Spokesman Explains Significance of July 2011 in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2010 — The July 2011 tar­get to begin hand­ing over ter­ri­to­ry in Afghanistan to Afghan secu­ri­ty forces is a mark­er for the Afghan gov­ern­ment, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell said today.

The Unit­ed States demon­strat­ed its seri­ous­ness about Afghanistan by order­ing anoth­er 30,000 troops into the coun­try, Mor­rell not­ed, and NATO allies added 10,000 more. 

“On the oth­er hand, there was also an effort to sort of make clear to the Afghans that we’re not going to be able to do this for­ev­er,” Mor­rell said dur­ing a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence. “So they need to step up to the plate and assume more and more respon­si­bil­i­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the secu­ri­ty side. I think that mes­sage has got­ten through loud and clear.” 

The num­ber of Afghan sol­diers and police has increased by 100,000 in the past year. “Our oper­a­tions now in Kan­da­har, and Oper­a­tion Hamkari, you now have 60 per­cent of our forces down there [being] Afghan forces,” he said. He com­pared that to oper­a­tions in Mar­ja, where a lone Afghan bat­tal­ion accom­pa­nied Marines into the city. 

“[The Afghans’] capa­bil­i­ties, their effec­tive­ness, their size have improved dra­mat­i­cal­ly over the past year, and it’s real­ly becom­ing a dif­fer­ence mak­er on the ground,” he said. 

Mor­rell said many do not under­stand what the July 2011 date real­ly means, mis­tak­en­ly believ­ing it will be when the Unit­ed States and its allies leave the coun­try. “This is a date by which, con­di­tions-based, we make deter­mi­na­tions about where we can begin to thin out forces and where we can begin to tran­si­tion increas­ing secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty to the Afghans,” he explained. 

Coali­tion forces will thin out, not leave, Mor­rell emphasized. 

“It is about us thin­ning out, giv­ing the Afghans increas­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for the secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion there, and then tak­ing the div­i­dend from thin­ning out and send­ing some of it home, per the president’s direc­tive, while also rein­vest­ing oth­ers else­where in the coun­try where they are also still need­ed,” he said. 

Areas such as Kan­da­har and Hel­mand provinces prob­a­bly will not see many troops leav­ing any time soon, Mor­rell said. More than 60 per­cent of the vio­lence in Afghanistan is in Hel­mand, Kan­da­har and Kunar provinces. 

“I think those are the ones, in all like­li­hood, where you would see the least amount of thin­ning,” he said. “I don’t know that as a fact yet, because these deter­mi­na­tions haven’t been made.” 

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

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