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Commanders Re-balance Strategy in Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2010 – Commanders in Afghanistan are re-balancing the strategy to confront the realities on the ground, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

NATO International Security Assistance Force leaders have been making adjustments to what has primarily been a counterinsurgency campaign, Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright told attendees at the Government Executive 2010 Leadership Briefings held at the National Press Club.

“The COIN strategy is balanced by a counterterrorism strategy,” Cartwright said. “When we started, we probably were more aligned with counterinsurgency. The emphasis is shifting.”

The existence of enemy safe havens necessitates the shift, the general said. Taliban and foreign terrorists can launch attacks in Afghanistan, then escape over the border into the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. There, the enemy is able to rest, refit and plan further attacks with their lines of communication intact.

“We need to reduce those lines of communication and reduce that flow to the best of our abilities,” Cartwright said. “So the balance of the force that was really weighted more toward counterinsurgency is starting to shift to have an element of counterterrorism larger than we thought we were going to need when we started.”

The effort will aim to cut enemy lines of communication, Cartwright said. It also will target enemy supply lines, he added, and disrupt enemy attempts to replace personnel.

“The shift has started to take effect,” the general said. “If you look at Iraq or other conflicts, you will see that as we started, we had this strategy. Then we get battlefield reporting and intelligence assessments. Early on, they will almost always diverge and then they start to come back together if you are doing the correction.”

This has tactical and strategic ramifications, Cartwright said, noting that all leaders need to be on the same page.

“Are you winning the battles and losing the war or are you, in fact, understanding the strategic side of this equation and trying to bring the strategic and tactical in line with this equation?” he said. “That way, your objectives can be reinforced [by] each other.”

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Biographies:
Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright


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