UK Foreign Secretary — we’re on track to complete transition

We remain on track to com­plete the tran­si­tion process by the end of 2014, For­eign Sec­re­tary William Hague told Par­lia­ment today.

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Afghan Nation­al Army sol­diers at the start of Oper­a­tion ZAMESTANI PEEROZI, or ‘WINTER SUCCESS’ [Pic­ture: Sergeant Wes Calder RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Mr Hague’s com­ments were made in his month­ly Afghanistan progress report for March, in which he high­light­ed the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces (ANSF) increas­ing growth and capa­bil­i­ty.

He also report­ed that year-to-date vio­lence lev­els across Afghanistan remain low­er than in 2011, and every month since May 2011 has seen few­er ene­my-ini­ti­at­ed attacks than the cor­re­spond­ing month in the pre­vi­ous year. This, he said, is the longest sus­tained down­ward trend record­ed by ISAF.

Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces increas­ing capa­bil­i­ty

In the report, Mr Hague said:

“The ANSF con­tin­ued to demon­strate their increas­ing capa­bil­i­ty and we remain on track to com­plete the tran­si­tion process by the end of 2014, as agreed at the NATO Lis­bon Sum­mit in 2010. Nation­al­ly the ANSF now lead 40 per cent of con­ven­tion­al oper­a­tions and car­ry out 85 per cent of their train­ing.

“In March the ANSF and ISAF com­plet­ed and approved their joint Oper­a­tional Plan: Oper­a­tion NAWEED (‘Good News’) 1391. This is the plan to syn­chro­nise ANSF and ISAF efforts over the course of the Afghan Year 1391 and involves all ele­ments of the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.

NAWEED 1391 is the first time that the ANSF have tak­en the lead­ing role in cam­paign plan­ning. The plan includes a detailed con­cept of oper­a­tions for each geo­graph­ic region, includ­ing local inte­gra­tion of Army, Police, Nation­al Direc­torate of Secu­ri­ty and ISAF activ­i­ties.

NAWEED 1391 rep­re­sents a fur­ther evo­lu­tion in tran­si­tion and the ANSF’s capa­bil­i­ty to man­age the cam­paign in an increas­ing­ly inde­pen­dent man­ner.”

Mr Hague added that in Hel­mand province, Oper­a­tion NOW ROZ (‘New Year’) was planned and led by the Afghan Nation­al Army (ANA). He said:

“Over 1,000 mem­bers of the ANSF were joined by British forces to clear insur­gents from a key heart­land with­in the Hel­mand riv­er val­ley. Afghan forces cleared more than 200 com­pounds, made safe 44 IEDs [impro­vised explo­sive devices], found sev­en bomb-mak­ing fac­to­ries and dis­cov­ered over 145 kilo­grams of home­made explo­sives.

“This is the fourth major ANA oper­a­tion in four months and the largest and most com­plex so far. The suc­cess of the oper­a­tion is fur­ther proof of the ANSF’s increas­ing pro­fes­sion­al­ism and capa­bil­i­ty.”

In the progress report Mr Hague also said that the Lashkar Gah police train­ing cen­tre grad­u­at­ed its 5,000th stu­dent and that 95 per cent of police skills lessons at the cen­tre are now deliv­ered by Afghan instruc­tors, com­pared with only five per cent six months ago, the results of ISAF efforts to ‘train the train­er’.

He also said that an ini­tia­tive to improve IED aware­ness among Hel­mand school­child­ren has been estab­lished, adding:

“Devel­oped with the Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion, British forces have trained mem­bers of the Afghan Uni­formed Police to con­duct the edu­ca­tion pro­gramme. Designed to be self sus­tain­ing some 6,000 school­child­ren (boys and girls) have already been taught the dan­gers of play­ing with IEDs and the cor­rect action to fol­low if one is found.

“In com­ing weeks the pro­gramme will expand into more rur­al regions to extend fur­ther the reach of this life­sav­ing edu­ca­tion.”

Vio­lence Lev­els

Mr Hague said that we have start­ed to see an antic­i­pat­ed increase in vio­lence lev­els with the onset of spring and the return of warmer weath­er.

He added that this trend is con­sis­tent with pre­vi­ous years and we expect to see a grad­ual increase in vio­lent inci­dents until the usu­al peak in the sum­mer months, albeit with a slight reduc­tion for Ramadan, which this year falls in July. Mr Hague con­tin­ued:

“Although insur­gent activ­i­ty increased in March, year-to-date vio­lence lev­els across Afghanistan remain low­er than in 2011. Every month since May 2011 has seen few­er ene­my ini­ti­at­ed attacks than the cor­re­spond­ing month in the pre­vi­ous year. This is the longest sus­tained down­ward trend record­ed by ISAF.

“As we look towards the start of this year’s fight­ing sea­son there are dis­tinct signs from sev­er­al key parts of the coun­try that the insur­gency is under some pres­sure. Report­ing has indi­cat­ed that they are cur­rent­ly expe­ri­enc­ing short­ages of weapons, equip­ment and mon­ey.

“This has fol­lowed a con­cert­ed cam­paign by the Afghans and inter­na­tion­al forces to main­tain a high oper­a­tional tem­po over the win­ter. Vio­lence fig­ures over the com­ing months will con­firm whether these report­ed short­ages will have any last­ing effect on their abil­i­ty to con­duct their cam­paign.”