Winter Gains Position Coalition Forces for July Transition

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2011 — Sig­nif­i­cant gains dur­ing win­ter fight­ing have wrest­ed key areas from the Tal­iban and set the stage for July’s tran­si­tion of the first provinces and dis­trict cen­ters to Afghan con­trol, an Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force offi­cial said today.
Aus­tralian army Maj. Gen. Michael Krause, ISAF Joint Command’s deputy chief of staff, briefed reporters at the Pen­ta­gon live via dig­i­tal video con­fer­ence from the command’s head­quar­ters in Kab­ul.

The Joint Com­mand is respon­si­ble for oper­a­tions through­out Afghanistan. Krause serves as senior plans offi­cer with Army Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, com­man­der of ISAF Joint Com­mand.

They’re on track for the first group of coali­tion troops to tran­si­tion by about the end of July, Krause said.

“And while there is a bit of work to be done,” he added, “there’s also a bit of actu­al excite­ment on behalf of the Afghans, and they’re almost ready. We’re con­fi­dent it’s going to work.”

The first tran­si­tion “will put about 22 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, includ­ing the cap­i­tal, Kab­ul, under Afghan con­trol,” Krause said.

One area that will tran­si­tion is Lashkar Gah, the gen­er­al said, which is in the mid­dle of a key area in cen­tral Hel­mand that com­bined forces cleared over the win­ter and that Afghan secu­ri­ty forces now hold and secure.

Krause said oth­er tran­si­tion areas include Mehtar Lam near Kab­ul, Mazar‑e Sharif, Her­at and the Bamyan province.

Kab­ul and cen­ters of Tal­iban move­ment in Kan­da­har are among the gains made this win­ter, the gen­er­al said. “It is our oper­a­tional objec­tive to retain that area this year,” he added. “We know the Tal­iban want it back, and we’re going to con­tin­ue work­ing hard to hold it,” Krause said. “We believe that by retain­ing that key area of Kan­da­har and cen­tral Hel­mand, we’ll have an oper­a­tional-lev­el effect and it will rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment.”

Despite recent inci­dents and loss­es — includ­ing Kan­da­har provin­cial police chief Khan Moham­mad Mujahid and north­ern Afghanistan police chief Gen. Mohammed Daud Daud — Krause said he has con­fi­dence and hope for the mis­sion.

“We have to see the com­plete pic­ture,” the gen­er­al said. “We have to take a longer-term view. And we look for indi­ca­tors that have an endur­ing effect.”

From that per­spec­tive, Krause said, “we feel that we have made real progress. While it’s always reversible and is frag­ile, the momen­tum is such to sug­gest to us that what we have can be made endur­ing and can be made robust.”

Today, the gen­er­al said, coali­tion forces are liv­ing through insur­gency attempts to reverse that momen­tum.

“We’ve seen sui­cide attacks in the cen­ter of Kab­ul, in Kan­da­har, in Her­at and Takhar,” he said, that have killed civil­ians, Afghan offi­cials, Afghan sol­diers, and police and coali­tion troops.

“They’ve grabbed a lot of head­lines, but they’ve grabbed noth­ing of oper­a­tional sig­nif­i­cance,” Krause added.

“The com­bined team retains the oper­a­tional­ly sig­nif­i­cant pop­u­lat­ed areas it start­ed the year with,” the gen­er­al said. “We are solid­i­fy­ing and hard­en­ing the gains, and we’re expand­ing in many areas.”

Impor­tant­ly, he added, “we’ve seen no weak­en­ing or doubt in the minds of the Afghan peo­ple. They are amaz­ing­ly resilient. They’ve filled the posi­tions of those who were killed and they con­tin­ue to reject the Tal­iban.”

An increased num­ber of tip-offs about weapons caches is a sign of grow­ing con­fi­dence in coali­tion forces by local Afghans, Krause not­ed.

Dur­ing win­ter oper­a­tions in the San­gin area, near Musa Qaleh and the Kaja­ki Dam area in Region­al Com­mand South­west, and in the north­ern parts of Kan­da­har toward Arghandab, coali­tion forces found tra­di­tion­al caching areas and, Krause said, “took a lot of weapons and explo­sives off the bat­tle­field, far more than we’d seen pre­vi­ous­ly.”

“The real­ly impor­tant thing for us was not only tak­ing it off the bat­tle­field,” the gen­er­al added, “but the fact that the vast major­i­ty were actu­al­ly hand­ed in or tipped off to us by the locals.”

Every day the com­bined team retains the key areas of Kab­ul, Kan­da­har and cen­tral Hel­mand, Krause said, the Afghan army and police get a lit­tle stronger and a lit­tle more pro­fi­cient. “Local lead­ers get bet­ter, and oppor­tu­ni­ties for devel­op­ment emerge and start to flour­ish, and that all leads to a sta­ble Afghanistan,” he added.

The coali­tion tem­po­rary surge of 40,000 troops has cre­at­ed a per­ma­nent Afghan surge of 80,000 troops, the gen­er­al said.

“I work with them dai­ly, and I’m impressed by their courage. I’m impressed with their grow­ing pro­fes­sion­al­ism and indeed their capa­bil­i­ty,” he said. “They do get bet­ter every day.”

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

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