American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2011 – The Taliban have failed to deliver on their promises to recapture population centers secured by NATO forces in Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command's chief planner told Pentagon reporters today.
“I’ve seen it as a bit of a contest or struggle … for the key population areas here in Afghanistan, especially Kabul, Kandahar, [and the] central Helmand River valley,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Krause of the Australian army, ISAF Joint Command’s deputy chief of staff.
“I’d probably also include in the north and west, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif and the Kunduz-Baghlan corridor,” he added.
ISAF has every intention of retaining the areas it has secured, with a specific emphasis on the south, Krause said.
“We [wanted to] ensure that the insurgents did not re-occupy these areas, or push the Afghan security forces out,” he said. “The insurgents, particularly the Afghan Taliban, for their part, said they would … retake those cities.”
Krause evaluated the outcome of a Taliban offensive in those areas.
“We still hold all of those population centers, and we’ve done so since we secured them,” he said. “The Taliban have not been successful.”
Improvements in security in those key areas have been “really quite remarkable,” Krause said, with attacks down 80 percent. ISAF troops recently intercepted a transmission from the Taliban that admitted that their offensive to regain territory had “‘utterly failed,’” he said.
“This is pretty significant,” he said. “We’ve seen the insurgency cede the initiative to us. We know this because enemy-initiated attacks are down in every region now, except Regional Command East.”
Although insurgents’ fighting season may seem to be coming to a close, Krause said, ISAF will continue its operations.
“We fight all year round,” he said. “And over this winter, we will remain on the offensive and drive home our initiative. We will continue to retain what we've fought so hard to hold, and we'll expand in some places.”
Afghan security forces, currently 305,000 strong, will continue developing their capabilities, he said.
“Our intent is that if there is the traditional cyclic pattern, a return of the insurgency next year, that they will face not the coalition, but the Afghan security force in the lead, who will be able to demonstrate their ability to retain key centers and expand their influence,” Krause said.
Despite many successes, the general envisions critical times ahead as operations continue and Afghan security forces continue their transition into the lead.
“Now, I expect that there'll be tough days ahead, and I don't think we can be complacent, nor are we complacent, or think that we're near the end,” he said. “This was never going to be easy, and I expect that there will be setbacks and some bad days ahead.”
But the trends still are positive, the general said.
“I work on a daily basis with the Afghans and their planners,” he said. “I have the opportunity to get out and see the country.
I'm sensing that the Afghan people sense that they have the initiative. They do have confidence in the future.
“Now, they are born skeptics,” he added. “They've been let down before. But their children are going to school. They are healthier, and they have a brighter future.”