Petraeus Testifies on Afghanistan
2:43 PM, Mar 15, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Comprehensive Approach
Getting the inputs right has enabled our forces, together with Afghan forces, to conduct the comprehensive campaign necessary to achieve our goals in Afghanistan. Our core objective is, of course, ensuring that Afghanistan does not once again become a sanctuary for Al Qaeda. Achieving that objective requires that we help Afghanistan develop sufficient capabilities to secure and govern itself. And that effort requires the execution of the comprehensive civil-military effort on which we are now embarked.
Over the past year, in particular, ISAF elements, together with our Afghan and international partners, have increased all the activities of our comprehensive campaign substantially. We have, for example, stepped up the tempo of precise, intelligence-driven operations to capture or kill insurgent leaders. In a typical 90-day period, in fact, precision operations by US special mission units and their Afghan partners alone kill or capture some 360 targeted insurgent leaders. Moreover, intelligence-driven operations are now coordinated with senior officers of the relevant Afghan ministries and virtually all include highly trained Afghan soldiers or police, with some Afghan elements now in the lead on these operations.
With your support, we have also expanded considerably joint ISAF-Afghan operations to clear the Taliban from important, long-held safe havens and then to hold and build in them. ISAF and Afghan troopers have, for example, cleared such critical areas as the districts west of Kandahar city that were the birthplace of the Taliban movement, as well as important districts of Helmand Province, areas that expand the Kabul security bubble, and select locations in the north where the Taliban expanded its presence in recent years. One result of such operations has been a four-fold increase in recent months in the number of weapons and explosives caches turned in and found. Another has been the gradual development of local governance and economic revival in the growing security bubbles. In fact, Marjah, the one-time hub of the Taliban and the illegal narcotics industry in central Helmand Province, held an election for a community council on March 1st during which 75 percent of registered voters cast a ballot. And as a result of improvements in the security situation there, the markets, which once sold weapons, explosives, and illegal narcotics, now feature over 1500 shops selling food, clothes, and household goods.
We have positioned more forces, as well, to interdict the flow of fighters and explosives from insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan. And we will do further work with our Afghan partners to establish as much of a defense in depth as is possible to disrupt infiltration of Taliban and Haqqani Network members. Meanwhile, we are coordinating closely with the Pakistani Army to conduct ISAF operations that will provide the “anvil” on the Afghan side of the Durand Line against which Pakistani Taliban elements can be driven by Pakistani operations in the border areas.
Afghan National Security Force Development
With your support, we have also devoted substantial additional resources to the development of Afghanistan’s security forces. This effort is, of course, another important component of our comprehensive approach; indeed, it is arguably the most critical element in our effort to help Afghanistan develop the capability to secure itself. We have seen significant progress in this arena over the past year, though we have had to contend with innumerable challenges and our Afghan partners are the first to note that the quality of some elements is still uneven. The train and equip mission is, in fact, a huge undertaking, and there is nothing easy about it; however, the past year alone has seen Afghan forces grow by over one-third, adding some 70,000 soldiers and police. And those forces have grown in quality, not just in quantity. Investments in leader development, literacy, and institutions have yielded significant dividends. In fact, in the hard fighting west of Kandahar in late 2010, Afghan forces comprised some 60 percent of the overall force, and they fought with skill and courage.
The Afghan Local Police Initiative
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