Rodriguez Outlines ISAF’s Drawdown, Transition Plan

WASHINGTON, July 6, 2011 — The draw­down of U.S. forces in Afghanistan will begin this month with some 1,600 troops set to rede­ploy with­out replace­ment by fall, accord­ing to a senior U.S. com­man­der there.

Army Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, com­man­der of the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force Joint Com­mand in Afghanistan, briefed Pen­ta­gon reporters here today via video link from Kab­ul about the draw­down and secu­ri­ty tran­si­tion, also set to start this month.

Rodriguez, who has spent 40 months in Afghanistan since 2007, also will return to the Unit­ed States this month and will assume com­mand of U.S. Forces Com­mand, head­quar­tered at Fort McPher­son, Ga.

The Army Nation­al Guard’s 1st Squadron, 134th Cav­al­ry Reg­i­ment in Kab­ul and its 1st Squadron, 113rd Cav­al­ry Reg­i­ment in neigh­bor­ing Par­wan province, both part of the Iowa Nation­al Guard, are set to rede­ploy with a total of 800 sol­diers this month. The Marine Corps’ 3rd Bat­tal­ion, 4th Marine Reg­i­ment in Region­al Com­mand South­west is set to rede­poy with 800 Marines in the fall, a Pen­ta­gon offi­cial said.

Joint Com­mand has achieved progress, Rodriguez said, with a plan that began in sum­mer 2009 to focus on pop­u­la­tion cen­ters and com­merce nodes aimed at strength­en­ing the “trin­i­ty” of good gov­er­nance, capa­ble secu­ri­ty forces and the people’s con­fi­dence in gov­ern­ment.

“When all three work togeth­er, we know Afghans can arrive at viable local solu­tions,” he said. “Where we have focused our efforts, we have degrad­ed the insur­gency, built the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces, and ulti­mate­ly mobi­lized many of the Afghan peo­ple against those who threat­en their way of life.”

Afghan forces take on greater respon­si­bil­i­ty every day for pre­vent­ing attacks across the coun­try, he said.

Dur­ing a recent inci­dent in Kab­ul, Rodriguez said, Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces “pre­vent­ed numer­ous sui­cide bombers from killing hun­dreds of civil­ians” in the Inter­con­ti­nen­tal Hotel.

Coali­tion forces and their Afghan and inter­na­tion­al civil­ian part­ners work togeth­er to ensure gov­ern­men­tal and devel­op­men­tal efforts quick­ly fol­low secu­ri­ty gains, he said.

“We are no longer clear­ing areas again and again and again,” he not­ed. “We spend the bulk of our mil­i­tary effort on degrad­ing or destroy­ing insur­gent infra­struc­ture, but we also ensure that the plan­ning for local secu­ri­ty and good gov­er­nance begins ear­ly enough to be imple­ment­ed as soon as the secu­ri­ty con­di­tions allow.”

Coali­tion and Afghan forces have tak­en the fight to the insur­gents since win­ter, Rodriguez said, tar­get­ing lead­ers, com­mand-and-con­trol net­works, sup­port bases and infil­tra­tion routes.

“Togeth­er, we have cap­tured or killed [more than] 1,000 insur­gents over the last six months, approx­i­mate­ly 250 per­cent more than in the same peri­od last year,” he said. This spring, joint forces locat­ed three times more weapon caches as dur­ing spring 2010, he not­ed.

Coali­tion forces have “begun the process of work­ing our­selves out of a job,” Rodriguez said. “We will hand over the lead to the Afghans grad­u­al­ly, over time, and it’s going to begin now.”

Han­dover will begin this month, the gen­er­al said, in the first sev­en areas Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai des­ig­nat­ed as those where his nation’s forces will assume secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty: Her­at city, Bamiyan province, Kab­ul province [except Suro­bi], Lashkar Gah in Hel­mand province, Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh province, and Mehtar Lam in Lagh­man province. “As we move for­ward with the plan, the tran­si­tion will con­tin­ue to be con­di­tions-based,” Rodriguez said. “In the tougher areas, we will thin out forces and either shift [them] to oth­er areas or send some forces home.”

The com­man­der said he believes tran­si­tion is on track, and that coali­tion and Afghan forces can achieve the 2014 goal of com­plete Afghan secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty along with the planned U.S. troop draw­down.

“We’ve made hard-won progress in Hel­mand and Kan­da­har, and there have been advances in a num­ber of oth­er areas in the east, west and north, aid­ed by the growth of Afghan and coali­tion forces over the past two years,” Rodriguez said.

As the num­ber of U.S. troops in Afghanistan drops by 33,000 by the end of next sum­mer, 70,000 more Afghan forces will enter the ranks, he not­ed.

“There will be over 350,000 Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces in place to pro­tect the peo­ple and con­tin­ue the momen­tum,” he said.

As the “look and feel” of the inter­na­tion­al pres­ence in Afghanistan changes, Rodriguez said, the Afghan gov­ern­ment will need to bal­ance the respon­si­bil­i­ties of pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty, rule of law, essen­tial ser­vices, and the infra­struc­ture capac­i­ty for sus­tain­able eco­nom­ic growth.

ISAF’s plan still empha­sizes build­ing Afghan forces’ capa­bil­i­ty, increas­ing gov­ern­ment effec­tive­ness in dis­tricts and provinces, and decreas­ing insur­gent access to Afghanistan along the “porous” Pak­istan bor­der, he said.

The focus of coali­tion efforts in Afghanistan is like­ly to shift east along that bor­der, the gen­er­al said.

“We will end up thin­ning out [in the south] and then focus­ing more and more of our ener­gy in the east,” he said. “As far as the tim­ing of that, again, it will be con­di­tions-based, and it’s a lit­tle bit too ear­ly to take that guess right now.”

ISAF’s Afghanistan strat­e­gy needs more help from the Pak­istani mil­i­tary, Rodriguez said.

“We con­tin­ue to coor­di­nate and build the rela­tion­ships so we can bet­ter syn­chro­nize our plans across that bor­der, but we still need some more sup­port in doing that,” he said.

If Pakistan’s sup­port doesn’t improve, Rodriguez said, the alter­na­tive on the Afghan side of the bor­der is to build strength in secu­ri­ty forces and the gov­ern­ment to “be able to han­dle the chal­lenges they’ll see in the future.”

Provin­cial and dis­trict gov­ern­ments must ensure they’re accept­able to the peo­ple they serve, so they don’t threat­en secu­ri­ty, the gen­er­al said.

“When the peo­ple become mobi­lized and they build a rep­re­sen­ta­tive shu­ra that both rep­re­sents their peo­ple and holds their gov­ern­ment account­able, then we’re on the right track,” he said. “That gov­ern­ment of course has to first pro­vide secu­ri­ty, as well as jus­tice and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive oppor­tu­ni­ty.”

The most crit­i­cal task fac­ing the coali­tion, Rodriguez said, is to “sup­port good Afghan lead­ers and encour­age them to build depth with­in their ranks, and inspire oth­er lead­ers to join in help­ing cre­ate a hope­ful future.”

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

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