DoD News Briefing with Maj. Gen. Schloesser from Afghanistan
(Note: Major General Schloesser appears via teleconference.)
BRYAN WHITMAN (deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs): Let me first just make sure that General Schloesser can hear us.
This is Bryan Whitman at the Pentagon. Can you hear me all right, sir?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: I can hear you just fine.
MR. WHITMAN: Very good. Well, thank you for joining us this morning, and good morning to the press corps here.
Our briefer today is Major General Jeffrey Schloesser, who is the commander of the Joint -- Combined Joint Task Force-82 in Afghanistan. General Schloesser has been there since April, assuming command in April of this year. And his troops are responsible for the security and stability operation in NATO's Regional Command East. He's also the senior U.S. commander in the country, and therefore General Schloesser is the -- is also responsible for the ongoing counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.
General, I know that you have a few opening remarks that you'd like to make and to set this up, before we take some questions. But again, welcome, and thank you for taking the time this morning to share your perspective with us.
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Bryan, thanks an awful lot for having me.
Let me just go and say right off that here at CJTF headquarters, we actually call ourselves CJTF-101. As you know, I'm the -- also the commander of the 101st Airborne Division. And when my predecessor, General Dave Rodriguez, left with the headquarters of the 82nd Airborne Division, we changed the name to CJTF-101.
With that, I want to say thanks an awful lot for all of you who have gotten up and are in the press room.
And allow me to run through just a few remarks, if you will, and then I'll take your questions.
First I want to start off with my condolences. We've had about 40 soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen and civilians killed since we took over in the first part of April. And again, our heart goes out to, you know, their selfless sacrifice. I want to also note that of that number, we lost both -- some coalition members, both Czech as well as Polish soldiers.
Now, what I'd like to do is, is kind of cover in three different categories how I see what we're doing here in RC East, as well as what we're trying to underneath the counterterrorism hat, underneath Operation Enduring Freedom. As you know, in counterinsurgency we kind of define our strategic plan or our campaign plan along lines of operation. And here we're following what our predecessors have done. And so I'm going to talk to you both and talk about security as well as development and governance.
As all of you are aware, we are really at the height of the fighting season here in Afghanistan. And using our numbers, we're -- we think we've had about a 40 percent increase in kinetic events. And I -- we define those as, really, literally, the number of enemy attacks that we've had on our coalition and Afghan partners. And this is compared to the exact same time of January through May of last year. Frankly, this number was not unexpected. You know, there's been an increase ever since 2002 each year, and we came here fully expecting that there would be an increase this year.
Now, the question is why, and for this season, this is the way I attribute the increase. And I -- there's a couple factors here. First, there is an increase in the capability and really the capacity of the Afghan national security forces. Clearly, the Afghan National Army is better than it was last year, and to be truthful, we are going to places that they did not operate last year or the year prior. I'm doing that consciously and I'm doing that on purpose, and we are actually hunting down the enemy of the Afghan people and trying to rout them. We're giving them four options. They can flee, get out of the country, they can reconcile, or they can be captured or killed. So we're taking the fight to the enemy, but we are working in support areas that we had not been before inside of Afghanistan.
Second, while I must tell you that the enemy has never won a force-on-force engagement with coalition forces, I will recognize that they are aggressively targeting what I will call both development and governance at the local level. They're burning schools, and in fact they've attacked 43 in our sector ever since school started here in Afghanistan in late March. And they are also killing teachers and they are killing students.
They're attacking what we call district centers. I'm from Kansas, and it's like a small little center there in the center of a county. And the government here has built many of those, and what they do is they link the governance at the local level to the people there.
And of course, the enemy now regards that as a real challenge, and they've done 28 attacks in 16 separate district centers in our sector, again, since March. They're attacking road development projects, because they know that where the roads, you know, start is where governance and development actually takes place and they're basically trying to kill survey crews, road construction crews, including Afghan laborers that are being paid to basically just build the roads and all they're really trying to do is feed their families.
So, you know, what I would say is, is that overall what you're seeing is, is the deliberate targeting of anything that will improve the quality of life for the normal Afghan citizen.
Thirdly, the enemy's taking refuge and operating with what I will call some freedom of movement in the border region, and they're using this sanctuary to reconstitute, to plan and to launch attacks into Afghanistan. Now, the attacks that we've had in our sector, there's not -- there are not a lot of them that actually occur along the border. It's about 12 percent of the total that I mentioned to you, but they are of some significance, because what it's doing is it is causing -- they try to get between us and our Pakistani army colleagues and try to not only just cause absolute confrontation but real firing between the two of us.
Now, let me just say something -- you know, the Afghan -- I mean, the attacks that I've seen from the enemies, they're not really effective in lethality, but we are noting that they are increasingly more complex. They're clearly designed to attack, at the strategic level, the population and to try to de-link the population of Afghanistan with their governance, as well as anybody who is here that is trying to help them.
So we're countering the enemy in several ways, but I'd like to talk a little bit about the border one, for sure. One of the things that we've done -- and we're following with -- in the units that have sort of, you know, come before us is that we are trying to build on lines of communication between ourselves and our Pakistani colleagues or the Pakistani army. We do that at a variety of different levels.
At the lowest level, you know, the platoons and companies -- think 20 to, say, 100 soldiers -- they communicate via radio and also via cellphone with their Pakistani army colleagues on the opposite side of the border. They do it routinely. We do it as a matter of standard operating procedure. And then they do it when there's actually an action at the border.
At the battalion level -- think 350 to 500 soldiers -- we do that, you know, at a higher level. We do it maybe weekly and then we do it when we have an actual attack. Again, at the brigade level -- 4,500 soldiers -- again, we do that, again, between the two comparable units.
At the one-star level, one of my deputy commanding generals, Mark Milley, meets with his counterparts on a monthly basis in what's called a synchronization meeting for the border, BSSM, and they actually take on tasks and try to increase the collaboration between our two countries or in the coalition, as well.
What I failed to mention is, is that as we're doing that, it's not just the Pakistanis and the coalition forces, but it also includes our Afghan counterparts as well. I also have meetings at my level with my peers, both at the general headquarters in Pakistan, clearly here in Afghanistan, and then also with the Frontier Corps as well as the 11th Army Corps in Pakistan.
We recently opened up -- we have recently opened up a Border Coordination Center there at the historic Khyber Pass. And we are hopeful that it will help us, as it draws in both Afghan liaison officers, Pakistani liaison officers and coalition members, will help us be able to better collaborate and communicate there along the border of that area. If it's successful, we're going to try to build more of those of that nature.
What I would like to mention is a little bit about the things that we are trying to do also with the Afghan border police, because the Afghan National Army can't do it all. This 450-mile border that we have with Pakistan is patrolled and basically occupied by Afghan border police. We're trying to increase the level of training that they have, trying to increase the weapons that they have, improve the weapons that they have, and probably most importantly, we're trying to ensure that they're partnering with coalition members as well as the Afghan National Army for really better effect in stopping and engaging the insurgents as they come back and forth. And again, it's clear not only from one side of the border but from the other side of the border there is some porosity there.
What I'd like to do is move from security now, and let me talk a little bit about development. I would say, you know, as I've mentioned already, the enemy targets development because they recognize that the Afghan government and the people are achieving really a fair amount of success, working with coalition members but also NGOs and the international community, at really the village level and then also up to the district and provincial level.
The truth is, is that, you know, the insurgency -- I think the enemy really does realize that they don't offer any kind of a positive effect. I mean, they're not improving the quality of life. They're basically a negative, destructive force here in Afghanistan. They realize they don't have anything positive, you know, to do, and they're trying to attack us.
Now, what we're trying to do here in development is really work with the Afghan ministries. Another deputy commanding general, his title is actually DCG for development and governance, Brigadier General Jim McConville. And he's today meeting with a number of Afghan ministries that are applicable to those types of things.
We work within the interagency as well, both from the United States but also within the broader international community, things like UNAMA. Clearly, the USAID is very, very important.
And we try to work with other ministries, at least communicate with NGOs, so that we're not stepping on each other, and they're working cooperatively, and we're not all trying to build the same road at the same time using different money.
The results, you know, of the past donors conference, I mean, we're optimistic. We think that the resources that the international community can provide are really important. And we look forward to seeing actual things done on the ground through those resources over time.
At our level, and you all know about this, you know, the Commanders Emergency Response Program funds, CERP, as we call it, are hugely important. What it does is it allows our commanders, my commanders, the ability to do really small things, small projects almost immediately on the ground, in their area and have an effect on a family, have an effect on a village, have an effect on the district.
In many cases, we employ the local population. And I guarantee you, if I can pay $6 to a day laborer, and the enemy will pay them $5, I'd rather buy that loyalty my way and build a road than have them shooting at us because I didn't have the funds.
So we're working that very hard. We have an awful lot of things that are being done each and every day. The projects are literally thousands in our sector. And they're really making a really huge difference.
Right now we've got about $240 million in projects that we've kind of planned and that we have ready. And when the money's available, if it ever is, we'll be ready to spend it and get going with it.
I also want to mention our support for Afghanistan's broader and larger development projects. I think you probably heard about the Afghan national development strategy during the last donors conference. One small part of that or a huge part for the Afghans is agriculture.
One of the things we're doing here is to try to promote it at the grassroots level. We do that. The National Guard has basically brought in teams. We've got two of them on the ground now, one from Missouri and one from Texas.
We've placed them in provinces. They're called agricultural development teams. And they're doing hands-on education, hands-on improvement to basically help the Afghans be better farmers.
These are farmers teaching farmers, agribusiness folks helping agribusiness. And I'll tell you, I'm really -- I'm optimistic about it. And we're seeing good results already. We hope to use a few more teams coming from other states in the United Stats over time.
Finally I want to touch upon governance. We really do believe at our level -- we're a military force; I'm a military commander -- that the faith of governance for us, for the people is the Afghan National Army. I was out here 15 months ago. We did a couple trips out here in the time in between. And then we got here in March and took command in early April.
And I can just tell you, Bryan, and to everybody that's listening, that I have seen a significant increase in the capacity and the capability of the Afghan National Army.
We partner with them on a daily basis. There's almost nothing that we do as a coalition force in RC East that does not have the leadership, including the planning, from the Afghan National Army at the helm. And in many cases we find ourselves primarily doing support and providing enablers to the Afghan National Army.
We have two corps here, the 203rd Corps and the 201st Corps. We enjoy working with them, but I tell you, on the ground, they are making a significant amount of difference.
Finally, they have some units called commando battalions, and our SOF forces, our Special Forces, are partnering with them. They call it combat advising, and they're making great strides each and every day throughout our sector as well.
I personally believe that we are right at the point where we're almost at the tipping point, where the momentum of the Afghan National Army will not be able to go backwards. We look forward to seeing some increases in their capability and their numbers and capacity in the future, and I've just got to say it's real pleasure to all of us to work with such a group of professionals.
So finally, I think we're making some good progress here in both -- all three of those lines of operations -- security, development and governance. We're clearly not done, and I'm nowhere near yet able to say that we've reached irreversible momentum. But I do know that we're making good progress, and each and every day we're making a difference in the Afghan people's lives.
With that, I'm ready to take some questions.
MR. WHITMAN: Well, General, thanks very much for that comprehensive overview, and accept my apologies. Old habits die hard. We do know you're Task Force-101. I do know that. I apologize for the mistake there.
Anyway, we do have a roomful of questions here, so let's go ahead and get started. Barbara, do you want to start off up there?
Q Sir, Barbara Starr from CNN. Given the fact the Pakistani side of the border impacts the security picture in your area so much, what is your assessment of the safe haven? What is going on, on that side of the border? Are there any -- what's the status of the Pakistani military trying to go after the militants? Or is it a complete safe haven? And what did you mean by the attacks are now then more complex? What are you actually seeing?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Ma'am, Barbara -- by the way, it's -- I'm from Kansas, so -- you had about four questions there. I'm going to have to write them on down. But I'll do my best to kind of work my way through it.
The first thing, I think -- let me say a little bit about the Pakistani army. As I said, I've been on the other side and talked to most of the 11th Corps commanders, as well as the general headquarters. And I'm convinced that they have tried hard over a period of time to address the lack of stability in the FATA, in the North-West Frontier Provinces. They've -- I'll note that they've lost well over a thousand soldiers over the last couple years in trying to do so.
We are concerned, you know, as they work through some sort of peace agreements in a certain number of these agencies.
Pakistan's clearly a sovereign government. They can do exactly what they want. I would just urge and have urged that whatever agreements that they have are enforceable and verifiable, and that they do result in stopping any kind of movement from the Pakistani side back into the Afghan side of either insurgents or terrorist groups of a variety of natures.
Is it a safe haven in my mind? Yes, it is. I'm -- quite honestly, we track a variety of different groups. We think that -- we call it, in fact, a syndicate of groups. That's not just the Taliban or the Taliban in Pakistan, but groups like LET, Lashkar-e-Taiba; TNSM, Tehreek-Miram-Shariyah Mohammadiyah (sp), a number of groups. People like Baitullah Mehsud have come into that area and tried to take it on over. I believe in my heart of hearts that the Pakistanis are concerned about that, and -- but it's a very difficult area to operate in, and it's a very difficult task.
You also asked, Barbara, about the complexity of the attacks, and that is, in simply military terms, before what you might have seen as an IED with no fire covering it, or an ambush with nothing to stop the convoy and so the convoy could drive right through, what we're seeing now is an IED that stops a convoy, fires on maybe two sides; that try and pin it down or fix the convoy itself; and then as a quick reaction force comes it, an actual IED is then detonated to stop them.
MR. WHITMAN: Okay. Let's go to Al, and then we'll go over to Andrew.
Q General, it's Al Pessin from Voice of America. I think you also said attacks were more sophisticated and striking in terms of the targets that they strike. I wonder if you could expand on that and tell us what is the main impediment that you have to reducing the effectiveness of the Taliban and these other groups that are attacking you. Is it a matter of lack of troops? Is it a political issue? Is it the safe haven in Pakistan? What's preventing you from stopping them from doing these kinds of attacks, especially in the summertime?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Okay, yeah, two questions there. The first one I heard, sir, basically was -- is the sophistication of the targeting that the enemy are doing. I mean, you know, three or four years ago, I don't think we would have seen -- or even a year ago -- the identification that development is in fact the thing that will cause the people to move from being fence-sitters to being supporters of the government of Afghanistan. They clearly understand that now. I know they understand it. And I'm doing everything I possibly can, then, to target the enemy that are trying to do this.
There are a whole variety of different ways. I don't want to talk about my tactics and techniques and procedures, to be quite frank with you, but I guarantee you that we're getting after those that are going after not only the sophisticated targets, but also those that are just trying to enjoy what they believe is the freedom of movement within Afghanistan over the border.
Q And what would you say is the main thing that's preventing you from stopping them at this point?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Well, I mean, you know, there's nothing stopping me other than probably, you know -- well, there's nothing, to be -- I was going to make a joke but that's probably not very funny on my own part. I'll just say that we're getting after it each and every day.
You know, I've -- I think that we are adapting as fast as we possibly can. And there has been almost nothing that surprises me in the last 90 days on the part of the enemy. We talked about this before we even came here, about the different targeting that they would do. And we are proceeding forward with everything that we can possibly do.
MR. WHITMAN: Andrew.
Q General, it's Andrew Gray from Reuters here. When is this going to get better? You said violence has gone up every year in that area since 2002. You talked about 40 kills since the first part of April, since you took over. When can you tell the American, the Afghan people this is going to turn around and get better?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Well, the first way that it will get better is, is when the population of Afghanistan that is sitting on the fence -- and that's clearly not even a majority by any means -- decides that it is better for them to be against the enemy in a very real sense rather than just putting up with the enemy going past them.
And I think that the key to that is going to be development and really increasing demonstrably a quality of life for the normal Afghan villager and their family and then linking the governance at the village level and at the lowest levels, the district level, to that same villager and their family over time. The security part is really meant to buy them enough time to get to that point.
I can't predict how long it's going to take. I can say that I believe we're making progress.
MR. WHITMAN: Mik.
Q General, Jim Miklaszewski with NBC. Can you provide any more details for us on the cross-border airstrikes that apparently killed some Pakistani military or paramilitary last week. Were the Paks and the U.S. in communication, as you said, before, during and after? And did you receive any assurance from the Pakistanis that there were no Pakistani military in the area? And has there been a positive identification of those Pak paramilitary who were killed? Were they actually Frontier Corps or were they considered militia?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Okay, well, you know, you're referring to the attack or the incident that occurred at Gora Prai in Konar. And as I think some of you probably know, we have a joint investigation ongoing at this time.
Even as we speak, right now, we have a coalition-U.S. one-star who is working to gather information. And on the Pakistani side, we have the one-star, as well as on the Afghan side, we have a one-star general.
They are coming together here in the next couple days to actually meet with some of the data that they've already collected in their respective areas. And I really would be out of place to say very much more about that whole thing.
I would just say that, you know, at the end of the day, that when I met with my counterpart there in Pakistan, I expressed condolences to any loss of life. And we agreed that we look forward to collaborating and communicating better. My personal opinion of it is, is that we can actually work more closely, as I've already described.
Q General, this is David Wood from the Baltimore Sun.
Have you seen fighters, coming across the border, from those groups in Pakistan with which the Pakistani government has reached some kind of ceasefire peace agreement? And subsequent to that, they have come across the border.
GEN. SCHLOESSER: David, what I will say is, is that, you know, there is -- the border is very porous. And again, you know, they go both ways. I don't want to only highlight coming from the Pakistani side. But the forces actually go, the insurgents actually go back the opposite was as well.
We're tracking, as I said. I gave you just a taste of a few of the groups. We're tracking really, to be honest with you, within this syndicate, a number of different groups, by name, the leaders, as well as many of the mid-level leaders.
And if they were listening today, I would just tell them, you know, they got a good warning. I'm looking for them. And if we find them here, they get those four options that I've already laid out for you.
Q General, Peter Spiegel with the Los Angeles Times. I guess sort of just a follow-up on the same time.
I mean, you did list those organizations. I mean, this Mullah Mehsud in particular has largely been seen as domestic, Pakistani problem, you know, has been accused by some of being responsible for the Bhutto assassination.
General McNeill, on his way out, said the peace agreements with these organizations has forced them from focusing in on Pakistan and turned their face more on Afghanistan. You mentioned the Mehsud organization in particular.
I mean, can you talk with any specificity about organizations that were previously looking inwardly at Pakistan, particularly as extreme as Lashkar-e-Taiba, some of these extremist groups, that are now looking outwardly to Afghanistan and causing you problems?
Would you agree with General McNeill's assessment on that front?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Well, what I would say is, you know, I kind of mentioned that already, sir.
You know, there is -- I won't call it a phenomenon, but I would just clearly say that what we're seeing over time has been the movement from just a Taliban based upon one of three shuras -- either the Quetta shura, the Miran Shah or the Peshawar shura -- and now what we see is in our sector the latter two shuras, you know, from the Taliban, but deep involvement with the TTIP -- that's the Taliban of Pakistan, to (Massoud's ?) group, some insurgents that are clearly Afghan in historic context. Let's just take the Haqqani group, for one, but there are several other ones. We're seeing some what I will just call terrorist groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba. Clearly al Qaeda's involved in some case.
Now, don't get the idea that this is a -- you know, that they're all collaborating together and that you're seeing actual military units. What I'm saying out there is, is that you're seeing a mix on the battlefield. In some cases there are communications between two or three groups. In some cases they are working together very loosely, trying to achieve what I would call battlefield effects, and we are focused on them. I mean, and that's all I can tell you at this point.
Q Just very quickly to follow up on Mick's question. You said you can't discuss the incident earlier this month on the bombings of the Pakistanis because they're under investigation. Can you talk at all about your interactions with the Pakistanis? Has this made relationships more difficult? We've heard a lot of reports out of Pakistan that some of the U.S. efforts to do training within Pakistan have maybe been sidelined because of this. Can you talk about your bilateral relationships with those military leaders and how this incident affected it?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Yeah, sure. By the way, just to clarify, if I said I can't talk about it, what I meant is I won't talk about it.
But let me just tell you that, you know, right after -- well, during the incident and after the incident, we were in communication with our counterparts in Pakistan, in the Pakistani army, I mean right during the actual incident. Immediately thereafter, we'd both gone out of the way, both sides, to communicate. And as I thought I mentioned, but I may not have, I've traveled to Pakistan. I've done three trips in three months to meet with my counterparts.
I think both sides are trying very hard to keep the lines of communication open. I think both sides understand that the relative sanctuary that is achieved along that border area is damaging to both Afghanistan as well as to Pakistan. And I think both sides understand that that cannot continue.
Q General, Bill McMichael, Military Times Newspapers. Could you give us a little better understanding of why we've had such a rise in casualties, in coalition casualties, since the beginning of April, and particularly in the last week or two, last several weeks; and why we see those casualties not so much in RC South, where there's been a push to try to get after the Taliban, but more of them really in the last four weeks in RC West and RC East?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Well, I'd really -- you know, I probably really am most comfortable in speaking really for RC East.
I -- we do watch over, as we mentioned before, under different hats, forces that are operating throughout Afghanistan. Again, I think what you see is in some cases a growing complexity in the types of attacks. And in my opinion, they are focusing on such things as they now know that we have MRAPs in theater and are trying to figure out ways that they can defeat the MRAP and cause more casualties that way.
As we push out into Afghanistan, into areas that we hadn't been before, as coalition partners and as Afghan members, we are bound to run into, you know, insurgents, terrorists in areas that we didn't know they were going to be there. And that's what I think you're partly seeing as you see -- as you mention, in RC West and RC South. You know, again, I don't feel comfortable in speaking for them. They have commanders of their own at the two-star level. But I will just say that.
Q General, just to follow up, and would you also attribute some of the rising casualties to this increased sophistication of attacks that you described earlier?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Well, I would say that, you know, in some cases, it's not all that sophisticated just to increase the size of the explosive. I mean, you know, to be honest with you, I've seen some of that.
But I do believe that, yes -- and let me just talk again from my sector -- that's what I do see. When we do take some casualties, what you do often see is that it's an increasingly more sophisticated or complex attack. And again, it's not something that we can't work on and defeat and address; we are. I'm just -- I'm bringing it to your attention and -- because it's something that we're seeing.
Q Just quickly, have you seen any EFPs, General?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: No.
Q This is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra. Have you seen -- overall, what you have seen -- do you think that -- how can you describe the Taliban right now? Do you think the Taliban has increased their size? Do you think -- can you give us more details about how many fighters do you think there are involved in the fight with the Taliban?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Well, as I said, I'd go back to some of my early comments about what we see here in RC East. Again, I wouldn't ascribe to the Taliban itself any incredible increase in the size of their numbers. I do believe that there is some, you know, loose syndicate, and they're operating with others in RC East, and I've already mentioned those.
I wouldn't want to give any numbers. I will say that in my opinion we're having a pretty darn good degree of success.
We don't do body counts in our army, but I'll just say that we're having quite a bit of success. And again, going back to those four options that we give the enemy insurgents: you know, we can capture them; we can kill them; they can reconcile; they can flee. And I think, across the board -- I don't control the reconciliation process, but in some cases on the other three we're having good success.
Q Do you know if now -- foreign fighters among the Taliban?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Are there foreign fighters among the groups? Absolutely.
Q You know from where?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: I sure do.
Q Can you tell us? (Laughter.) And can you say -- they are from Pakistan, from the Gulf? Can you give us some details?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Hopefully you can see a smile on my face as I mention that. I'm not trying to be rude by any means, sir. I really wouldn't want to get into any kind of details but, you know, just as you saw in other places, you know, there are groups of people that come from other different nations who believe that they have a cause to fight for. And we're seeing those groups here, clearly. It's just as I've described.
Q General, it's Luis Martinez with ABC News. The use of IEDs has been described in the past as a tactic used because it's a weakened enemy that can't take you head-on on the battlefield. Is the increasing use of IEDs, as you're seeing it, a sign of that weakness or is it a greater sign that there is the ability to create networks to lay down these, create these IEDs, to distribute them throughout sectors and to increase their capacity? Is that more a sign of strength than a weakness?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Well, first of all, I will say that IEDs are not a sign, you know, of strength. I mean, it is the way that you can actually target -- you know, say, for an example, trucks that are moving goods for development. It's a very effective way to do that without trying to get into a fight with coalition forces or Afghan forces. And so in a sense, you know, it is a way to try to avoid actual fighting with the units or anything like that.
Something that you really need to, I think, know is, is that in my opinion it's a totally indiscriminate way of conducting warfare. The things I haven't mentioned is, is that in some cases they are using children or women to be involved in some types of these attacks. And I did not get -- really talk much about the suicide attacks, but, you know, we've seen some where the 10-year-old boy was a suicide attacker, a man dressed up as a woman -- I'm not sure I get that -- other things like that. It is just -- it is a way to conduct -- you know, we call it asymmetric warfare, where you don't have units fighting other units.
As I've said before, there has not been any time when the insurgents or the terrorists have fought us unit-by-unit or in large numbers where they haven't been just soundly defeated.
Q General, just briefly a quick follow-up: In your opening statement, you mentioned this 40 percent increase -- I'm sorry, Peter Spiegel again with the LA Times -- this 40 percent increase in attacks from January to May, year-on-year.
Do you have any raw numbers on that, in terms of number of attacks that happened January through May '07 versus January-May '08?
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Yeah, you know, actually I do have the numbers. But I did not bring them with me. And so I really don't probably want to, you know, put them out. But I mean, they're 40 percent higher.
And I can tell you though that what we're seeing is, they generally go along. We track them as far as direct fires, indirect fires, which you should think of as mortars and rockets, not sophisticated rockets, please.
I mean, for the audience, we're talking literally about some shells that are stuck in some dirt and primed, and off they go, and then usually wildly inaccurate and incredibly indiscriminate.
Just in the last week, we've had a number of civilians, in fact, just the other night, women and children that were killed by these rocket attacks, that are really a cowardly way to conduct any kind of warfare.
We also track IEDs. And those three have all gone up. Suicides have gone down from the same time frame from last year. Although I do note that when there is a suicide attack, especially in the way that they're attacking innocents, that it clearly gets all of our attention.
MR. WHITMAN: Well, general, we do want to be respectful of your time. And we appreciate you taking the time. Before I bring this to a close, let me turn it back to you, to see if you have any final thoughts or anything that our questions have stimulated, that you feel you can add something to, before we bring it to a close.
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Sure.
Well, one of the things I'd like to say is that from your questions, you clearly are focused on the security line of operations. And I'll just tell you that, you know, we're doing good things, getting into areas that we have never been in there before, working with the Afghan national army who is increasing, each and every day, their capability, their capacity.
But I do hope that you understand what I said to you all. And that is, is that the way this thing is eventually going to culminate is going to be when the people see that the quality of life and the development is well worth it, and they link themselves with the government.
And so we're working that really hard. And I've got to tell you that there has been, just in the 15 months that I've been watching Afghanistan, there's been significant improvement.
It's going to require a lot of work. It's going to require the international community. And it's going to require our U.S. citizens to continue to, you know, be patient and to work with this government.
But I am optimistic that we are making progress, each and every day.
I do appreciate your time, though, as well. I thank you all. I know it's early in the morning or somewhat early in the morning there in Pentagon time.
MR. WHITMAN: Well, thank you, General. And we do have a lot of interest back here in your region, in what you're doing. So we hope that we can have you back sometime soon to continue to provide us with some updates, in terms of everything that's going on in RC East. Thank you very much, and we hope to meet with you again like this soon.
GEN. SCHLOESSER: Okay, Bryan. Thank you very much.
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