War on Terrorism

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chairman Says Afghanistan Strategy, Resources Now Match

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 17, 2010 – The coalition has the right strategy backed by the right resources to succeed in Afghanistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen concluded a trip to the region with a joint briefing with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry. The day after the release of the Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy review, both men praised the review and said it validated the way forward.

Earlier, the chairman visited troops in Helmand and Kandahar provinces and in Regional Command East, and he said he is encouraged by what he has learned during the visit. Though the troops still face determined resistance, “it is clear to me that they are achieving significant security gains,” Mullen said.

The enemy is losing the population centers and being driven into marginal or desert lands, where they can do little. Coalition forces –- now almost always accompanied by Afghan security forces –- are killing and capturing extremists. The security thus generated is allowing the government to build schools, medical facilities and establish the sinews of government in some area for the first time in at least 40 years, the chairman noted.

Mullen praised the training of the Afghan security forces. Afghanistan has 70,000 more soldiers and police than it had a year ago, and the country is well on its way to reaching its goal of fielding more than 310,000 security forces.

“The more that Afghans see their troops in the neighborhood and their troops in the lead, the more their faith in government will be restored and the more their loyalty to that government will be secured,” he said.

The gains in security, the chairman added, must be followed by gains in governance and development. The Afghan government, he said, must put processes in place to stop the evils of corruption and nepotism.

One aspect of the U.S. strategy in the region calls for a stronger partnership between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Safe haven in Pakistan continue to allow al-Qaida and other extremists the opportunity to train and equip,” Mullen said. “And we know very well that they are using these havens to attack Afghan forces, as well as our own.”

Mullen said Pakistani military leaders understand the need for action against terrorists, and have pledged to act. Pakistan has accomplished a lot in the two years since the nation woke to find a Taliban group taking power 50 miles away from the capital of Islamabad, the chairman said. The Pakistani military has 140,000 troops along the border with Afghanistan. The army has instituted counterinsurgency training and adopted a counterinsurgency strategy.

Noting that the strategy calls for the Afghans to assume security responsibility at the end of 2014, Mullen said the nations of the region must work together and trust one another.

“Now the really hard work begins as we try to embed that trust in everything we do or say,” Mullen said. “But trust takes time to form, and that’s not made any easier by the frenetic pace of war. What we need right now is tactical urgency and strategic patience.”

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