By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Michele Flournoy, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that following the 9/11 attacks, the
went into United States to attack al-Qaida and take down the Taliban regime that supported the terrorists. Afghanistan
From 2001 to 2003, operations in
went well. “In the years that followed, however, we lost focus on Afghanistan ,” she said. “While our attention was turned away, al-Qaida, the Taliban, and associated extremist groups reconstituted their safe havens along the borderlands between Afghanistan and Afghanistan .” Pakistan
The terrorists returned; the Taliban took over wide swaths of land; and the enemy used narcotics to finance their efforts and intimidate the population.
“When President [Barack] Obama took office, he immediately undertook a thorough review of our strategy in
and Afghanistan and reaffirmed our core goal: to disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat al-Qaida, and to prevent its return to Pakistan ,” Flournoy said. Afghanistan
That strategy required more American troops on the ground. Since taking office, the president has ordered about 60,000 more
troops to U.S. . The Afghan surge was finally all in place in September, and it is paying off, Flournoy said. Afghanistan
“With the troop surge, the
and our [International Security Assistance Force] partners now have over 150,000 troops in U.S. , putting relentless pressure on the insurgents and securing more and more of the Afghan population,” she said. “That surge has been matched by a surge in the numbers, quality and capability of the Afghan national security forces.” Afghanistan
Afghan forces last year grew by more than 70,000 members, and the capabilities of their leaders increased. Training for rank and file – including literacy classes – is proceeding apace. Once trained, the Afghan forces partner with coalition forces, Flournoy said.
and ISAF forces, fighting side by side with increasingly capable Afghan units throughout the country, have wrested the initiative from the insurgents, even in the strongholds of central U.S. Helmand and provinces,” she said. “And we’ve turned up the pressure on al-Qaida and its affiliates in the border regions of Kandahar and Afghanistan , significantly degrading, though not yet defeating, their ability to plan and conduct operations.” Pakistan
The military effort is just one part of the surge, which included a comparable increase in civilians. More than 1,100 civilian experts from nine
agencies are helping to build Afghan governance and economic capacity, the undersecretary said. That work is “absolutely vital to the ultimate success of our overall mission in U.S. ,” she said. Afghanistan
But the gains, made at great sacrifice, can still be lost, Flournoy said. “We must continue our efforts with
to eliminate terrorist and insurgent safe havens,” she said. “We seek to build an effective partnership that advances both Pakistan and Pakistani interests, including the denial of safe havens to all violent extremist organizations.” U.S.
must demonstrate to United States that Pakistan will remain a strong supporter of their security and prosperity now and in the years to come, she said. America
The Afghan government must do more to tackle predatory corruption that erodes public trust and fuels the insurgency, Flournoy said. “We must help create the conditions necessary to enable a political settlement among the Afghan people,” she said. “This includes reconciling those insurgents who are willing to renounce al-Qaida, forsake violence and adhere to the Afghan constitution.”
In July, the
will begin pulling troops out of United States and transition security responsibility to Afghan forces. “This transition is a process, not an event,” she said. “The process will unfold village by village, district by district, province by province. Afghanistan
“The determination of when the transition will occur and where it will occur is going to be based on bottom-up assessments of local conditions,” she added. “This process is beginning now,” and Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce the first round of districts and provinces for transition on March 21.
Flournoy spoke about the costs of the war in
where Afghanistan casualties have risen since the surge began. “But the Afghan-Pakistan borderland has served as a crucible for the most catastrophic terrorist actions of the past decade,” Flournoy said. “The outcome we seek is the defeat of al-Qaida and the denial of the region as a sanctuary for terrorists. U.S.
“This objective is the reason why our brave men and women in service have sacrificed so very much,” she continued. “And we are determined to bring this war to a successful conclusion, for the sake of our own security, but also for the sake of the security of the people of
, Afghanistan and the region, who have suffered so much, who have so much to gain from a secure and lasting peace.” Pakistan