Petraeus Discusses Troop Transition Options

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2011 — As the start of the draw­down of U.S. troops from Afghanistan approach­es, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior com­man­der of U.S. and coali­tion forces there, said the tran­si­tion of forces could take a num­ber of forms.

“Pro­gres­sive­ly over time, obvi­ous­ly, we do want to reduce our num­bers in spe­cif­ic loca­tions based on con­di­tions, and then either rein­vest that tran­si­tion gain or div­i­dend in a con­tigu­ous area or in the train­ing mis­sion or ulti­mate­ly begin to send some of them home,” Petraeus said in a PBS “New­shour” inter­view from the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul that aired yes­ter­day.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has direct­ed that U.S. troops begin tran­si­tion­ing out of Afghanistan in July.

Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai will receive a rec­om­men­da­tion around the end of Feb­ru­ary for the first areas that can tran­si­tion to Afghan respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty, Petraeus said. “We believe that there are some very viable can­di­dates for tran­si­tion that we will be able to iden­ti­fy,” he said, but he cau­tioned that a sud­den exo­dus of U.S. troops will not hap­pen.

“Clear­ly, a lot of this hinges on the abil­i­ty of Afghan forces to do more as we do pro­gres­sive­ly less,” the com­man­der said. “We’re not just going to say: ‘Tag, you’re it; we’re out of here.’ We’re going [to] thin out, not just hand off. We’ll stay, we’ll sup­port.”

Afghan army and police forces have sig­nif­i­cant­ly grown in num­ber over the past year, the gen­er­al said. “But it is because the recruit­ing has been so high,” he added, acknowl­edg­ing that attri­tion is still above what mil­i­tary offi­cials and Afghan gov­ern­ment min­istries would like to see.

Petraeus said all the “inputs” for suc­cess in Afghanistan -– 70,000 new Afghan army and police recruits, 30,000 addi­tion­al U.S. forces and 10,000 more coali­tion forces, and the stand-up of orga­ni­za­tions need­ed to con­duct a com­pre­hen­sive civ­il-mil­i­tary cam­paign –- just came togeth­er in the fall.

“And even as we were get­ting the inputs right, [we] of course used them to achieve out­puts in the form of tak­ing away impor­tant safe havens from the Tal­iban — the areas around Kab­ul, on the doorstep of Kan­da­har and cen­tral Hel­mand province and so forth,” he said.

Petraeus said his forces now are work­ing to solid­i­fy and expand their hold on those areas before the spring fight­ing sea­son begins.

“We’re work­ing right now on con­nect­ing the Kan­da­har secu­ri­ty bub­ble and the Hel­mand secu­ri­ty bub­ble,” he said.

Pak­istan has aid­ed the region­al secu­ri­ty effort against the Tal­iban with­in regions of its own coun­try and along the bor­der with Afghanistan, the gen­er­al said.

“There’s a good, coop­er­a­tive effort with Pak­istan in terms of coor­di­nat­ing activ­i­ties on either side of the Durand Line — the bor­der between the two coun­tries,” he said.

Pak­istan also has con­duct­ed “quite impres­sive” oper­a­tions over the past two years, first in the Swat Val­ley and then in the fed­er­al­ly admin­is­tered trib­al areas, he said.

“[Pak­ista­nis are] the first to note that there is more work that needs to be done,” Petraeus added, “not only against those that threat­en them, but also against groups that threat­en their neigh­bors and, indeed, threat­en the rest of the world.”

Petraeus also addressed the coalition’s efforts to counter cor­rup­tion.

“We’re work­ing very close­ly with our civil­ian part­ners from the U.S. Embassy, from [the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment] and, indeed, more broad­ly speak­ing, the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to address those issues,” he said.

Petraeus said he has issued spe­cif­ic guid­ance to keep con­tract­ing dol­lars out of chan­nels where they can fund insur­gency.

“If the coun­terin­sur­gency guid­ance says that mon­ey is ammu­ni­tion — and it does — the con­tract­ing guid­ance should say, ‘If mon­ey is ammu­ni­tion, we need to put it in the right hands and make sure it doesn’t go into the wrong hands,’” he said.

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

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