Undersecretary Urges Continuing Counterterrorism Effort

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2012 — As the coun­tert­er­ror­ism strat­e­gy is suc­ceed­ing, now is not the time to aban­don the fight in Afghanistan, the act­ing under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy told Con­gress today.

Tes­ti­fy­ing before the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, James N. Miller said the Unit­ed States is com­mit­ted to the core objec­tives of deny­ing safe haven to al-Qai­da and pre­vent­ing the Tal­iban from over­throw­ing the Afghan gov­ern­ment.

“While we do face seri­ous chal­lenges, our strat­e­gy is suc­ceed­ing,” Miller said. “Our coun­tert­er­ror­ism efforts against al-Qai­da have been extreme­ly suc­cess­ful.”

The act­ing under­sec­re­tary stressed that Amer­i­cans should not under­es­ti­mate the progress that coali­tion troops — includ­ing thou­sands of Amer­i­cans — have made in the coun­try. “As a result of the surge launched in 2009, we have bro­ken and reversed Tal­iban momen­tum in Afghanistan,” he said. “And the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces are increas­ing­ly capa­ble and increas­ing­ly in the lead.”

The Afghans now are in the lead in secu­ri­ty for more than 50 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion. Some­time in 2013, the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces will have secu­ri­ty lead for the entire coun­try, Miller said. “At that time, U.S. and coali­tion forces will be in a sup­port role, which will take a num­ber of forms,” he added.

U.S. and coali­tion forces will part­ner with Afghan units, Miller explained, and U.S. forces will have a small­er foot­print in the coun­try as the effort switch­es to an advise-and-assist role. “By the mid­dle of 2014, the [Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces] will be respon­si­ble for the secu­ri­ty of Afghanistan,” he said.

Once that hap­pens, Miller said, small­er U.S. and coali­tion forces will focus on coun­tert­er­ror­ism and on train­ing, advis­ing and assist­ing Afghan forces.

The Afghanistan War has been a tough fight, and it con­tin­ues, Miller acknowl­edged. The past sev­er­al weeks — with the Quran burn­ing inci­dent and the killings of 16 civil­ians in Kan­da­har province — have been par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult, he said.

“We have also been chal­lenged in recent weeks by attacks by Afghan per­son­nel against U.S. and coali­tion forces, so-called ‘green-on-blue’ attacks,” he said. “We will have to work through these inci­dents and chal­lenges.”

Miller list­ed accom­plish­ments in Afghanistan for the rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Vio­lence is down in the coun­try, he said. From 2010 to 2011, ene­my-ini­ti­at­ed attacks in Afghanistan were down 9 per­cent, and the trend con­tin­ued this year, with attacks down a fur­ther 22 per­cent from 2011 lev­els for the same months.

In Octo­ber 2008, only 140,000 Afghans were serv­ing in the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces. “Today, there are approx­i­mate­ly 330,000, and we expect to reach our goal of 352,000 … ahead of the Octo­ber 2012 tar­get date,” Miller said. Today, almost 90 per­cent of coali­tion oper­a­tions in Afghanistan are car­ried out in part­ner­ship with the Afghan forces, and Afghan forces are in the lead for more than 40 per­cent of oper­a­tions, he added.

Miller also dis­cussed talks with the Afghans on the strate­gic part­ner­ship between the Unit­ed States and Afghanistan.

“This strate­gic part­ner­ship will demon­strate that we learned the lessons from 1989, when our abrupt depar­ture left our friends con­fused and our ene­mies embold­ened,” he said. “Con­clud­ing our strate­gic part­ner­ship will send a clear sig­nal that the Unit­ed States remains will­ing­ly com­mit­ted to Afghan secu­ri­ty. Such an assur­ance must con­tin­ue beyond our planned tran­si­tion in 2014.”

Miller touched on the prob­lem pre­sent­ed by safe havens for ter­ror groups inside Pak­istan.

“Pak­istan has legit­i­mate inter­ests that must be under­stood and must be addressed,” he said. “Pak­istan also has respon­si­bil­i­ties.”

Most impor­tant­ly, Miller added, Pak­istan needs to take fur­ther steps to ensure that mil­i­tant and extrem­ist groups can­not find safe haven with­in its ter­ri­to­ry.

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