The Blog

Petraeus Outlines Afghanistan Strategy

10:31 AM, Feb 9, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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In recent months, our President and many others have highlighted the need for additional forces in Afghanistan to reverse the downward spiral in security, help Afghan forces provide security for the elections on August 20th, and enable progress in the tasks essential to achievement of our objectives. Indeed, as has been announced in recent months, more US forces are entering operations in as part of ISAF in Afghanistan now, more have been ordered to deploy, and the deployment of others is under consideration. Beyond that, the number of Afghan soldiers to be trained and equipped has been increased, and many of the other troop contributing nations will deploy additional forces, as well, with a number of commitments under discussion. And I would be remiss if I did not ask individual countries to examine what forces and other contributions they can provide as ISAF intensifies its efforts in preparation for the elections in August.

It is, of course not just additional combat forces that are required. ISAF also needs more so-called enablers to support the effort in Afghanistan - more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms and the connectivity to exploit the capabilities they bring; more military police, engineers, and logistics elements; additional special operations forces and civil affairs units; more lift and attack helicopters and fixed wing aircraft; additional air medevac assets; increases in information operations capabilities; and so on. Also required are more Embedded Training Teams, Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams, and Police Mentoring Teams, all elements that are essential to building capable Afghan National Security Forces. And I applaud the German Defense Minister's announcement of additional police and army training teams this morning. As with combat forces, some additional enabler elements are already flowing to Afghanistan, commitments have been made to provide others, and others are under discussion as well.

As Senator Lieberman highlighted in his Brookings speech, a surge in civilian capacity is needed to match the increase in military forces in order to field adequate numbers of provincial reconstruction teams and other civilian elements - teams and personnel that are essential to help our Afghan partners expand their capabilities in key governmental areas, to support basic economic development, and to assist in the development of various important aspects of the rule of law, including initiatives to support the development of police and various judicial initiatives.

It is also essential, of course, that sufficient financial resources be provided for the effort in Afghanistan. It is hugely important that nations deliver on pledges of economic development assistance, that the Afghan National Army and Law and Order Trust Funds be fully financed, that support be maintained for the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund, and that resources continue to be provided for the projects conducted by our military units and PRTs at local levels. And, I applaud the German Defense Minister's announcement of additional development aid this morning, too.

Of course, just more troops, civilians, dollars and Euros won't be enough. As students of history, we're keenly aware that Afghanistan has, over the years, been known as the graveyard of empires. It is, after all, a country that has never taken kindly to outsiders bent on conquering it. We cannot take that history lightly. And our awareness of it should caution us to recognize that, while additional forces are essential, their effectiveness will depend on how they are employed, as that, in turn, will determine how they are seen by the Afghan population.


What I'd like to discuss next, then, are some of the concepts that our commanders have in mind as plans are refined to employ additional forces. I base this on discussions with GEN McKiernan and others who have served in Afghanistan, as well as on lessons learned in recent years. I do so with awareness that a number of the elements on the ground are operating along the lines of these ideas - and that their ability to do so will be enhanced by the increased density on the ground of ISAF and Afghan forces as additional elements deploy to the most challenging areas. Counterinsurgency operations are, after all, troop intensive. Finally, I want to underscore the fact that commanders on the ground will, as always, operationalize the so-called big ideas in ways that are appropriate for their specific situations on the ground. So here are some of those ideas: