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ISAF mission at full speed following death of Al Qaeda leader

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In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, the International Security Assistance Force nations remain steadfast in their support of the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and its people.

“NATO and ISAF nations are committed to maintaining a long-standing, enduring partnership with Afghanistan and the Afghan people,” said Canadian Brig. Gen. Christine Whitecross, an ISAF spokesperson. “We will continue to support capacity and capability development of the Afghan national security forces and transition through 2014.”

NATO Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan Christopher Chambers echoed the general’s comments during a May 9 press conference.

“To be very clear, the transition is a political process that was agreed upon at the summit in November last year,” Chambers said. “That process has been ongoing since then, before the death of Osama Bin Laden. That process continues today, to transfer security responsibilities to the Afghan government, and that process has not changed, the timeline has not changed, and it will continue unabated with or without the death of Osama Bin Laden. So there is absolutely no impact on transition at all.”

Since the killing of the al Qaeda leader, ISAF shows no sign of slowing down or cutting back on its mission. In fact, the pace has been higher than usual the past three months according to ISAF officials.

“In the last 90 days, ISAF has conducted more than 1,400 operations, captured or killed more than 500 insurgent leaders, and captured or killed more than 2,700 lower-level insurgents,” said Whitecross during an ISAF operational update brief May 9. “We are taking more weapons away from a weakened insurgency. In fact, we have seized more weapons caches in the past six months than in the previous two years, often being told of the cache by local Afghans who no longer want insurgents in their villages.”

For example, the combined efforts of Special Operations Task Force – East, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, a Hungarian Explosives Ordnance Disposal team and the Afghan National Army special forces, destroyed a significant stockpile of weapons ordnance in Pol-e Khumri District, Baghlan province, April 30.

The stockpile included 125 anti-personnel mines, 80 107 mm rockets, 20 55 mm rockets, 200 30 mm anti-aircraft high-explosive rockets, 15 anti-tank mines, more than 100 rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds, and numerous boxes of ammunition.
Another trend on the uptick is reintegration.

“To date, nearly 1,200 former insurgents have entered into the reintegration program, vowing to give up violence and live in peace,” said Whitecross. “An additional 2,000 insurgents have entered into negotiations to start the reintegration program.”

Conversely, the general added, the insurgents have threatened a surge of violence in order to gain a propaganda victory, such as the recent attack in Kandahar following the death of the al Qaeda leader in neighboring Pakistan.

According to numbers reported by Afghan and international news agencies, this attack initially wounded 30 civilians and killed another.

“On behalf of ISAF, we send out our condolences to the families of those affected by this attack,” said Whitecross.

During the attack, insurgents came at the ANSF in multiple locations using small arms fire, suicide bombers, and vehicle born IEDs.

During the May 9 press conference following this attack, the general said the Afghan forces responded capably and kept this from becoming the spectacular attack the insurgents were hoping for.

“There were no breaches in the compound and the areas the Afghan and U.S. forces had taken over during the winter season are still in Afghan and Coalition forces control,” said Whitecross.

All of the insurgents involved in the attacks were either captured or killed.

“Our message to the Taliban remains the same, but today, it may have even greater resonance. You cannot wait us out. You cannot defeat us. But you can make the choice to abandon al Qaeda and participate in a peaceful political process," said Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State.

Article by Master Sgt. Michael O'Connor, ISAF HQ Public Affairs