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DOD News Briefing with Maj. Gen. Carter from Afghanistan

Presenters: Commander, NATO-ISAF Regional Command South Maj. Gen. Nick Patrick Carter, British Army
February 18, 2010

               Go to http://www.defense.gov/news/d20100218map.pdf. to view map associated with this transcript.

 

MODERATOR:  Today, our briefer is British Army Major General Patrick Carter.  He is the commander of ISAF Regional Command [RC] South, which is comprised of about 45,000 troops from a number of nations. He assumed these responsibilities as commander of RC South in November of last year, even though this is our first opportunity to have him in this forum.   

 

                So General, again I want to thank you for taking the time.  And we'll open it up to you, for a few remarks, before we take questions.   

 

                GEN. CARTER:  Thank you very much.  And good morning to you all in the Pentagon.   

 

                What I thought I'd do is to talk for about sort of 10 or 15 minutes about Op Moshtarak, which literally speaking means Operation Together.  And it means together because it is an operation that has been significantly partnered between our own coalition forces and those of the Afghan national security forces.   

 

                What I thought I'd do up front though is to give you a sense of the objective that our combined force was seeking to achieve.  And this is critical because what we needed to do, about two months ago, was to be very clear about what it was that we were seeking to achieve, at the strategic level and all the way down to the tactical level, because it was fundamental that those objectives were properly aligned.   

 

                And what we've tried -- been trying to do here is to get the Afghan government to assert its authority over a number of places in Helmand which have been ungoverned for some months now.  So that was the key objective, about the Afghan government asserting its control and authority over central Helmand and the ungoverned spaces that existed within it. 

 

                Now, I've got one visual aid to support what it is I'm going to tell you, and I hope that in front of you you've got a handout which shows the battlefield geometry, as I would describe it, of central Helmand.  And I'm also going to make a very rash assumption, which is all of you know where Helmand is.  And if you don't, you could always look it up afterwards. 

 

                The diagram that I'm going to talk of shows you halfway up on the right-hand side the town of Lashkar Gah.  Lashkar Gah is the provincial capital of central Helmand -- or rather, of Helmand itself -- and has been under the control of the government of Afghanistan for around three or four years now. 

 

                The area that we are interested in, in terms of the operation, is the area to the west of Lashkar Gah.  And you'll see at the top of the diagram there the area marked as "31 West," and the area "31 East." Below it, in green, you'll see an area described as "Nad e-Ali."  Now, Nad e-Ali is in fact the overall district name to the west of Lashkar Gah, and the other names on the diagram simply reflect the sub-areas within that overall district. 

 

                I'd also indicate to you the Nahr e Bughra canal, and Canal 56, which you'll see indicated around to the south of Nad e-Ali, and the area to the southwest of that, known as Marja, which is clearly shown in a sort of pinkish color to the bottom-left.  And those will be the areas that I will talk about, and those are the areas which predominantly were the ungoverned space that Op Moshtarak was designed to put back under Afghan government authority. 

 

                Now, up front, as the commander on the ground, there were two things that I wanted to ensure were put in place before the operation was mounted, the first one of which was to ensure that the political context was properly set, and the second one was to ensure that we had adequate resources to conduct the operation.  And I'll talk to the setting of the political context first of all. 

 

                This had to happen at two or three levels.  First of all, it had to happen at provincial level.  We are fortunate in Helmand to have a  provincial governor by the name of Governor Mangal, who is a technocrat and understands how to govern, and clearly was up for looking at how he might spread his governance more widely in Helmand as a whole.  He was also able to identify what was required in terms of the government asserting its authority on the ground, and he has been able to lead the planning process associated with this operation. He's been able to identify two appropriate deputy district governors, in the form of a man called Habibullah, who will be the district governor of Nad e-Ali as a whole; and a deputy, a man called Hajji Zahir, who will be the deputy governor of Marja, the district to the southwest on my one visual aid. 

 

                Now, what he's done is, he's elicited the support from Kabul of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, under a man called Director Popal.  And during the course of January, Director Popal came down from Kabul, supported by a number of technical experts, and he supported Governor Mangal's planning that looked at how the right services of a government would be delivered on the ground once the security forces arrived on it. 

 

                Now, part of that process involved making sure that the population entirely understood what was coming, and that the population entirely understood that it would be the betterment of fair governance provided by its government that would make it worth them allowing the occupying forces to come in on behalf of the government. 

 

                Now, I suspect some people have found this slightly counterintuitive, sitting in their armchairs, thinking that perhaps there would be no surprise in terms of what is fundamentally also a military operation.  Well, I shall return to that, because it's a key part of our strategy as part of General McChrystal's population- centric COIN [counterinsurgency], that means that we are making sure we take the people with us, rather than simply defeating an insurgency. 

 

                Now, the second part of setting the political context was about making sure that the Afghan government in Kabul was fully behind this operation.  And Governor Mangal about three-and-a-half weeks ago led a delegation consisting of my two security partners -- General Wardak, who runs the regional police that corresponds to RC South; and General Zazai, who commands the 205th Corps of the Afghan National Army. 

 

                He led this delegation up to Kabul, where they briefed President Karzai and his national-security committee on how the operation would work. 

 

                What they showed to him was that the operation had been planned from the finish back to the start, with, importantly, governance at the tip of the spear.  So what Governor Mangal was able to reassure the president about was that they had thought through very carefully the sorts of services that people wanted to have on the ground and how that would represent betterment for the population. 

 

                The detail of the policing plan was then also briefed, because of course it will be the police force that ultimately provides the function that generally protects the population.  And it will be that demonstration of commitment from a police force which will explain to the population that the government's forces are there to stay and to provide them with what they need. 

 

                And then last but by no means least, General Zazai set out the military plan -- in broad terms, because clearly he wanted to preserve the element of surprise as well.  Now, what was impressive about this -- I was only an observer in all of this -- was the fact that President Karzai was entirely gripped by it.  He chaired the discussion, and all of his ministers got fully involved in it.  And indeed, when I was asked to comment as a security partner, I felt able to say that I had nothing to add because my Afghan partners had covered the ground so comprehensively. 

 

                The president was able to issue clear direction at the end of this meeting.  He was insistent that we needed to make sure that the humanitarian piece was properly attended to.  He was obviously keen to ensure that civilian casualties were kept to an absolute minimum.  He wanted to make sure that the STRATCOM [strategic communication] piece had been properly covered. And, importantly, he wanted to ensure that the tribal leadership had been properly consulted before the operation started. 

 

                And therefore, in the three days preceding the mounting of the operation, he sent Minister Atmar, his Interior minister, down to Helmand to run a process of shura, or bringing together of the tribal leadership, to ensure that they understood what was happening and that they were involved in the process. 

 

                And what this shura has done has been to provide, if you like, a sort of reference group to whom the military forces on the ground have been able to ask questions of, as have those who will do the stabilization afterwards, to ensure that the reconstruction projects are generally in line with what a population would want. 

 

                What they've also done is to create a committee that will manage reintegration as that begins to happen.  And it is our sense that that will be one of the outcomes of this military operation, not least because of the amount of pressure that over time will be placed upon the insurgency.  And you may ask to question me about that later on. 

 

                Now, a second part of the operational prerequisite that I had for this operation was to ensure that we had adequate resources.  And what I'm talking about here is predominantly Afghan national security force resources.  And for the operation, six ANA [Afghan National Army] kandaks, or battalion, were -- battalions, were made available, as were two of the special commando kandaks, around a thousand of the ANCOP, or the Afghan gendarmerie -- that's their special police force that's nationally recruited.  And we are in the process of training around a thousand new Afghan national policemen, who will be fed into Nad Ali and Marja once the hold phase of the operation starts to bite effectively. 

 

                And, of course, what's made all of this possible is the fact that the first two U.S. Marine Corps battalions that President Obama announced as part of his uplift before Christmas became available to us during the course of December and January.  And they, in partnership with these Afghan national security forces and an uplift that Gordon Brown announced for British forces, has made it possible for us to put on the ground around 8,000 combined troops, who have provided the sort of force densities that are needed generally to bring the sort of security that's required on the ground. 

 

                Now, inserting all of this in a way that guarantees surprise, given that we were quite open about the fact this operation was happening, was a challenge.  Now, I know that the scale of aviation assault that happened at the beginning of the Iraq war was a sight to behold.  But in terms of detail coordination, I think the aviation insertion that took place last Saturday morning was most impressive, for it brought together not just one nation, but five nations' worth of helicopter pilots and a whole load of Afghans de-busing from the back of these helicopters as well. 

 

                It was done in conditions of great darkness, in that it was a Clair de Lune period, and it required significant coordination by the aviation planners to make it happen. 

 

                With plus of 60 helicopters involved in over 11 waves, against what potentially could have been a very resistant enemy, to achieve total surprise and to land on 11 objectives -- as if it were on a railway timetable drawn up in Germany -- was most impressive.   

 

                And the upshot of this was that complete tactical surprise was achieved.  And the insurgence was entirely dislocated in the first 24 hours of the operation.   

 

                Now, where we now find ourselves is that in 31 West and 31 East, at the top of the diagram, we're in a position where the insurgent has been cleared effective from those areas.  And we are able now to begin to show that level of commitment that is required, to make the population believe that we are genuinely there to stay as a combined force.   

 

                In Nad Ali, that area is also broadly secure, although we have as yet not ensured freedom of movement from Lashkar Gar west across the area -- (inaudible) -- and down towards Marja.  And it will be important that that freedom of movement is ensured, because that is how Afghan governance ultimately will be delivered, to Marja in particular and Nad Ali more broadly.   

 

                In Marja itself, there remains stiff resistance from the insurgence.  And U.S. Marines in partnership with Afghan security forces are still fighting intense series of actions, in the process of clearing Marja as a whole.   

 

                However there are encouraging signs that parts of Marja are now clear and so much so that the Afghan gendarmerie was introduced yesterday into southeastern Marja.  And they are already beginning to reassure the population and provide the sort of support the population would expect.   

 

                And indeed it was secure enough for us to be able to take Governor Mangal into that part of Marja yesterday.  But I guess it will be some days before we can be completely confident that Marja is secure and the insurgent has been clear from it.   

 

                A couple of final points.  The first one I'd make is that what has been impressive about this has been the performance of the Afghan security forces and the Afghan governance piece.   

 

                President Karzai was completely committed to this operation.  And indeed it was he who made the executive decision for this operation to be launched last Friday.  And personally involved himself in the planning process that evening and reassured himself that what was happening was the right thing to do and that the population wanted it to happen.   

 

                The second thing that has been impressive about this, in terms of Afghan capacity, is the extent to which the Afghan army and police force has been involved in the decision-making process.   

 

                And indeed the final coordination conference that we held, on Friday evening, whilst President Karzai was determining whether he would endorse the operation, was not just chaired by me.  It was chaired jointly by my Afghan corps commander colleague.   

 

                And also it was he who took the decision that things were ready to go and he was comfortable with the process.  And that is something that is mirrored in an integrated decision-making process, through both the British task force that is conducting operations northeast of Canal 56 and in the MEB that's conducting the operations in Marja.   

 

                And where we are partnered, it's critical that this integrated decision-making process happens because, of course, what we see now are the Afghans fully involved in all of this.  And that means that we're getting an exponential leap, in terms of our collective capability.   

 

                To describe where we are in terms of this operation, in central Helmand, at the end of the beginning.  I guess it will take us another 25 to 30 days to be entirely sure that we have secured that which needs to be secured.  And we probably won't know, for about 120 days, whether or not the population is entirely convinced by the degree of commitment that their government is showing to them.   

 

                So I guess looking downstream, in three months' time or thereabouts, we should have a pretty fair idea about whether we've been successful.  But I would be very cautious about any triumphalism just yet.   

 

                It's going well, and there are a lot of brave people doing a lot of brave things.  And I'd be reasonably confident that in due course, we'll be able to announce a successful operation.  I think that teased up some questions.  And I stand by ready to answer them.   

 

                MODERATOR:  Well, General, thank you for that comprehensive overview.  And I'm sure we've got lots of questions here.  We do have a little bit of a delay in the satellite.  So we'll need to complete the question and be very careful on the follow-ups, so that we get the question.   

 

                So Anne, let's start with you.   

 

                Q     General, this is Anne Flaherty with Associated Press.   

 

                Are you -- how satisfied are you with the pace of operations?   

 

                It seems to be going a little bit slower than was anticipated.  And also, do you have any assessment of the number of civilian casualties yet? 

 

                GEN. CARTER:  Yes.  In terms of the pace of the operation, we are very happy with what has happened up in northern Helmand, and we continue to be making slow and steady progress elsewhere, in southern Nad Ali.  I think we always said that it would take at least 30 days before we were confident that we had cleared Marja.  Marja is an area that has not had any government authority over it for some 18 months, and we need to go very carefully in terms of the way we do this. 

 

                There is a significant threat from improvised explosive devices, and these have to be cleared very systematically and very meticulously, particularly as the civilian population is still on the ground in the area of Marja itself.  And what we don't want are civilians running into these mines and improvised explosive devices. 

 

                The important point, though, is that the civilian population is still there.  And that is why the forces on the ground, the Afghan security forces and some very brave U.S. Marines, are being extremely careful about how they conduct the clear operation.  They are minimizing collateral damage and they are using small arms wherever they possibly can as they affect their clearance.   

 

                And that is why it will take time, but it is right and proper that it should take time, because ultimately what we're trying to do here is to protect the population and take them with us.  And we won't do that if we achieve collateral damage -- which plays to the second half of your question, about civilian casualties.   

 

                Tragically, around 10 civilians were killed on day two of the operation, and I think we know now that a few more have been wounded during the course of the last three or four days.  But so far, I think we can be extremely reassured that people are being as careful as they possibly can in the circumstances. 

 

                Over. 

 

                Q   General, this is Viola Gienger from Bloomberg News.  Do you have any signs yet that any of the insurgents are reintegrating or show any signs of abandoning the fight?  And what signs are you getting, if any, about how the population is receiving the troops and perceiving this offensive? 

 

                GEN. CARTER:  In terms of the way the population is approaching the problem, what has been most encouraging to us has been how they wanted this operation to happen.  They've been living under a very oppressive regime, particularly in Marja, but also in northern Nad Ali as well.  And what has been reassuring is that they are welcoming the arrival of their own security forces supported by U.S. Marines and also British forces in northern Nad Ali. 

 

                Now, northern Nad Ali is slightly different to Marja because it's quite a rich area.  What they're looking for there is confidence that the security forces will stay and hold.  And it will be some time, I think, until they're confident of that, because regularly in the past, operations have been mounted but they haven't stuck. 

 

                In Marja, I think again it is too early to say how the population will respond, but the early signs are that even on the ground they are extremely positive in what they see.  But again, they want to be reassured that the right sort of security is provided afterwards, and they would be very nervous if similar policemen to those that worked under the rather oppressive regime, which the government is replacing, ended up staying on the ground.  So they will slightly reserve their judgment, I suspect, until they're entirely confident that the sort of security they're getting is the right sort of security. 

 

                In terms of the insurgents and the extent to which they reintegrate, I think we need to be clear that reintegration happens in a range of different ways.  What will happen and is happening is that the sort of $10-a-day fighter, who has got, if you like, no job and no work to do, and who is intimidated into fighting by the Taliban, is already putting his weapon down and quietly putting himself back in his community.  And that is happening on the ground as we speak throughout central Helmand and Nad Ali.   

 

                There's been one example of formal reintegration, which took place in northern Nad Ali about three days ago.  And that was an impressive moment, because what you saw was a young fighter being given back to his community by District Governor Habibullah in a formal ceremony, which was very uplifting from the community's perspective and did a huge amount for District Governor Habibullah's credibility and standing in the community. 

 

                My sense is that more of this will happen during the course of the next week or two as the insurgents begin to realize quite clearly which direction of travel this thing's going.  But it's too early to say quite when.  Over. 

 

                Q     General, Tom Bowman with NPR.  I want to pick up on what you said about roadside bombs.  It seems everyone's saying that there are a lot more of these bombs than anyone anticipated.  And I'm wondering, are there any new plans to speed up the clearing of these bombs, such as bringing in more EOD troops or mine-clearing vehicles like the Breacher? 

 

                GEN. CARTER:  I think that in terms of the threat for improvised explosive devices, what's been interesting in Marja has been that they expected us to enter Marja using the two key access routes.  So therefore there's been almost a sort of Cold War-style mine -- barrier mine field laid in the southwest -- sorry, southeastern corner, up in the northwest, and also on the eastern side.  And what was used there to breach this was some of the (inaudible) explosive-device breaching systems, which proved to be extremely successful and opened up routes for the ground line of communication to come in and link up with the aviation insertion most successfully. 

 

                The problem inside Marja has been a range of nuisance IEDs which have been planted on key road junctions and in some of the key buildings.  We have adequate engineering and adequate dogs to clear that, given the pace of the overall operation.  We have stuff in reserve that we can use if necessary, but that is not the long pole in the tent in terms of the clearance operation; I think it's that combined with what the insurgents are up to which requires this to be done very meticulously, conscious of where the civilian population is in all of this.  Over. 

 

                Q     General, Yochi Dreazen from The Wall Street Journal.  Do you know what percentage of the fighters who were in Marja before this operation started date back to fight?  And for the percentage that left, did they melt away and lay down their weapons, or have they moved somewhere else to try to set up new bases of operation? 

 

                GEN. CARTER:  I think that, during the shaping phase of this operation, there was a good deal of movement in terms of potential fighters and insurgents.  I think you wouldn't expect me to go into the details of how many of those were apprehended or detained at this particular stage, but suffice it to say that we think that the shaping operation that ran for some eight weeks leading up to this operation was very effective in terms of getting after some of the leadership, and also some of those who might otherwise have fought. 

 

                In terms of whether or not people have melted away, of course, what we're really trying to do here -- which is classic COIN, if you like -- is to persuade people that they're better off with their government than they are with the forces of the insurgents.  And therefore, if people are prepared to melt away and realize that actually they're better off with the government, and in a sense the government has won the argument, then that's something that we're entirely happy with.  We don't necessarily want to count the number that do that; we just want to see that the end effect is a stable effect with people oriented in the right direction. 

 

                So again, we've not been counting.  We've not been doing the math in terms of what insurgents have been up to.  What we're looking to see, is the extent to which the problem stabilizes itself and the population looks positive in terms of what its government is going to deliver?  Over. 

 

                Q     Sir, it's Gordon Lubold from the Christian Science Monitor. I'm trying to understand a little better the connection between the arrest of Mullah Baradar in Pakistan with potentially the tactical operations you're seeing in RC South, and particularly in -- during these operations.  Do you sense any change in the enemy's tactics, or are they directionless, somehow, more so than they even were?  Can you tell or assess that at all? 

 

                GEN. CARTER:  No, I think the linkage between Baradar and the level at which we're operating at is some distance.  And I think that if you wanted to get a sense of the arresting of Baradar's effect on the overall campaign, that's a question you'd probably have to address to General McChrystal's level rather than mine.  

 

                But in terms of what we're doing to the insurgent in the south, I think that what Op Moshtarak shows you is, this is the first opportunity that General McChrystal has really had, using the new resources that have been made available to him, to be able to begin to create a sense of momentum in the south, which of course, as you know, is where the insurgent -- where the insurgency has been at its greatest during the course of the last two or three years. 

 

                And what you'll see, I think, as a result of Moshtarak, is a sense of momentum that will sweep eastwards towards Kandahar during the course of the next six months.  And my sense is that the insurgent at the level that we're operating at realizes that, and increasingly what we're likely to see, I sense, are much more asymmetric tactics. And I think many of you will remember that as we started to turn the tide in Iraq, it was the suicide bomber who became even more prevalent, and indeed the other asymmetric tactics associated with that were also apparent.  And we already begin to see, I think, a certain amount of that happening in the south. 

 

                And my sense is that building on Moshtarak, building on the additional resources that are flowing in as we speak, you will see the insurgent pushed eastwards in a way that will roll him out during the course of the next 12 months or so.  

 

                MODERATOR:  Bryan. 

 

                Q     Sir, Bryan Bender with the Boston Globe.  To try and follow up on that, obviously your focus -- a lot of your focus now is this operation, but can you give us a broader assessment of your headquarters and the larger region of the south?  What does the enemy look like?  What does the population look like in terms of their view of the government?  Kind of give us a sense of what your challenge is going forward in the next six months to stabilize not just this region but what you just said has been one of the most unstable. 

 

                GEN. CARTER:  Yes.  I mean, I think one of the things -- the key things that changed with General McChrystal's population-centric approach is that a mission statement that was very much focused on defeating an insurgency switched firmly to protecting a population. 

 

                Now in the south, that means that given even the additional resources we've got, that we have to be very focused on where the population is living. 

 

                Central Helmand is therefore important to us because, taking Lashkar Gah as the center, from Lashkar Gah north by about 50 kilometers, and from Lashkar Gah south down to Garmsir, another distance of about a hundred kilometers, within that part of the Helmand Valley around 750,000 people live.  

 

                Equally, over in Kandahar, in the urban area lives around 500,000 people, and around it, in its rural environs, all of which are very closely irrigated and therefore significantly populated, another 500,000 people live. 

 

                So taking the overall population in the south -- there's around 3 million -- you can see if you focused your attention in population- centric terms on those two population areas, you're picking up around two-thirds of the population. 

 

                So from my perspective as an RC South commander, my principal effort goes towards central Helmand and to the population living in and around Kandahar and the urban area. 

 

                I'm also very conscious of freedom of movement between those two population centers, because if you can get Afghans to be able to move freely on those roads, you'll begin to get the economy to move and governance to be delivered more broadly across the region. 

 

                Now as the population sees it at the moment, it does not feel able to move freely on those roads, and indeed it is regularly fleeced at illegal checkpoints if it tries to move goods and services that it has grown in these agricultural areas, as it were, to market or indeed further afield.  And what we have to do is to improve that paradigm and to make that population feel protected.   

 

                The challenge, though, is that we need adequate ANSF to be able to do that.  And the big difficulty for us at the moment is that we need more policemen to do this, and we're therefore working extremely hard to build on the police force, in conjunction with the army, to give ourself [sic] that partnership to be able genuinely to pop -- to protect that population. 

 

                Now central Helmand will have the momentum generated that I've just described.  It is Kandahar that is the next challenge for us, because whilst Kandahar doesn't look like Ramadi or Fallujah, there are issues there which need to be solved, particularly in terms of governance and in terms of the political equilibrium that exists there.  And what we've got to do is to make people feel secure, and we've got to make them feel that they are inside the tent in terms of prosperity and all that comes with that. 

 

 

                That gives you, I hope, a sort of general overview of how we see it.  And the next big effort that my headquarters will be doing, in conjunction with the U.S. civilian platform that supports and is integrated with it, will be to turn its attention to how Kandahar can be resolved during the course of the next three to six months.   

 

                Over.   

 

                Q     (Off mike.)  CNN.   

 

                General, can you tell us the extent to which the Taliban has shadow governance, in the area, and in what ways it's active and to what extent it's been disabled by ISAF?   

 

                GEN. CARTER:  Yes.   

 

                I think before I answer the question directly, one of corollaries of a population-centric counterinsurgency strategy is, you have to have a more sophisticated understanding of your enemy than perhaps we've had in the past.   

 

                And I think when we talk about the Taliban, we have to be careful to realize that probably only 10 percent maybe of the people that we are regularly up against are motivated by jihad or genuine political insurgent requirements.   

 

                Probably 80 to 90 percent of the people that we're up against are motivated by different reasons, whether it be power or money or simply a tribal dispute or whatever else it might be.  And it's really important to understand those motivations.   

 

                Turning though specifically to the Taliban, the answer is that they have shadow governance in every district in the south of -- in RC South's area.  And we broadly speaking can identify who they are.   

 

                Now, the extent to which that shadow governance is successful is patchy to say the least.  And the fact of the matter is that in the 10 or 12 districts that really matter, to us in the south; I think we can be confident that we are in support of the Afghan government, winning the argument about delivering better governance than that which the Taliban are delivering.   

 

                That's not to say that we have prevented the population from being intimidated on all of those areas.  But it is the case that we're setting up the government's stall, in a way that is now much fairer and much more likely to win that argument than was perhaps the case several months ago.  The trick though is to make sure that the governance that's delivered, in those districts, is genuinely representative of what the population wants.   

 

                And one of the key measures of success that we should look for, during the course of the next nine months or so, is that in our key districts, each of the community councils or shuras that provide the reference group, through which the district governor delivers governance, are genuinely representative of the population.   

 

                And interestingly in those districts where we don't have 100 percent stability at the moment, it's invariably because those shuras or community councils are not fully representative of all the villages and the population in those districts.   

 

                And in essence, what has to happen here is a political strategy that makes those committees representative and pulls all of the villages into the tent.  And by doing that and linking it to decent- quality security, you'll end up with stability and prosperity.  And that will turn the Afghan shadow -- sorry, the Taliban shadow governance into the dark corner where it deserves to be.   

 

                Over.   

 

                Q     Real quickly you said something interesting there about, make sure the governance is what people want.  Do you mean by that just being representative?  Or do you mean something about the kind of services it delivers?  And could you be a little bit more specific, in terms of what that -- what that's going to look like?   

 

                GEN. CARTER:  First and foremost what Afghans want is security because at the moment, that is something that has been lacking for 30 years or so.   

 

                They want the confidence to be able to send their children to school.  They want the confidence to be able to go shopping.  They want the confidence simply to be able to move their sick relative to a hospital, or whatever else it might be.   

 

                So security is fundamental to this.  But that apart, I don't sense in the rural communities, in which we're predominantly operating, that they are particularly ambitious.   

 

                They would like to see education.  They want to see their children being educated in a way that they probably have not been educated themselves?  They want to see basic health care.  They'd like to see female doctors working.  They would like to see genuine agriculture.  And they'd like to see an economy that gives them job prospects.   

 

                It's those basic-level services that they are most looking for. And it's those basic-level services that the U.S. civilian platform that partners me, on the ground here in RC South, is seeking to deliver through Afghan capacity as I speak.   

 

                Now, it can be challenging to achieve that, not least because trying to get Afghan capacity from Kabul down onto the ground here in support of the district governors that I referred to in our 10 or 12 key districts is challenging.  But nonetheless, we feel that there are some good Afghans stepping up to the plate in Kabul -- Director Popal, whom I referred to earlier, is a good example of this -- who will begin to deliver the sorts of people that we need to have on the ground to represent those sort of four or five key areas in each of the district governance areas that are able to deliver what Afghans require on the ground. 

 

                So we're not talking a lot here.  We're talking about basic stuff, basic human needs.  And that will satisfy the majority of Afghans living in the rural areas. 

 

                In cities, it's more challenging.  And that's where electricity is important to us, and that's why we're looking very hard at how we can deliver a serious power solution to Kandahar city during the course of the next 18 months to two years, because that will play to productive capacity, and it's productive capacity ultimately that will satisfy those who are looking for work in the urban areas.  And Kandahar city is fundamentally an urban area.  It's a large city. Over. 

 

                Q     General -- 

 

                MODERATOR:  Go ahead.  We'll try -- (off mike) -- and then close it out. 

 

                STAFF:  Okay. 

 

                Q     General, this is Craig Whitlock with The Washington Post. Could you please assess the military significance of regaining control of Marja and Nad e-Ali with the symbolic importance of Operation Moshtarak in terms of demonstrating to the rest of the region and Afghanistan as a whole that General McChrystal and ISAF knew COIN strategy can be successful? 

 

                GEN. CARTER:  Yes.  I think I said two or three questions ago that what Op Moshtarak does is, it's the first, I think, obvious example of how General McChrystal is going to use the resources that have been made available to him by President Obama before Christmas. And I think that it will generate a sense of momentum that will not only roll up the Helmand valley but will, as I said earlier, roll eastwards into Kandahar.   

 

                And when you then apply force package two to this, which are the forces that will start to roll in from March onwards, and you link them up with the additional Afghan security forces that are becoming available every week as I speak, then you begin to see how General McChrystal's strategy will begin to provide that essential protection to the population and deny the insurgent the access he's looking for in relation to the population.  So I think that's what it really means in terms of General McChrystal's strategy. 

 

                Now, what does it mean in terms of the military success?  I think the key point I'd make to you is not what it means from our perspective as a coalition.  It's what it means from the perspective of the Afghan security forces.  And the fact that six Afghan National Army kandaks, or battalions, have been employed on this operation, the fact that they've been commanded and controlled in partnership with ourselves, at brigade level, with two Afghan brigade commanders being involved in the decision-making process and delivering that capacity on the ground, the fact that they've had to provide their own logistics support, albeit it's not precisely what you or I might want in terms of logistics support, but nonetheless has been capable of sustaining them on the hoof, literally speaking, has been impressive. 

 

                And the fact, at the level above that, that I was able to deploy my forward headquarters with the 205th ANA Corps in partnership with the police into a coordination center in Lashkar Gah and run operations jointly with those Afghans -- again, not a thing of huge beauty; we're talking about first-generation solutions here.  But nonetheless, they were in the decision-making process.  They were involved in the briefing process.  They understood what was going on and were involved in it.  That, to my mind, is the real military success here.   

 

                Because what we're working towards is moving the supporting/supported relationship as effectively as we can towards the Afghans' doing this.  And there is no greater compliment to me than when I see my Afghan corps commander addressing an Afghan press conference using the words that I briefed him on about two or three weeks ago in a way that -- far more eloquently than I would put them. That is really reassuring and satisfying to me, because you begin to see them being more assertive and them being on the front foot in terms of taking it forward. 

 

                So to my mind, it's that aspect of it which has been the real military success, from what I've seen during the course of the last week or so. 

 

                Over. 

 

                MODERATOR:  General, we'll make this the last one.  And it goes to Elisabeth. 

 

                Q     Elisabeth Bumiller from The New York Times.  I just had a couple -- a question about just local politics.  "Moshtarak" is a Dari word, correct?  And this is a Pashtun area.  Has that created any problems?  Number one.   

 

                And number two, one of the governors from Germany has been living in Germany for 15 years or so.  And also -- so is there any sense of the local people that they are being -- that some form of a foreign force is being imposed upon them?  I imagine a lot of the Afghan forces are from the north.  Or am I incorrect in that? 

 

                GEN. CARTER:  Okay.  First of all, the word "moshtarak" means "together" both in Pashtun and Dari, and, funny old thing, in Arabic as well.  So to my mind it was not a bad word to use.  And indeed what we always do, going back to my point about integrating our decision- making process with the Afghans, is to ask them what they'd like to call the operation.  And we asked both Pashtuns and Dari-speaking Afghans as to what they'd like to call it.  So I was pretty comfortable with that. 

 

                Now, I think your third question -- no, I think, sorry, I've lost your question altogether now.  The second question was about whether or not they felt that foreigners were coming in on this one, I think was what you said.   

 

                My sense is that that's not the case at all.  The Afghan National Army, who are at the forefront of this operation, are the most respected -- or is the most respected institution that the Afghans have at the moment.  And what the Afghans are looking for is they're looking for people to look after them in a fair and protective fashion, not to fleece them at every corner, which, of course, is so often what they have experienced during the course of the last eight years or so.   

 

                What they're looking for are people who will genuinely look after them.  And that's why the ANA is respected, and that's why they wanted the ANA to come in and do what the ANA is now doing on their behalf. 

 

                It's also the case that the Afghan gendarmerie are a respected institution, regardless of the fact that they might be recruited from all over Afghanistan.  And therefore, their arrival in Marja yesterday was greeted with some enthusiasm by the population that was on the ground, and I watched this happening. 

 

                So I think in terms of the foreign aspect of it, it wasn't something that I've noticed as being too much of a challenge. 

 

                And, I'm sorry, I've forgotten what your second question was. 

 

                MODERATOR:  I think you got in your answer all three of those, General. 

 

                Q     (Off mike) -- the same thing you've said already. 

 

                MODERATOR:  Okay.  We will bring this to a close then, General. We want to be respectful of your time, and you've been very generous with your time. 

 

                And before I do that, though, I just want to throw it back to you in case you have any final comments that you'd like to make before we close it up. 

 

                GEN. CARTER:  No.  Thank you very much for your questions.  The answer is that it's good to talk to you all and I hope you now feel better informed. 

 

                Over. 

 

                MODERATOR:  Well, thank you very much.  And we hope to do this again with you sometime soon.

 

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