By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 10, 2011 – Despite their propaganda, the Taliban have not launched a spring offensive in eastern Afghanistan, the commander of International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command East said today.
Army Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, who also commands the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, spoke with Pentagon reporters via video teleconference from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, as he prepares to turn over command of the region to Army Maj. Gen. Dan Allyn, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, next week.
Campbell said the operations tempo remained high over the winter as coalition and Afghan forces placed tremendous pressure on the Taliban and allied forces.
“We’ve stayed after it,” he said, noting that the amount of enemy munitions and homemade bombs taken off the battlefield was double what it was over the same period last year.
“And we really think we’ve changed the dynamics of the battlefield by doing that,” he added, “as the insurgents have tried to come back and do their own spring campaign.”
The Taliban said in late April that they were launching a spring offensive and that they would be taking on the coalition and their Afghan brothers.
“We have not really seen an uptick in Regional Command East on attacks,” Campbell said. “For about the 30 days prior to 1 May, the number of insurgent-initiated attacks was between 25 to 30 per month. And that number after 1 May has continued to be the same.”
The Taliban also said they would protect the Afghan people, but one of their first acts was to put a suicide vest on a 12-year-old boy who detonated it in a bazaar, killing seven women and children and wounding 34 other innocent Afghans, he said.
“Again, 90 percent of the civilian casualties are caused by the insurgents in Regional Command East,” Campbell said.
Meanwhile, the general said, coalition and Afghan forces in the command have their own spring offensive.
“We have several operations that are ongoing at this point in time,” he said. “We’ve been very aggressive out there going after the enemy.”
Campbell praised the capabilities of the Afghan military and police. “Everything we've done over the past year has been ‘shana-ba-shana,’ shoulder to shoulder, with … the army, the police and the … Afghan border police,” he said. “We’ve really worked at that hard, and I think we can really see the results over the past year.”
Afghan forces still need work, Campbell acknowledged, but he noted steady progress over the past year. “We’re handing off a much better Afghan security force than we had a year ago,” he said. “And that really is a lot of great work by the coalition partners, but also by the Afghans themselves. They’ve really stepped up.”
Campbell said the sacrifices that his soldiers and allies have made are setting the situation for the 1st Cavalry. He has realigned the forces in the area of operations to ensure the command is “getting the inputs right,” he said.
“Across the battle space in Regional Command East, we've been getting the inputs right,” Campbell continued. “That’s moving around Afghan forces where they needed to be, where we needed them.
“We’ve added additional battalions over the course of the year,” he said, “We’ve added additional police over the course of the year. We really do think we have a pretty good set now, and that we have the right structure, the right Afghan forces, the right coalition forces, the right leadership and the right strategy.”