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Commanders in Afghanistan Share Tactics, Procedures

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2008 – Commanders in Afghanistan share their best counterinsurgency tactics, but the country is big and what works in one area may not work in another, the commander of NATO’s Regional Command—East said during a Pentagon news conference today.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez said the counterinsurgency tactics he uses in the eastern provinces of the country may not work in other areas. Earlier this month, a flurry of stories suggested that U.S. forces in the country do a better job at the counterinsurgency fight against the Taliban than NATO allies stationed in other regions.

“It's a different fight and a different type of challenge in each different area,” Rodriguez said. “Each force is in there, whether it be RC East, Northwest, South or Capital. It's a different type of terrain, it's a different type of tribal infrastructure, a different type of leadership in the Afghan government.”

All these differences have an impact on the type of tactics used, Rodriguez said. Still, the commanders of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces constantly share information. “We're in touch with them all the time,” the general said. “We coordinate with them. We share lessons learned and work with them very carefully, closely, to share anything we have.”

The NATO troops also learn from Afghan forces and vice versa, Rodriguez said.

This information sharing is important, he said, but commanders must remember that “all the lessons don't translate one-to-one, but we all talk about the principles and those things.”

Rodriguez’s command has about 160 districts and there has been between 30 to 40 percent improvement in security, governance and development, he said. “What that has done is reduce the area from which the enemy … can conduct operations from support bases that are out there. So, we believe that we've significantly restricted their freedom of movement,” he said.

Despite the political problems in Pakistan, the command has a great military-to-military coordination with the Pakistani military on the border, the general said.

“Over the past several years, the coalition forces have been able to develop some trust between the Pakistani military and the coalition forces, and now that is starting to extend to the Afghan military forces,” Rodriguez said. Pakistani military leaders “realize it's a common enemy that we're fighting, and in a common cause.”

The Taliban and al Qaeda are establishing safe havens and training areas in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, the general said. The area has much the same geography as eastern Afghanistan, and troops trying to police the area face many of the same problems, he said.

“It's rugged, rugged terrain,” Rodriguez said. “And (the Taliban and al Qaeda) have been able to establish some support bases over time, but it's the same problem you have in both sides of the border. I mean, we have to disrupt the support bases so that they can't survive in those areas, and support the development of governance and development in those areas.

“I think it will be a long time to change … the situation there. And again, I think the Pak military is committed to doing that.”

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