ISAF Training Mission Bolsters Afghan Gains, Commander Says
As Afghan forces assume full security responsibility in their country, a “fundamental shift” in operations will occur, a senior NATO International Security Assistance Force commander said.
Army Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, commander of ISAF Joint Command, briefed Pentagon reporters on what the shift will look like and what role NATO forces will play as Afghans step into the lead.
“The Afghan National Police and army can and do fight for Afghanistan and for the people of Afghanistan,” the general said, noting the joint command is focused on helping Afghan forces establish “sufficient and sustainable security.”
“This spring, we'll reach Milestone 2013, and the Afghan national security forces will plan, lead and execute all operations across Afghanistan,” he said. “IJC will train, advise, assist and support operations.”
More than 400 security force assistance teams are at work, many “actively training Afghan forces to provide their own enablers,” Terry said. He noted that strides have been made in casualty evacuation, logistics and intelligence fusion, and in fire support and countering roadside bombs.
Afghan forces must develop solutions they can sustain, Terry told reporters. For example, he said, NATO forces typically evacuate wounded troops by air, and the Afghans are turning to ground transportation.
“My caution to all is that we should not view these solutions through Western eyes and assess them too critically,” the general said. “What we are now seeing as Afghans move in the lead can and will work. We must remain patient in support of our partners.”
Terry also cautioned that U.S. troops still will be involved in combat operations as the traditional spring and summer “fighting season” progresses.
“Coalition forces specifically will still be conducting operations in combat … beside our Afghan partners,” he said, noting that some of the training and assisting ISAF conducts requires contact with the enemy.
The general said that although insurgents still are a resilient foe, children are back in school across Afghanistan and the nation’s human capital development is one of the biggest changes he has seen.
Opinion polls indicate that most Afghans don’t support the Taliban, and do think the country is heading in the right direction, Terry said. He emphasized that the United States and its coalition partners have pledged financial assistance for Afghanistan beyond 2014, which he said will be a critical period for that nation’s developing governmental systems.
“As we look toward the national elections in 2014, I am confident … the Afghan national security forces will provide space for the political process to mature and connect to the Afghan society and support an emerging private sector,” Terry said. “Success may not be on the front pages. Insurgencies are defeated over time by legitimate and well-trained indigenous forces.”
Article by Karen Parrish, American Forces Press Service