By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 2, 2009 - Tens of thousands of additional U.S. forces slated for deployment to Afghanistan will be employed to target and eliminate terrorist leaders and assist the Afghan government to better safeguard and provide a brighter future for its people, the commander of U.S. Central Command said today. President Barack Obama last night announced the deployment of 30,000 extra U.S. forces to Afghanistan over the next several months, which would bring the total U.S. troop strength there to about 100,000.
Officials are finalizing plans as to exactly where in Afghanistan the additional troops will be deployed, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus told John D. Roberts today on CNN's "American Morning" television news program. The Afghanistan-bound troops will be deployed to secure the most important elements of the Afghan population, while also securing lines of communication and enabling the training of additional Afghan military and police so that they can eventually assume the security mission, the general said.
Concurrently, he added, counterterrorist operations against Taliban and al-Qaida operatives will be ramped up. "You have to kill or capture key leaders, the irreconcilables, in such an endeavor," Petraeus said.
Meanwhile, he added, efforts to engage and provide better security and economic opportunity for the Afghan people will be increased "so that local individuals don't have to choose sides to go with the Taliban because they're threatened or because it's the only way they can earn a living for their family."
The organization of local community defense cells also is part of the revised Afghanistan strategy, the general said.
Roberts asked Petraeus -- the architect of the successful U.S. military surge of forces that turned the tide in Iraq -- if any lessons learned from the Iraq experience might be applied during the new 'surge' into Afghanistan.
"Well, I think any time you try to apply lessons from one situation to another," Petraeus replied, "you have to be keenly aware of the differences, of the context in which those lessons will be applied."
Obama earlier this year ordered the deployment of more than 20,000 extra U.S. troops to Afghanistan, including 4,000 trainers for Afghan soldiers and police, bringing the current total number of U.S. forces there to about 68,000. Those troops provided "the kind of density to where you can carry out strategies that can capitalize on the lessons that we did bring back from Iraq," Petraeus said, including experience in population protection, community outreach, and reconciliation of former members of the insurgency.
The upcoming deployment of another 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan will be welcomed by its citizens "if we, indeed, are seen by the Afghan people to be helping them realize a better future for themselves and their families," Petraeus said.
Meanwhile, efforts to convince Taliban insurgents to make peace with the Afghan government already are bearing fruit, Petraeus said. After the recent killing of a senior Taliban commander in western Afghanistan's Herat province, for example, his fighters renounced violence and departed the insurgency, the general noted. However, he cautioned, "irreconcilables" who "never will support the new Afghanistan have to be killed, captured or run off."
Roberts asked Petraeus if reports of corruption within some elements of the Afghan governmental bureaucracy would impair the war effort there. Citing Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent second-term inauguration address, Petraeus said the newly elected Afghan leader "had some very important language in it about tackling corruption, about government serving its people rather than preying on them."
Petraeus said he is buoyed by news of recent arrests and detentions of "certain fairly senior Afghan government officials" in the country's border forces and in some ministries.