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Liz Murray

October 16, 2010 by USA Post 

Liz Murray, Although hard-won progress has occurred in Afghanistan, it was made, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces there said.

In an Oct. 6 interview with Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Liz Murray of the American Forces Network Afghanistan in the Afghan capital Kabul, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus praised service members in Afghanistan, noting that they are difficult to control given, but seeing the results.

General Petraeus said a reversal in momentum has occurred Taliban. “In certain key areas such as Kandahar, the enemy reacts to us rather than our response to the enemy,” he said. “There are attacks, but we are the ones on the offensive, they are the ones responding.”

Progress comes in the bags, said the General, and the goal is to get those bags over time. “Then the security in place, we have to develop the economy [and] to develop governance,” he added.

It is important that the Afghan government to provide basic services so that people see the future is brighter if they support the Afghan government rather than returning to support the Taliban, Petraeus explained.

The bottom line is that for a counterinsurgency program to work, Servicemembers must relate to the people, the general said. “There’s an old saying that” all politics are local. ” Well, so are all counterinsurgency operations, “Petraeus said.” It comes down to that village, the valley that community. ”

This requires service members and civilians to get out and people face to face meeting – the time to the elders and the technocrats of the region to learn about investing, local government leaders, religious leaders and businessmen, Petraeus said and fully understand the dynamics of local communities and resist rushing to a verdict.

“We must be careful how we develop relationships,” he added, “and more importantly, how we reward individuals and communities.”

An important aspect of this assistance to local communities, the local Afghan police initiative, Petraeus said. Sixty-eight sites have been approved for that effort, and about eight to 10 per month will be added. The sites are places where there is insufficient density of Afghan and coalition forces. “They are essentially community watches with AK-47s,” he said. “We think this will complement our activities in other areas.”

Special Operations Forces have been working with the leaders of the community to train local police to their villages to defend the Taliban, said the general, and the relationship they have created in the villages is extremely important to the effort in Afghanistan. “In some cases, they have ‘mirrored’ communities that once even actively supported the Taliban,” he said.
Noting that the strategy is in place and the recent surge of U.S. troops arrived in Afghanistan, Petraeus said security gains have been made and he gave his candid assessment of gains in several areas.

Regional Command South West has seen continued progress on security, but it’s at a cost. “The enemy is very much to fight back, because we have control over the sanctuaries and safe havens that mean much to him,” he said. “In Marja, for example, who eight months ago was the center for drug trafficking and a Taliban command and control headquarters, now you see a school opening for the first time in six years.”

Other schools have opened, and men are volunteering to serve in the police for the first time, Petraeus said. The security gains, he added, have allowed for the gradual improvements in governance and development.

“It’s the same … in varying degrees in other districts of the central province of Helmand,” said Petraeus.

Further east in Kandahar, are important operations going on inside and outside the city. The battle in the Panjwai area illustrates an increasingly important aspect of the war, Petraeus said. In Panjwai, the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team and the Canadian Task Force along with significant numbers of Afghan soldiers and police.

The Taliban see the area as a safe haven and are laced with explosive belts, entrenched positions and mined houses rigged to blow. The Afghans are good along with the coalition forces and contribute to “a security bubble around Kandahar City and weather constraints which are important for the Taliban,” said the general.

From Kandahar, coalition and Afghan troops working along Highway 1 – the main road between Kandahar and Kabul – and going after various pockets there. “They have significant damage to the Haqqani network of infiltrators from North Waziristan in Pakistan done, and done considerable damage to the mid-level Taliban fighters and leaders in the southern regions as well,” Petraeus said.

As the national capital Kabul, a high-security section. The area has about 5 million people, and it is very safe and stable in recent months, the general said. The enemy has tried to carry out attacks in the capital, but so far, Afghan intelligence officials and Afghan troops working with the International Security Assistance Force Service Members have been able to disrupt and defeat these efforts. “This is important … because Afghan forces in the lead in security in all but one district of Kabul,” said Petraeus. “It is an example of what we would like to do more places in the future.”

In the northern part of the country, the German troops, along with a brigade of the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. military are beginning work to reduce rebel influence. The same happens in Regional Command West, said Petraeus.

The general said U.S. troops are the most experienced and professional military America has ever had.

“Most of our order, warrant and noncommissioned officers on the ground have now had at least one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, and many have had multiple years of travel,” he said. “There is a huge reservoir of experience and expertise. I see a tremendous versatility, initiative, innovation, understanding or just sheer complexity of these operations, and extraordinary courage.”

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