Dempsey Upbeat, Encouraged by Afghan Visit
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 25, 2013 Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey left Afghanistan upbeat about the progress being made there and encouraged by the attitude of U.S. service members and their partners.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited troops in Regional Command–North in Mazar-I-Sharif and at Regional Command—East at Bagram Airfield. He also met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul and other members of the Afghan government.
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, extensively briefed the chairman and accompanied him to his meetings with Afghan leaders.
“I never cease to be uplifted by the courage, the perseverance, the resilience and the partnerships in Afghanistan,” Dempsey said as he returned to Washington, yesterday.
This was Dempsey’s third visit to Afghanistan this year. “I was struck this time by the transition (to the Afghans),” he said. “They are literally in the lead now.”
It is one thing, he said, to read about this transformation in intelligence reports, but something else entirely to see it in operation.
With Afghans in the lead, U.S. and NATO efforts have shifted from force generation – building kandaks and brigades – to force sustainment: helping the Afghans build logistics, command and control, develop leaders and an intelligence apparatus. “These are capabilities that allow a military force to endure,” he said.
Dempsey brought this up with President Karzai. The chairman discussed the need for a bilateral security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan and answered the president’s major question: Why is an agreement good for his country?
The chairman told Karzai “the best guarantor of Afghan sovereignty and unity is a security force that has both the capability and capacity that will allow them to deal with their security issues.”
All parties hope that Taliban reconciliation will work, “but it might not,” Dempsey said. Providing a secure and stable environment then, will depend on “a credible, stable and value-based professional Army – and eventually Air Force, that will act on behalf of all of the people of Afghanistan and who will support the constitution of the nation,” he said. “The only way to get to that point is with the continued commitment of the coalition in the development of the Afghan security forces.”
“I think he is beginning to think favorably on that fact,” the chairman said.
Dempsey would like to see a bilateral security agreement in place by October. This would give Afghans, NATO and U.S. partners some certainty in the post-2014 relationship and allow military planners to compute the glide slope for retrograde operations.
“You would have the legal basis in place so all the uncertainty is stripped away and we can get about the business of getting the right message to several different audiences – ourselves, the allies, our adversaries and as important the Afghan people and the Afghan senior leaders,” he said.
The chairman always visits partner nations during such trips and this time he met with German, Swedish and Polish members. “History will say that that part of this mission has been remarkable,” he said. “We’ve been allied with other nations in the past for discrete periods of time to deal with security issues. But this is the longest mission in our history. It’s the longest war in our history. And we have had some incredible partners since 2002 through today.”
From the military standpoint, Dempsey said all the partners he spoke with seem eager to continue the commitment to partnership beyond 2014. It is, of course, a political decision to be made by elected leaders. He noted this is another benefit of getting a bilateral security agreement in place early so these decisions can be made, he said.
Developing Afghan “human capital” is the way forward, the chairman said. “Internally in our own force, even as we face these budget challenges what I’ve said is Job 1 is to get the people right.”
If a crisis evolves, a nation can procure equipment. “But what you can’t do overnight or in a month or a year or five years, is develop leaders – NCOs, commanders – who understand the human dimensions of conflict,” he said.
Afghan security leaders are coming to the realization that they need to leverage this human dimension. “The type of conflict we are fighting today means no amount of equipment will endear them to the people,” Dempsey said. “What will is their ability to interact with the population, and drive a wedge between the insurgency and the population. That’s about leadership, not equipment.”
Dempsey spoke with U.S. troops everywhere he visited. Those who have served multiple tours in Afghanistan have seen the progress Afghan forces are making. “They understand it’s not about how well we can secure Afghanistan, it’s about well (the Afghans) can,” he said.