Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chairman Cites Surge Success, Discusses U.S.-Pakistan Relations

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – The surge operation in Afghanistan is a success that has accomplished what it was designed to do, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told the Atlantic Council here today.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he is encouraged by the success of the surge of 30,000 U.S. troops into the country, and by the decision Afghan leaders made during the recent loya jurga council meeting.

“They indicated they need and want and aspire to a relationship with us after 2014,” Dempsey said., but he added that he is not ready to say what will happen after all the surge troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan in September.

News reports said Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, wants a pause before withdrawing more forces. Dempsey said officials here and at U.S. Central Command are studying possible steps to take after the surge ends. All commanders look at recommendations for future actions through the lens of today’s experiences, Dempsey said.

“If missions change, if we establish milestones, if we reassess and make any changes, then a commander will do what he does,” Dempsey said. “He’ll say, ‘OK, if you want me to do that, here’s the troops-to-task analysis.’”

Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, Centcom commander, and Allen are in constant contact, Dempsey said, and they keep each other informed of any changes to their strategies.

Dempsey said he also wants to ensure that American and NATO forces are not holding on to the mission due to an excess of caution over turning security responsibility over to the Afghans.

“We hold on to the bicycle seat sometimes a little too long,” the general said, meaning that like a concerned Dad, sometimes a person just has to let a child ride the bike alone. All this will influence the timetable for troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, the chairman said.

Meanwhile, a Nov. 26 border incident in which NATO fire killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near an Afghanistan-Pakistan border crossing has inflamed already raw nerves inside Pakistan, the chairman said, and U.S.-Pakistani military-to-military relations “are a mess.”

“I can absolutely say that it wasn’t something that we did intentionally,” Dempsey said of the border incident. “Regrettably, the Pakistani military believes we did. We did not attack a Pakistan military border post intentionally. If you think we did, I’d have to ask you what in the world you’d think we would gain by doing that.”

Dempsey said he has spoken with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Other senior U.S. officials have also spoken to their Pakistani counterparts, urging restraint and patience to let an inquiry board look into the incident and present its findings, he said.

The United States has invited Pakistan to participate in reviewing the incident, but Pakistan has so far declined, Pentagon officials said.

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