By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 31, 2009 - Building partnerships and understanding the nature of Afghanistan and its people are keys to achieving success in that country, the commander of NATO's Joint Command in Kabul said. In an interview with Stars and Stripes reporter Heath Druzin, Army Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez re-emphasized the role that building relationships plays in the new Afghan strategy.
U.S. and NATO strategy is to build capabilities in Afghan security forces, Rodriguez said. And, having U.S. and NATO troops serve side by side with Afghan security forces, he said, builds trust and serves as a link to the Afghan people.
Maintaining an interface between U.S., NATO and Afghan forces also constitutes "the best way to develop the capacity of the Afghans to lead this [security effort] themselves," Rodriguez said.
Conditions of security across Afghanistan vary from good to not so good, Rodriguez said.
However, he said, as 30,000 additional U.S. troops flow into Afghanistan in coming months, the Afghans should gain "a greater sense of security and a better trust and confidence in their future."
Better security means an environment where better governance can flourish, Rodriguez said, and economic prospects increase. Better security also will allow foreign government organizations and nongovernmental organizations to help. These groups often are hampered by the lack of security.
In announcing the revised Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, President Barack Obama said that U.S. troops will begin to redeploy home in July 2011.
"You can look at that time [line] many different ways," Rodriguez said. "If you are looking at it one way, the enemy thinks you're quitting. And if you look at it from the way some of the Afghan leadership looks at it, it's encouraging or inspiring them to hurry up and give it all that they have to improve as fast as they can."
Still, the general thinks that any drawdown will be dependent on the conditions on the ground. The rate and numbers of the withdrawal, he said, will depend on a deliberate decision-making process that will include considerations of security, governance and economics.
The U.S. government has made Afghanistan the priority. And, at least another 7,000 NATO troops are slated to arrive in Afghanistan. Additionally, a civilian surge will help the government and economy. All of this is to ensure Afghanistan "does not allow terrorist and extremist groups to operate here," Rodriguez said.
The Afghan people will be the best judges of the success of the strategy, the general said.
"We're conducting operations that will change their outlook on life from one of fear and distrust and uncertainty that they've had to live with for the last 30 years, to one of trust and confidence in their government," Rodriguez said.
The command looks toward achieving results soon.
"We want to turn around the momentum here pretty doggone quickly," Rodriguez said.
Once progress is made in taking momentum away from Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan the NATO force will be able to transition into a security-assistance type relationship as the Afghans take on more responsibility for their security.
"I think that would go on for several years as they fully develop their capacity to serve the people," Rodriguez said.