By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
June 26, 2007 – Though the number of insurgent attacks in Afghanistan has increased as officials predicted it would with better weather, coalition forces are winning the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban in NATO's Regional Command East, a U.S. official in Afghanistan said today. (Video) "The enemy continues to use all means available to him to attack our forces and disrupt the lives of Afghan civilians," said Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel, deputy commander for operations at Combined Joint Task Force 82.
Speaking via teleconference from Bagram Air Base, Votel said the enemy is using improvised explosive devices, rockets, mortars and direct action against NATO's International Security Assistance Force and Afghan security forces.
"The insurgents use intimidation tactics to frighten the population into abandoning their support for their government and disrupt development and governance activities," he said. "In many places, we see this insurgent tactic failing as Afghan citizens reject these efforts and, in some cases, literally fight back against the insurgents.
NATO officials expected the Taliban to launch a spring offensive, and planned to blunt that move, the general said.
"Our operations since the spring have had a significant effect on the Taliban insurgency here," Votel said. "We continue to be focused on neutralizing insurgents and creating a security environment that will allow development and extension of the legitimate government of Afghanistan."
Coalition and Afghan forces have killed or captured dozens of Taliban commanders and sub-commanders, leaving cells without experienced leadership or direction, he said. The forces also are controlling many areas of the region previously held by the Taliban. The security the forces provide has allowed the Afghan government and aid organizations to build roads, schools and district centers.
U.S. and Afghan forces are working closely with Pakistani forces. Votel said the coordination allows better cooperation and communication among all partners and "has successfully allowed us to interdict insurgent infiltration back and forth through the border area."
Afghan forces are stepping in to the lead, he said. The Afghan National Army's 203rd Corps planned and executed Operation Maiwand, an operation in Ghazni province that began June 1. "Here Afghan forces are taking the lead in clearing areas of insurgent presence, working with district and provincial leadership and providing the foundation for sustained security," Votel said.
The security that the NATO and Afghan national security forces bring to eastern Afghanistan allows continuing relief supplies and nation-building efforts to take place.
"Over the last two months, we've provided seed corn to farmers and commenced building an agricultural research station to improve the ability of Afghan farmers to produce food products," he said. "We've repaired four schools and built 10 other ones. We completed eight other educational projects, ranging from self-help workshops to school ... equipment and supplies, in an effort to help improve the future of Afghan children."
The security has allowed the Afghan government and aid workers to build micro-hydroelectric power plants and irrigation projects.
Most critical in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan is the more than 8,000 kilometers of roads that the task force and allies have built in the region.
"We work with the Afghan Engineer District of the Corps of Engineers here to help build those roads, identify them and get them in place," Votel said. The roads allow the government to push supplies and aid into areas inaccessible before. The roads also allow the residents to get goods out of the region.