By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – The goal of the just-completed U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan was not to defeat the Taliban, but to provide Afghan security forces the time needed to develop, the commander of NATO forces in the country said today.
And, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen added, it succeeded.
Allen spoke to NBC’s Lester Holt this morning and stressed the coalition campaign in Afghanistan has allowed Afghan soldiers and police to develop their capabilities.
The sacrifices made by coalition service members have given Afghan national security forces, “the wherewithal, ultimately, to create security in this country so that governance can take root, the rule of law can be embraced and economic opportunity and development can move forward,” Allen said.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced Sept. 21 that the drawdown of the 30,000 additional U.S. forces deployed as part of the surge was complete. From January 2010 to today, officials said, the Afghan government has added 85,000 more soldiers to the ranks and 50,000 police. Seventy-seven percent of Afghan army units are rated in the top three levels of capability, up from 52 percent in 2010, officials added. The gains for police -- a boost from 47 percent to 59 percent – are not as dramatic, they acknowledged, but they noted that the police had farther to go to reach that capability level.
But the threat of insider attacks remains in Afghanistan, Allen said, and it has his full attention.
“We’re going to work as … hard as we possibly can, around the clock, to understand the problem,” he told Holt. “And I think we've got a good grip on it now.”
Eliminating the threat will require close cooperation with Afghan government partners, he said. “See, the Taliban, in infiltrating the ranks of the [Afghan security forces], recognize that this is an opportunity for them to try to split us apart,” the general said. “We’re going to work very hard to prevent that from happening.”
Allen said he probably will recommend bringing more American troops home from Afghanistan, and that he expects to make his recommendation to U.S. leaders before the end of the year once his evaluations of the situation are complete.
“I’ll evaluate the nature of the insurgency,” he said. “I’ll evaluate the progress that we have made with the Afghan national security forces. We’ll look at the operational environment we think we’ll face in 2013. And the combination of all of those will permit me to make a recommendation.”
The general would not speculate on the size of any potential force reduction.