Official Reports Security Progress in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 2011 — Call­ing the oper­a­tion against al-Qai­da leader Osama bin Laden “a great step” toward U.S. objec­tives in Afghanistan, a senior defense offi­cial empha­sized the impor­tance of con­tin­u­ing to build Afghan secu­ri­ty forces and insti­tu­tions so they can con­tin­ue this momen­tum.

“Our goal is to deny safe havens to al-Qai­da and to deny insur­gents the abil­i­ty to over­throw the Afghan gov­ern­ment,” Michael D. Lump­kin, act­ing assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for spe­cial oper­a­tions and low-inten­si­ty con­flict, said yes­ter­day at the Min­istry of Defense Advi­sors Pro­gram first-anniver­sary con­fer­ence.

With bin Laden now out of the pic­ture, he said, U.S., Afghan and coali­tion forces must con­tin­ue work­ing togeth­er to degrade the Tal­iban-led insur­gency.

“Although progress in Afghanistan is sub­stan­tial and our strat­e­gy is on track, sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges remain,” Lump­kin said. U.S., Afghan and coali­tion forces have dis­lodged insur­gents from key strong­holds in the south and improved secu­ri­ty through much of the north­ern, west­ern and cap­i­tal regions, he said.

But east­ern Afghanistan remains prob­lem­at­ic, he acknowl­edged. There, the phys­i­cal ter­rain, cul­ture, geog­ra­phy and pres­ence of safe havens in Pak­istan all present “a com­plex set of chal­lenges” he said are dis­tinct from those in oth­er parts of Afghanistan.

“In addi­tion, only after Afghanistan’s secu­ri­ty insti­tu­tions are self-suf­fi­cient and self-sus­tain­ing will it be pos­si­ble for the Afghan gov­ern­ment to solid­i­fy tac­ti­cal gains earned at such great cost,” he said.

While the Unit­ed States and coali­tion part­ners help the Afghans build their secu­ri­ty min­istries, Lump­kin empha­sized the need to “pro­vide time and space for the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces and the Afghan gov­ern­ment to assume the lead for Afghanistan’s secu­ri­ty nation­wide by the end of 2014.”

“The key to this respon­si­ble, Afghan-led tran­si­tion is the pres­ence and the capa­bil­i­ty of 300,000-member strong and grow­ing Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces and the devel­op­ment of civil­ian-led secu­ri­ty min­istries that can sus­tain these forces,” he said.

The Afghan Nation­al Army and Afghan Nation­al Police have grown by more than 100,000 troops and police offi­cers since Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma announced his Afghanistan-Pak­istan strat­e­gy in Decem­ber 2009, he not­ed.

By the end of the sum­mer of 2012, when the last of U.S. surge forces have left, anoth­er 50,000 Afghans are slat­ed to have joined their nation­al army and police forces, he said.

“As a result of this expan­sion, there will actu­al­ly be more Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces and coali­tion forces in the fight than there are today,” Lump­kin said. “And sub­stan­tial­ly more of those forces will be Afghan. Indeed, by this time next year, for every Amer­i­can sol­dier in Afghanistan, there will be five [Afghan] sol­diers and police in the fight.”

Lump­kin called the recent trans­fer of secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty to Afghan forces in sev­en areas of Afghanistan a tan­gi­ble sign of progress being made. Mean­while, he added, nego­ti­a­tions under way will devel­op terms for a strate­gic part­ner­ship that will frame the char­ac­ter of an endur­ing U.S.-Afghan rela­tion­ship.

“It will send a clear and reas­sur­ing sig­nal to the region that Afghanistan will not be aban­doned, and that the Unit­ed States remains com­mit­ted to region­al peace and sta­bil­i­ty,” Lump­kin said. “We are deter­mined to see this part­ner­ship become a real­i­ty, so that in the future Afghanistan is safe, sta­ble, peace­ful and secure.”

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

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