General Sees 'Significant Accomplishments' in Afghanistan
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 17, 2006 There's more to do, but U.S. and coalition efforts in Afghanistan have achieved considerable progress in helping that nation to become a stable member of the world community, a senior U.S. military officer told Pentagon reporters yesterday.
Army Maj. (Chaplain) Julie Rowan guides an Afghan girl through a line to receive humanitarian supplies at the Egyptian Hospital at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, Feb. 7. Rowan is attached to Task Force Strength, Combined Joint Task Force 76. Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of CJTF 76, told Pentagon reporters March 16 that "significant accomplishments" have been made in Afghanistan to assist it in becoming a stable member of the world community. Photo by Spc. Michael Zuk, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"As we enter this fifth year of operations in Enduring Freedom we can see significant accomplishments, and while there's still a great amount of work to be done, we think that also this nation of Afghanistan clearly is moving forward every day," Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, said from Afghanistan during a satellite news conference.
Freakley also commands a 15,000-member contingent of 10th Mountain Division soldiers as well as a group of U.S. airmen, Marines and sailors who make up the bulk of the task force's 21,000 personnel. Other task force members include 4,300 coalition troops from the Netherlands, Romania, Britain and Canada. JCTF-76 has its headquarters at Bagram Air Base in the south-central part of Afghanistan.
Freakley said his task force is focused on three major areas:
- Security in partnership with Afghan troops, including the training of Afghan security forces;
- Governance, centered on the provincial reconstruction teams that combine military, diplomatic and aid elements, and;
- Reconstruction, where U.S. military and other government agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development partner with nongovernmental aid organizations and international partners to provide expertise in helping Afghanistan rebuild or improve its infrastructure.
The primary threats to Afghan stability include remnant Taliban members, Freakley said, followed by al Qaeda-affiliated and some other terror groups, and criminals engaged in the opium trade.
"The key to this security pillar that we're working is partnership with the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police and the Afghan Border Police," Freakley said. The general said his troops routinely fight alongside Afghan troops in anti-terrorist operations.
"We're also partnered with the Office of Security Cooperation, Afghanistan, which has the mission to train the Afghan army and the Afghan police," Freakley said.
The provincial reconstruction teams "are out with the local governors, with the local police force," Freakley said, "working on developmental plans to further the infrastructure and governance internal to each district and province that makes up this country."
Reconstruction efforts seek to build up Afghanistan's "very embryonic" infrastructure, Freakley said, noting that infrastructure improvements produce more security and provide better quality of life for the Afghan people.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force has led security and reconstruction efforts in the northern and western regions of Afghanistan, Freakley said. This fall, U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan will come under the command and control of NATO's ISAF, he said.
"And, this is a great opportunity for all of us, in that NATO will take the responsibility for all of Afghanistan for security, reconstruction and helping with governance," Freakley said.
"We think that it's a logical and constructive step in the growth of the international community's assistance to Afghanistan," the general said.