American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – Afghanistan’s national security forces are gaining strength and skill in the eastern part of the country as insurgent groups there fight among themselves and increasingly botch attempted attacks, the commander of Regional Command East said today.
Army Maj. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn spoke with reporters here via digital video conference from his headquarters at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, where he and the men and women of the 1st Cavalry Division assumed authority in May.
“Our main effort continues to be partnership with and development of the Afghan security forces to achieve security primacy for the approximately 7.5 million Afghans in the 14 provinces and 160 districts” of Regional Command East, Allyn said.
While working with the Afghan army, police and border police, Allyn, who commands a combined team of eight U.S., French and Polish task forces, said they have seen “rifts and friction” among multiple insurgent groups across the region.
“That has increased as the summer campaign has continued into the fall,” the general added, “and we can see increasingly desperate actions as they attack civilians, murder tribal elders and resort to increased intimidation to try to get support for their continued operations here in Afghanistan.”
Allyn said his team continues to see indications that Afghan security forces and coalition forces have disrupted security threats.
“During last month's Operation Shamsheer, Afghan security forces and coalition forces captured or killed a dozen Haqqani leaders and captured dozens of fighters,” he said.
The operation involved nearly 2,000 soldiers, 60 percent of them Afghans, and postured Allyn’s troops “to keep the pressure on the enemies of the people of Afghanistan this winter,” the general said.
This fall, he added, insurgent attacks “have failed miserably across the board.”
Examples in the last two months include suicide bombers who failed in an Oct. 16 attempt to attack the Paktia governance center in the Gardez district. One attacker died when he detonated his device, and Afghan police stopped the other three attackers.
On Nov. 10, insurgents tried to attack the Chamkani district center in Paktia, but Afghan police and security forces killed eight of them.
Coalition forces also killed multiple insurgents during two failed complex attacks on Combat Outpost Marga in Paktika province in October and November.
Most recently, despite public sentiments of intent to use insurgents to attack the traditional loya jirga -- a grand assembly of tribal elders -- “the Afghan national security forces provided a secure environment for [that] historic gathering this past week,” the general said.
Over the past 90 days, he added, insurgent violence has caused 85 percent to 90 percent of Afghan civilian casualties, despite a directive by insurgent leader Mullah Omar to stop targeting civilians.
“Because of the enemy's continued violence against the Afghan people, we see increased cooperation between the Afghan people, the local governments and the security forces who serve them,” Allyn said.
During the first full fighting season with all surge forces on the ground, the general said, “we can clearly see the impact that it had on denying the insurgents any opportunity to regain lost ground … in the south, the southwest and also in the areas that we wrested from their control during the summer campaign.”
Allyn said the quickest way to accelerate the development of Afghan security forces is by putting the world's best army on the mission.
“That’s what we've been doing with our embedded partnership with the tolis and kandaks, [which are] the companies and battalions of the Afghan security forces,” he said.
Such partnerships have created a marked improvement in Afghan troop skills, and confidence and competence in their leaders, Allyn said, adding that security force assistance teams are also part of the development effort.
With 68,000 Afghan security forces and just over 29,000 coalition forces, he added, about half of the security forces have an embedded partnership arrangement.
Regional Command East shares a 450-mile border with Pakistan, and Allyn said cross-border fire has tapered somewhat in the past several weeks.
“We've had some very good cases in the last three weeks of the [Pakistan military] coordinating with us to respond against those cross-border fires and that coordination occurs with every event that happens,” the general said.
The situation along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border has also been helped by military-to-military cooperation, the general said, including complementary efforts to maneuver forces to deny insurgent infiltration.
“Our counterparts on the other side of the border have also adjusted positions at our request,” he said. “This is a very positive step forward, and really was a direct result of the regional border coordination meeting that the Afghans held with the 11th Corps of the Pakistan military in Kabul a little over a month ago.”
Communications exercises with the Pakistan and Afghanistan border forces are another positive sign, the general told reporters.
“The goal here is that Pakistan military and Afghan military secure that border in a bilateral way,” Allyn said, “and we are increasingly allowing them to do the majority of that coordination.”
On the ground in his command, the general said, morale is high and troops are confident and excited about the capacity that’s developing in their Afghan security force partners.
“We've made great progress with our Afghan security force partners over the last several months in some very, very hard fighting, and we have hard fighting yet ahead. But increasingly, Afghan security forces are leading that effort,” Allyn said.
“And I know that you'll keep us in your prayers over this Thanksgiving holiday period, and particularly our families,” he added, “as they continue to serve selflessly at home and support us while we serve here.”