Petraeus: Progress Made, But Challenges to Continue

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2010 — The top U.S. and NATO com­man­der in Afghanistan today cit­ed encour­ag­ing signs of progress in Afghanistan dur­ing an address to the Vet­er­ans of For­eign Wars con­ven­tion and in a BBC inter­view.

Speak­ing from Afghanistan in a video broad­cast at the VFW nation­al con­ven­tion in Indi­anapo­lis, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus not­ed that Afghan forces are increas­ing in both capa­bil­i­ty and capac­i­ty, and have cap­tured or killed numer­ous extrem­ist lead­ers. He also cit­ed a decrease in civil­ian casu­al­ties.

His com­ments tracked with those broad­cast today on BBC, in which the gen­er­al said the Taliban’s momen­tum has been reversed in some of its for­mer strong­hold areas, includ­ing the south­ern provinces of Hel­mand and Kan­da­har and in Kab­ul, Afghanistan’s cap­i­tal.

NATO forces will build on this progress in oth­er areas as well, Petraeus said, but he empha­sized that some “tough fight­ing” should be expect­ed as the ene­my fights back.

“You not only have to reverse the momen­tum, you have to take away those sanc­tu­ar­ies and safe havens that the Tal­iban have been able to estab­lish over the course of those years,” he told the BBC.

“That’s going to entail tough fight­ing,” Petraeus warned. “When you take away areas that mean a great deal to the ene­my, the ene­my fights back. It gets hard­er before it gets eas­i­er.”

Petraeus empha­sized that July 2011 rep­re­sents only the begin­ning of the troop with­draw­al in Afghanistan. “That’s a date when a process begins, noth­ing more, noth­ing less,” he said. “It’s not a date when Amer­i­can forces look for an exo­dus and look for the exit and the light to turn off on the way out of the room.”

Lead­ing up to that tran­si­tion, U.S. forces will pass secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty to Afghan secu­ri­ty forces “in those areas where con­di­tions allow it, and at a pace allowed by the con­di­tions,” he said.

Petraeus received the VFW Eisen­how­er Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Medal today. The VFW presents the award to an indi­vid­ual whose con­tri­bu­tions have pro­mot­ed Amer­i­can secu­ri­ty, uni­ty and world peace.

In addi­tion, Keni Thomas, a coun­try music star and for­mer Army Ranger who served in the Bat­tle of Mogadishu in Soma­lia, received the VFW Hall of Fame Award.

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

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