Wednesday, March 23, 2011
NATO, Afghan Forces Hold Advantage, Petraeus Says
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, en route back to
after congressional testimony here, told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute that Taliban fighters displaced over the last year from long-held areas in Afghanistan have lost significant capability. Afghanistan
“The infrastructure, the contacts, the relationships, the command-and-control facilities, … [the Taliban lack] all of this that they have established, in some cases, over a period of decades,” the general said. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force has recovered four times as many weapons and explosives caches over the past several months than in the same period a year ago, he added, “because we’re in areas where they had to leave behind a great deal.”
Afghan and ISAF forces also have between 100,000 and 120,000 more pairs of boots on the ground than they did a year ago, the general said, while insurgents “will not come at us, we think, in such large attacks as they have in the past” when the harsh Afghan winters have ended.
Petraeus said that as the transition to Afghan-led security responsibility gets under way according to the plan Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced yesterday, ISAF is working to support his efforts to extend governance.
Coalition strategy in
is increasingly focused on counterinsurgency’s “build” phase, though needed gains remain in the “clear” and “hold” phases, Petraeus said. Afghanistan
ISAF is working to solidify and expand security gains in central
while increasing its defense in depth along the border with Afghanistan , the general said. Pakistan
“We have the best coordination, I think, [that] we’ve ever had between ISAF, the Pakistani army and Afghan forces,” he said.
Pakistani efforts against al-Qaida in northern Waziristan has put “enormous pressure on them … [and] commenced the dismantlement, if you will, of that organization and to force its most senior leaders to go even further underground than they already were,” he added.
The pressure on al-Qaida is evident in the terror organization’s delayed response to world events, Petraeus said. “You only have to look at how, typically, untimely statements by Osama bin Laden are when there are fast-paced events ongoing in the
Middle East,” he explained. ISAF, Pakistani and Afghan forces must keep pressure on against al-Qaida, the Taliban and other terrorist networks, Petraeus said.
“In terms of what can lead to a change, I think that developments inside
may be the most important lever,” he said. Widespread reintegration of former insurgents into Afghan society would lead to a situation where Taliban leaders “would call up on their cellphone, and no one answers,” he said. Afghanistan
Reintegration has achieved some “modest reductions” already, Petraeus said, and ISAF strategy acknowledges “you can’t kill or capture your way out of an insurgency.”
“With respect to reconciliation and reintegration, there is no question about the seriousness of the Afghan government or President Karzai about this,” he said, noting peace councils devoted to reintegrating former Taliban members have been established in most of
’s provinces. Afghanistan
Petraeus said Afghan leaders and international opinion support “constructive discussions that could lead to reconciliation of substantial parts of the organizations that are causing such problems for
and the Afghan people.” Afghanistan