Taliban Have ‘Utterly Failed’ to Regain Ground, General Says

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2011 — The Tal­iban have failed to deliv­er on their promis­es to recap­ture pop­u­la­tion cen­ters secured by NATO forces in Afghanistan, the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force Joint Command’s chief plan­ner told Pen­ta­gon reporters today.

“I’ve seen it as a bit of a con­test or strug­gle … for the key pop­u­la­tion areas here in Afghanistan, espe­cial­ly Kab­ul, Kan­da­har, [and the] cen­tral Hel­mand Riv­er val­ley,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Krause of the Aus­tralian army, ISAF Joint Command’s deputy chief of staff.

“I’d prob­a­bly also include in the north and west, Her­at and Mazar‑e Sharif and the Kun­duz-Bagh­lan cor­ri­dor,” he added.

ISAF has every inten­tion of retain­ing the areas it has secured, with a spe­cif­ic empha­sis on the south, Krause said.

“We [want­ed to] ensure that the insur­gents did not re-occu­py these areas, or push the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces out,” he said. “The insur­gents, par­tic­u­lar­ly the Afghan Tal­iban, for their part, said they would … retake those cities.”

Krause eval­u­at­ed the out­come of a Tal­iban offen­sive in those areas.

“We still hold all of those pop­u­la­tion cen­ters, and we’ve done so since we secured them,” he said. “The Tal­iban have not been suc­cess­ful.”

Improve­ments in secu­ri­ty in those key areas have been “real­ly quite remark­able,” Krause said, with attacks down 80 per­cent. ISAF troops recent­ly inter­cept­ed a trans­mis­sion from the Tal­iban that admit­ted that their offen­sive to regain ter­ri­to­ry had “ ‘utter­ly failed,’ ” he said.

“This is pret­ty sig­nif­i­cant,” he said. “We’ve seen the insur­gency cede the ini­tia­tive to us. We know this because ene­my-ini­ti­at­ed attacks are down in every region now, except Region­al Com­mand East.”

Although insur­gents’ fight­ing sea­son may seem to be com­ing to a close, Krause said, ISAF will con­tin­ue its oper­a­tions.

“We fight all year round,” he said. “And over this win­ter, we will remain on the offen­sive and dri­ve home our ini­tia­tive. We will con­tin­ue to retain what we’ve fought so hard to hold, and we’ll expand in some places.”

Afghan secu­ri­ty forces, cur­rent­ly 305,000 strong, will con­tin­ue devel­op­ing their capa­bil­i­ties, he said.

“Our intent is that if there is the tra­di­tion­al cyclic pat­tern, a return of the insur­gency next year, that they will face not the coali­tion, but the Afghan secu­ri­ty force in the lead, who will be able to demon­strate their abil­i­ty to retain key cen­ters and expand their influ­ence,” Krause said.

Despite many suc­cess­es, the gen­er­al envi­sions crit­i­cal times ahead as oper­a­tions con­tin­ue and Afghan secu­ri­ty forces con­tin­ue their tran­si­tion into the lead.

“Now, I expect that there’ll be tough days ahead, and I don’t think we can be com­pla­cent, nor are we com­pla­cent, or think that we’re near the end,” he said. “This was nev­er going to be easy, and I expect that there will be set­backs and some bad days ahead.”

But the trends still are pos­i­tive, the gen­er­al said.

“I work on a dai­ly basis with the Afghans and their plan­ners,” he said. “I have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get out and see the coun­try. I’m sens­ing that the Afghan peo­ple sense that they have the ini­tia­tive. They do have con­fi­dence in the future.

“Now, they are born skep­tics,” he added. “They’ve been let down before. But their chil­dren are going to school. They are health­i­er, and they have a brighter future.”

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