By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
July 7, 2010 - Coalition forces are making steady progress in Afghanistan, and the coalition and government are regaining the momentum from the Taliban, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command said today.
But Army Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, who commands the corps-sized group, is not sanguine about the progress.
"The situation remains serious, and we still face a tough and resourceful insurgency," he said in a teleconference with Pentagon reporters. "But the momentum is beginning to shift to the Afghan forces' advantage."
The influx of 40,000 more U.S. and coalition troops this year and the new strategy they're pursuing are making a difference in the country, the general said, but it will take time for concrete gains to emerge. Rodriguez asserted that the Afghan people are gaining confidence and that the country is headed in the right direction.
The Afghan national security forces are doing better and are taking the lead in many areas, Rodriguez said, noting that a recent commanders' conference in the Afghan capital of Kabul looked at ways that coalition and Afghan commanders can improve plans and communicate better.
Helmand and Kandahar provinces are the main battleground in Afghanistan, and civil-military cooperation is a key factor for winning in these areas, the general said. Afghanistan's national and provincial governments are working with local leaders to expand the influence and deliver services to the citizens, he said.
"They're instituting and expanding responsive governing processes and civil capacity where there was none six months ago," the general told reporters. "The independent director of local governance is bringing together Kandahar's senior leadership with the provincial council members, district elders, local ministry representatives and representatives from the central government in Kabul. They're building consensus on the way forward to keep improving governance and service delivery."
Officials across the spectrum are trying to synchronize civil efforts with security efforts, Rodriguez said.
Afghan security forces increasingly are leading security planning, Rodriguez said. Security officials are working to secure polling places for the September elections and are providing security for a Kabul conference also planned for that month.
"About 85 percent of the Afghan National Army are now partnered with coalition forces," Rodriguez said. "Those partnerships will keep building capacity of the Afghan national security forces and increasingly allow the police and army to take the lead.
"And that is exactly what they want to do," he continued. "There's no shortage of courage and commitment across the ranks of the good leaders in the Afghan national security forces."