uted the “spec­tac­u­lar” attack in Kab­ul and oth­er recent attacks to the 10th anniver­sary of 9/11.

“We do believe they were try­ing to do an attack on the anniver­sary of 9/11,” he said. “Both our Spe­cial Forces and Afghan Spe­cial Forces actu­al­ly thwart­ed a num­ber of attacks.”

ISAF has ramped up efforts to dis­man­tle and defeat ter­ror­ist net­works through­out the coun­try, the gen­er­al said.

“Over the past year, we have con­scious­ly decid­ed to take the fight to the insur­gents,” he said. “We have relent­less­ly pur­sued them, seized the ini­tia­tive and focused our efforts on tar­get­ing the insur­gents’ com­mand and con­trol, their sup­port bases and infil­tra­tion routes.”

“Our spe­cial forces, in part­ner­ship and often led by Afghan spe­cial forces, have had a dra­mat­ic effect on cap­tur­ing or killing hun­dreds of the mid-lev­el insur­gent lead­er­ship,” Evans added.

“We’re aware of the chal­lenges that still face Afghanistan, but we are see­ing signs of progress,” he said. “The peo­ples’ trust in their secu­ri­ty forces and the gov­ern­ment of Afghanistan does con­tin­ue to grow.”

Evans cit­ed secu­ri­ty gains as “instru­men­tal in gen­er­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for progress.”

“We’ve seen this quite clear­ly in cen­tral Hel­mand and Kan­da­har [provinces],” Evans said. “We are on the offen­sive, exploit­ing our gains and try­ing to strength­en the local gov­er­nance and pro­tect­ing their pop­u­la­tion. And we’re going to build upon this momen­tum.”

He also acknowl­edged it isn’t sole­ly a tac­ti­cal endeav­or to sta­bi­lize the coun­try and facil­i­tate tran­si­tion.

“We’re see­ing some key improve­ments in gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment,” Evans said. “Afghans are now vot­ing in local elec­tions. For exam­ple, a year ago Mar­ja was a Tal­iban strong­hold.”

Evans cit­ed the elec­tions as an exam­ple of coali­tion suc­cess, with cit­i­zens elect­ing new lead­er­ship last spring.

“There are also now cur­rent­ly more than 26,000 elect­ed com­mu­ni­ty coun­cils across Afghanistan, which sup­port local com­mu­ni­ty-dri­ven devel­op­ment projects, includ­ing road build­ing, elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­a­tion and irri­ga­tion,” he said. “The mer­it-based hir­ing sys­tem, civ­il-ser­vice job fairs and rep­re­sen­ta­tive shuras have also strength­ened and increased the capac­i­ty of local gov­er­nance and weak­ened cor­rup­tion across the coun­try.”

Evans also cit­ed a 300,000-strong force of Afghan secu­ri­ty forces help­ing com­plete the first phase of tran­si­tion.

“This rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant increase over the 90,000 that were gained in 2010,” he said. “So there has been pos­i­tive progress, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the part of our Afghan part­ners. We have built up a momen­tum that we will main­tain in the future.”

“We acknowl­edge that this is not going to be easy … we do not under­es­ti­mate our task,” Evans con­tin­ued. “But we do have the right strat­e­gy, the ini­tia­tive, the momen­tum, and the Afghans are cer­tain­ly up for it.”

Evans com­mend­ed ISAF forces for train­ing and men­tor­ing Afghan secu­ri­ty forces that will pro­vide secu­ri­ty for about 7 mil­lion peo­ple � a quar­ter of the Afghan pop­u­la­tion — with the com­ple­tion of the first phase.

“The sol­diers, sailors, Marines, air­men and air­women are doing a ster­ling job out here in Afghanistan,” he said. “But we [have to] make sure we remain stead­fast and have the resolve to make sure we see this mis­sion through, and sup­port the Afghan peo­ple.”

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