COL. DAVID LAPAN (deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations): Good morning to those here in the Pentagon briefing room, and good evening in Afghanistan. I'd like to welcome to the Pentagon briefing room Major General John Campbell, commanding general for Regional Command East. General Campbell assumed his duties in Afghanistan in June of this year. He previously spoke with us in this format in July, and he joins us today from his headquarters at Bagram Airfield.
General Campbell is joined today by French Army Brigadier General Pierre Chavancy, the commander of Task Force Lafayette and the 3rd French mechanized infantry brigade, which is headquarters for French forces in RC East. Both will make some opening remarks, and then they will take your questions.
And with that, gentlemen, I'll turn it over to you.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Well, thanks, David. And appreciate everybody taking time here to be with us this evening here. And good morning for everybody back there. And I'm honored to have Pierre here with me as part of Task Force Lafayette. And great serving alongside of him.
Since I last talked to you in the July time frame, we've added our fourth brigade, the “Currahee” brigade, as part of the Force Package Three. We've done some great things here for the last several months. We've gone through the elections; we've thwarted several attacks on Salerno, on Chapman, that you read about. We've had many incidents on the border that we can talk about.
But today what I'd really like to focus on is one of our coalition partners, and that's Pierre and Task Force Lafayette. He's getting ready to RIP [Relief in Place] out here in about a month. We've had the great honor of serving with him for the last four months. He was part of our mission-rehearsal exercise at Fort Campbell back in January and February time frame. And it's been our absolute honor to have him serving as one of our brigades here in Regional Command East. So without further ado, I'd like to pass it over to Pierre.
GEN. CHAVANCY: Thank you very much, sir. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am Brigadier General Pierre Chavancy, commanding French Task Force Lafayette. And I'm, of course, very proud to be in front of you today. And please forgive me if my words sound too much French and if I shall ask you to repeat your questions.
Before this, I would like first in five minutes to develop some topics. But the main fact is that we feel very comfortable within RC East and fully placed under Major General Campbell's tremendous leadership and entirely nested within the 101st Screaming Eagles. So what you will hear from me is probably very similar to what you could have heard from a genuine U.S. brigade commander.
In support of my Afghan army and police partners and alongside to my senior civilian representative, I also conduct unified actions in Kapisa province and in Sarobi district, which is part of Kabul province. As you know, it is the only district of that province that was not transferred two-and-a-half years ago when the French transferred Kabul security to full Afghan authority. At that time, it was not ready.
Brigade Lafayette is fully nested within the 101st, and not only since our landing in Afghanistan, because, as a matter of fact, General Campbell allowed us to participate in the mission-rehearsal exercise of his division in January 2010 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. And apart -- the very good soldier time we shared there, considering that every Frenchman knows what is due to the 101st, we took part in the building up of the common plan of the division. And as a consequence of that, we could plan very early our operation within this framework and in total accordance with both General Campbell's guidances and that of my national masters. They are totally similar.
We are a French brigade, of course, composed of 2,500 French and civilian soldiers, but also of more than 100 U.S. personnel, essentially part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team of Kapisa. We are one team, and definitely share the spirit of our common mission in Afghanistan. We are a no-caveat brigade, totally comfortable with the tactical directives. And we also are fully aware that this is the year and we shall make it happen.
You probably know what unified and population-centric action means. In Kapisa and Sarobi, the population is mainly composed of peasants born in the mountains, proud and courageous, obstinate and suspicious.
Since centuries, their major concern is land property. They work hard on small pieces of land. The average family is composed of 5.5 boys. Only one will inherit the land. What will the other do? That is the main bearing aspect of the competition NSF and us have with the insurgents.
Local people are not confident at first sight, so I need to engage my soldiers among them, by foot, day and night, and for a long time. Of course, we have sometimes to fight against the insurgents that are in losing control of this population. As a result of that, since the beginning of the French commitment in Afghanistan, we have lost 49 soldiers.
We definitely need to help these people, not only to allow them to live in peace, but also to allow them to get benefit from their hard work by providing support in agriculture and education matters. Moreover, through the Afghan authorities, we need to help them to understand that they have no future with the insurgents, and to better connect them to their government.
It is a difficult job, but it works. That is the situation in Kapisa and Sarobi.
Governance in Kapisa province remains weak, and two districts among the seven are still unsecured. But we face tremendous improvement of Afghan National Army as far as quantity and quality are concerned. This army is becoming more and more national, and not only composed of former Northern Alliance Tajik mujahedeen.
In Kapisa, Afghan policemen conduct now 50 percent of their mission in full autonomy.
In development matters, in Kapisa we completed 200 projects for 200 villages, impacted 200,000 people; that is to say, more than three-fourths of the entire population. We provided 7,000 jobs. The vast majority are still now nonpermanent, of course, but the trend is good.
As a result, the population is more and more confident with its army, its police, and more and more fed up by the misconduct of the insurgents and especially the foreigners. This is the most important good news. According to me, the insurgents have already lost the battle of conviction, and the foreign fighters are now obliged to try to terrorize the local population. But as I told you, these peasants are courageous, and they more and more directly oppose the Talibans. The number of armed groups which are interested by our reintegration and reconciliation programs is tremendously increasing.
To conclude here -- because I know that French people are Latin, talkative people, and I don't want to bother you too much -- I conclude by saying that I'll be glad to answer whatever question you may have. Air Assault!
GEN. CAMPBELL: Air Assault, Pierre. All right. Well, great remarks. And once again, we'll take any of the questions. And I'd ask you if you can direct some for Kapisa or for Sarobi or direct it up here, we'll be glad to take anything you ask here.
COL. LAPAN: David.
Q Hi, General. It's David Cloud with the L.A. Times.
I wanted to ask you about the operation -- the ANA unilateral operation by the 201st Corps in August -- that consumed a lot of your time, I believe, in August, gathering up the missing Afghan soldiers. I think it involved the French forces as well. So this is a question for both of you.
Could you kind of lay out for me your -- the lessons you took away from that incident, the -- what perhaps the ANA did wrong there and what you're trying to get them to do better in the future?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Yeah, absolutely. Coming in a little bit broken, but I think the question revolved around the 201st Corps about a month and a half ago where about 23 of the ANA soldiers went missing after an operation.
They went in initially without any coalition support, and then we spent about the next 25 days, both the French task force, Lafayette, Bastogne, the brigade, our first brigade from the 101st working to get these soldiers back.
Many, many lessons learned there. Pierre led a brigade-level air assault with both French and U.S. soldiers together to go into very, very harsh terrain. I think some of the key things that we learned and that we've passed-on in work with our Afghan counterparts -- and they learned as well -- and I will tell you once they found out that and realized that the soldiers were gone missing -- and it was during Ramazan, which was a time that many of them would have been back with their families -- they stayed out in the field for about 25 days, every single night doing air assaults or going to different pieces of terrain, following every intel lead that we had to find their brother soldiers out there.
And in the end it worked out very well. We found all 23 Afghan National Army soldiers and one AUP, one police.
The governor of Laghman, Governor Azizi, he helped us quite a bit, working with the elders and talking to the elders. But they learned about coordination; they learned about air assaults, and when you do them, when you don't do them, what happens if bad weather comes in. They talked about different terrain and when to go in, when not to go in. They talked about fire support and how the -- having the ability to have that reach back for fire support.
We have been working with this unit since we've been here; had some very good planning going on. But in the end, based on some intel that they had, they decided to go very quick and, again, went out without coalition forces.
And I can go in a little bit more detail, but I'd like to pass it over to Pierre, and he can talk about the French contribution and how Task Force Lafayette was involved, as well as the area in both Kapisa and Laghman, right on the provincial border. We had intel on both sides, so we had to -- we had to use both brigades.
So, Pierre, if you want to talk about that.
GEN. CHAVANCY: Thank you, sir. If I may add, that during this operation we conducted a rather heavy air assault in the Uzbin Valley, with more than 1,000 soldiers: one-third U.S. Iron Grey from Bastogne, and one third of ANA, and one-third of French soldiers.
Let's say that I was very impressed, first of all, by the willingness of the 101st to recover the soldiers. And second, I was also impressed by the willingness and the skills of our ANA partners that were on the ground -- well, let's say, normal army -- and also the command of kandak, that did a great job in cordoning and searching, helping us to disrupt the enemy as a network. And this valley was at that time a nasty place and that has been, let's say, heavily hammered. Since that time, we are rather confident that the insurgent network in that place will not recover soon.
GEN. CAMPBELL: We really try to instill in our Afghan counterparts the -- you know, the warrior ethos, to never leave a fallen comrade.
What really ended up helping us is the pressure that we applied and the containment that the brigade, both Lafayette and Bastogne, applied in the area very, very quickly, and then stayed on it every single day, and then taken every intel lead that we had and followed that up.
But I was very impressed, once again, with Task Force Lafayette once again leading both U.S. and French soldiers in a brigade-level air assault in a very, very harsh terrain in the Uzbin Valley.
COL. LAPAN: Lalit?
Q Yeah, this is Lalit Jha from Pahjwok Afghan News. Two questions. Can you give us a sense of the progress being made by ANA? And do you think it will be strong enough to take care of the security by the next July deadline?
And secondly, the Afghan government has started peace talks with the Taliban. What impact that's going to have on your current fight that you're having with the Talibans in your region?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay, you came in very distorted. I could not understand your question, sir.
COL. LAPAN: General -- excuse me -- I'll try it from here. The first part of the question had to do with the state of the ANA in your area, their progress, and whether you think they will make sufficient progress by July of next year to start transition.
And then the second question was, the Afghan government is pursuing the peace jirga, and whether those efforts are having any effect down at your level.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay. I got it.
For the ANA -- and once again, we work both with the ANA -- the Afghan National Army; the AUP -- the Afghan Uniformed Police, which also includes the ABP, or the Afghan Border Police. The ANA, for the most part, we've been working with and we've been mentored up with them for years and years, and they're much farther along than the police.
What General Rodriguez, the IJC commander, has tasked us to do over the next year is to really sustain what we have with the army but to move on and bring up the capacity of the police.
So we have very -- we have several different incentives that we're working and programs that we're working. In fact, today I briefed Minister Mohammadi, the MOI, on our way forward for both the AUP and the border police. We'll continue to partner up with them; just like we've done combined action 24/7 living with our ANA partners, we're doing that with the police now. We're starting in the district centers and working our way up.
The 4th Brigade came in with what we call SFA, Security Force Assistance. They brought in additional senior-level leadership: colonels, lieutenant colonels, majors, senior noncommissioned officers. We've taken those and put those into adviser teams, and we've assigned those to the provincial police. So we're working both at the provincial, the district, and then with the ABP and AUP commanders.
So I think the police over the next year, you'll see a significant increase in their capacity.
We've worked with the MOI to uptick them on their equipment, on their manning, what they call "tashkeel." We're providing up-armor Humvees to help with their mobility. We're looking at the weapons that they have and whether or not they should have heavy weapons. We're looking at the manning at the different district centers, and based on the threat, should that manning be raised.
So I think in the next year, the police will really raise up in their ability to protect the population.
On the ANA, I would tell you that many cases they're very, very good, and in some areas they need some help. But where they're working with our coalition forces 24/7, they're doing very, very well. There are many of the ANA units that can do operations independently from the coalition forces.
Now, we talked about the one earlier with the 201st Corps. That was a very large, complicated operation at nighttime: three different areas, both driving in and then also with an air assault. And they had bad weather, some other factors coming in there. But I would tell you that many of the army units can conduct independent operations in some areas, and that's based again on the threat and it's really based on the leadership.
You know, if they have leadership both at the police and the army level, they're much, much better. So we're really continuing to work very hard at how we grow that leadership, both for the army and the police.
So I think by next July, there will be areas and districts that we potentially can turn over to full Afghan control. And it'll be a process. We'll start full combined action and, as they get better and better and better, then we'll go more into a support role. And I see that with some of the units going on right now.
The areas that they'll continue to need our help -- just like the lessons we learned in Iraq -- will be in the medevac capability, will be in the aviation capability, will be in the logistics area, and will also be with aviation and joint fires. Those are the areas that the coalition forces bring to the Afghan -- both the police and the soldiers, the army, that I think they're going to need continued help in.
But I'll pass it to Pierre, here.
GEN. CHAVANCY: Just to give you an example, in Kapisa, I partnered with the 3rd ANA Brigade of the 201st Corps. And the interesting thing is that they are more and more taking the lead. And they plan and conduct, of course, now with our -- until now, with our support. But they are more and more taking the lead. And this is an increasing, very good trend. They are getting more and more autonomous.
And as far as AUP -- that is, policemen -- is concerned, the interesting thing is that these policemen are more and more connected with the population. And for the population of Kapisa -- again, mountainous people, or people living in the mountains. The government -- they see the government when they see the police, and that is good for better connecting the local people and their government.
GEN. CAMPBELL: And David, I don't think we answered the second question there, and I forgot the second question.
COL. LAPAN: It had to do with the peace council in Kabul and whether any effects are being felt down at your level.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Yeah, absolutely. Well, there's a couple different programs, I think, that'll come out of the peace council and what they're working toward. One is really ALP, or Afghan local police, and then the other one really is reintegration and how that's going to work. Both of those are going to be Afghan-led programs. They have the lead on both. We are in the support mode.
First, on Afghan local police, or here known as ALP, really our special-ops folks that are working each of the different RCs are partnered with different communities -- (audio break) -- and conditions that are prerequisites that are set to enable the ALP to really establish in each of the districts. We've got three of them set at RC East now. They've begun here in the last two weeks.
Our elements are working with these different villages that the people have stood up and said, we want to take care of our own village, we want to denounce the Taliban and al-Qaeda, we want to -- we want to say that we're with the government of Afghanistan. They vet people, and they have men of the village that are vetted through the elders that say they will protect the population of that village, sort of a community-type defense, a little bit different from the Sons of Iraq that we use in Iraq, but sort of the same type of seeds. And we're starting that up in -- but it's really Afghan-led. We're going to support that. And once again, we have three sites in RC East.
The reintegration, I think, throughout RC East, we're getting bites now where governors and district police are getting people that are coming in that want to reintegrate. And what we've done is we want to make sure we don't miss some of those opportunities as people want to come in and do that.
Now, the peace jirga that you talked about today that was really formed here in the last day or two, it's really too early to tell what's going to come out of that. But I would say from reintegration and from ALP, both of those could be great game-changers, I think, for all of Afghanistan.
We want to make sure that we stay in line with our Afghan counterparts on that, that we're ready to take advantage of those opportunities that show up, both for ALP and reintegration, and don't lose those opportunities, because both of those can be game changers.
I don't know if you want to --
GEN. CHAVANCY: If I may, I have a very good example for that. A few weeks ago in one of the valleys of Kapisa named Afghania, more than one area of local natives or local people coming from three different villages had just raised up, and they throw out the Talibans out of their valley. This is the good example of the widening gap between the foreign fighters that are not concerned by anything else and terrorism and the local population.
And this local population is now understanding that -- where the truth is. And the interesting thing is that the various programs that we have at our disposal to make it happen -- that works. And really, when this population raise up and throw the Talibans out of the population, they were just asking, can we have ALP there. And they know what happens. These program -- these programs are really concrete things that make it happen.
GEN. CAMPBELL: I think we're going to take the lessons learned from Iraq. We'll continue to learn on those that we had from the Sons of Iraq. Once again, two different programs, but there are lessons learned that we can take from there, apply to Afghanistan, working through the government of Afghanistan, because this will be Afghan-led. We're really tying it in through the governors, through the subgovernors. They will work underneath the district police chief and then for the provincial police chief in the areas that we have ALP set up.
So it's just getting started. And once again, I think it's really going to take off here. And we have to make sure we stay out in front of it and don't lose any opportunities.
Q Thank you.
Q It's Mike Evans from the London Times, General. I fully appreciate that there's an investigation going on into the rescue attempt of Linda Norgrove, but this did happen in your region.
I wonder whether you are able to give us any idea of the circumstances that led specifically to the decision to go in on a Friday night rather than wait any longer.
GEN. CAMPBELL: I understand. And first off, our condolences out to the family of Linda Norgrove and the people of the U.K. here. And I would tell you that it was a joint effort with both the coalition soldiers, coalition forces, U.K. and we had many of the folks here working with us in my joint operations center here, because it was in RC East.
As you know, General Petraeus has ordered an investigation into all the procedures that happened on that Friday night, and so I really can't go into great detail on that, because it's still under investigation. What I -- what I would tell you, though, is throughout the week that we worked in that operation, there was a great support from all people, both from Afghan forces, both from the U.K. forces and from the other coalition forces. And you could just see that every single day everybody was determined to do the best they could, everything that they could to try to get Linda back free.
Unfortunately, it did not turn out that way. And again, it's under investigation. I can't go into those details at this point in time. But we're very proud that we had that joint relationship. And again, our condolences go to the family and to the people of Great Britain here.
COL. LAPAN: Here.
Q A question for both of you, starting with the French general. Have you, since the anti-burqa law went into effect in France, have you had any negative impact in your dealings there with Afghan civilians? And for General Campbell, yesterday a federal judge here in the United States ordered a worldwide stop to enforcement of "don't ask, don't tell." Have you received any orders, letters, anything from your superiors about how you're to respond to that judge's orders? Or is it too early for that to have gotten down to your level?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay, did you understand the question, anti-burqa law in France?
GEN. CHAVANCY: As you know, I am -- I am a brigade commander. I am committed in a very difficult operation, and I will not comment about the political matters. You know, my -- I am a very busy man now, focusing on my job. And I'm sorry, but I will not comment this.
GEN. CAMPBELL: On the -- on the "don't ask, don't tell" piece, as you know, that's law right now, and our soldiers carry out the law of "don't ask, don't tell."
This has been going on for years and years. Over the last year or so, it's been raised up again. Many questions have been asked for our soldiers. And we listen to what our soldiers tell us.
I will tell you, over here, our soldiers, probably none of them even know that a judge said something about that today, because they're engaged in the fight and they're engaged with working with the people every single day. They're not worried about the politics of what's going on back in the United States. They're not worried about the politics of "don't ask, don't tell."
What I will tell you our soldiers will do, though: They follow the law. They treat people with dignity and respect. And if that law is changed, then they will abide by the law. So I really don't see an impact on our soldiers here today. I don't see an impact by what the judge said. And again, our soldiers out in these COPs and FOBs are out in remote areas, probably have no clue of that statement out there.
But the Army is going on a very methodical plan right now. They've gone out with surveys. They've talked to soldiers and find out how soldiers -- how this will impact if the law is changed. The Army -- both the chief of staff of the Army and the chairman, the secretary of Defense have gone out and talked about this in the past quite a bit. And I think what we need to do is allow the time for this process to go forward.
And if the law is changed, once again, I will tell you, our soldiers abide by the law and they'd follow that to the tee. I just don't think that it'll be a big impact on our soldiers, especially over here. They're consumed with every day taking care of each other, taking care of their battle buddies, taking care and protecting the Afghan people, and that's probably the farthest thing away from their mind right now.
COL. LAPAN: Courtney.
Q Hi, General Campbell. This is Courtney Kube from NBC News. You've spoken a lot about the -- oh -- General, did I just step on you?
GEN. CHAVANCY: Yeah, just to add -- (chuckles) -- yeah, sorry -- just to add a few words. As you know, French forces are rather used to being committed in Muslim countries, and in whatever countries we are committed, we totally respect the culture of the people. So we have no problem to be there and respecting the cultures. But I'm not here to discuss national political matters.
Q Thank you. This is Courtney Kube from NBC News. General Campbell, you've spoken a lot about the Afghan security forces and how you're working with them, partnering with them, but the one thing we haven't really gotten today is an overall sense of the security situation in RC East right now. Can you kind of just walk us through that? What's your major threat? What are the areas in your AOR that are sort of the biggest threat and problem right now? You know, if you can just sort of give us an overall sense of your battle update somewhat for RC East.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay. Thanks, Courtney. Good to hear from you again.
Yeah, as you know, RC East has 14 different provinces. It has 160 districts. It surrounds the capital. It has now 45 key terrain districts out of the 89 or 90 that are in all of Afghanistan, so about 50 percent of them.
We've got the largest amount of maneuver brigades, seven, that we've ever had here in Afghanistan in RC East because of Force Package Three and the 30,000 additional troops that have been put here.
I do believe we do have the right strategy. We have the right forces now, I believe the most we're ever going to have here in RC East. And we have the right leadership. So we have an opportunity now to truly make a difference in RC East.
I will tell you I think there was a lot of talk prior to coming in that the insurgency had the edge, the uptick of attacks; they had some momentum.
I will tell you, my feeling right now, after about 120 days on the ground, is that we have stopped that momentum and we've turned the tide a little bit. And this is fighting through a very, very tough summer. As you know, June and July had the highest number of causalities for coalition soldiers ever in Afghanistan. August, that went down. I think in September, that went down as well.
August was the first month in that sort of fighting season that the number of IEDs for RC East went down, and I think that's because our soldiers got out. They went into areas they hadn't been to before, and they really interacted both with the Afghan security forces and with the people. And the density of soldiers that we have now is the most that we've ever had.
So I think we've really stopped the momentum of the insurgency, and it's turning the tide now. We hear from people on the ground, insurgency and the people that we have detained, that they're not able to get to the IED-making materials that they had, that their morale is down.
Every time they've tried a spectacular attack, we've crushed them. You know, a month-and-a-half ago or so, at Salerno and Chapman, probably 60 different fighters came in, to include some foreign fighters, attacked Salerno and Chapman. We killed 31. We found 13 suicide vests on them; we found one VBIED along with our Afghan partners. They attacked FOB Fenty up in Jalalabad: the same thing, two VBIEDs going at the gate, attacked it from three different locations. We crushed that attack. They attacked Bagram back in May: the same thing. They had the opportunity to disrupt the Kabul conference in July time frame. I mean, for months and months, everybody knew that was going to happen. They had 80-plus different countries in here; it was a perfect opportunity to have a spectacular attack. Nothing happened.
The elections on September 18th: The largest number of SIGACTs, or significant activities, we had in RC East; but 90 percent of those were ineffective, and they did not disrupt the elections in a way that they thought they were going to do that.
In fact, in one case, in one district, they had a little kalat or a wall around the polling center. People were lined up there. An insurgent got close enough somehow to throw a grenade over the top of the wall, injured some folks. And you would think that those people would run away; they came back to that same polling center and they wanted to vote.
Steve Townsend, the DCGO, was visiting a polling center, ran into a gentleman who had walked four hours to vote. He could have walked 20 minutes. He thought there were some Taliban. He went around a mountain and showed up at a polling site 10 minutes before it closed. And when Steve asked him, you know, why did you do that? He said, It is my right to vote for a new Afghanistan, for the future of Afghanistan. It is my duty.
So just those kind of anecdotal things. I would tell you that I think we've curbed or we've really stopped the momentum of the insurgency and are really going to work hard on it now and to make sure that we keep that down. And so over the winter months, when normally you see a -- sort of a downslope on the number of incidents, we're going to continue to stay out there, continue to fight this to make sure that they can't bring that back up next springtime.
Some of the areas in RC East I would tell you are very, very kinetic. If you go up into Kunar, up into the Pech River Valley, they're fighting every single day up there. And then you go into other areas and you've got governance and developing going on. I think the two areas right now that I would tell you that we continue to work very hard is the Kunar valley and the Pech River Valley: very, very kinetic to this day.
And then in Khost and Paktika, where you have the Haqqani network that comes over across the border from Pakistan because they have sanctuary in Pakistan, they come across, and we continue to fight there. We've killed hundreds and hundreds of Haqqani network soldiers. But, you know, we can't kill our way out of this thing. We got to continue to work the governance and the development. But I really do think that we've stopped the momentum that the insurgency may have had, and we're turning it the other way. And I see that to continue.
And I'll let Pierre add to that.
GEN. CHAVANCY: Yeah, to -- just to give you another example, in Kapisa and Sarobi, the insurgents during the elections promised hell to the population, but 96 percent of the polling center were open.
And the participation was tremendously improved compared to that of the prior -- previous elections.
So, you know, the Talibans are now -- foreign fighters are now more and more rejected by the population, and even by the former local Talibans.
And again, we conduct many heavy operations and we have significant results on the insurgents without casualties on our side. And more than that, more important than that, again, the population, the local population is more and more convinced that they have no future with the Talibans and with the insurgents.
And -- and as I previously said, that we face more and more example of people that knock at the door at the government. They say, “Okay, I want now to reintegrate; I am fed up with all this.” And this is really a good trend.
COL. LAPAN: Okay, let's -- well, we have time for a few more, but let's keep them short, if you would, so we can get everybody. Raghubir, back to Rachel, over to Nance and then to Kevin.
Q Thank you, General. This is Raghubir Goyal, India Globe and Asia Today. My question, if I can follow previous questions: One, a deal with Mullah Omar, you think do Afghans see a light at the end of the tunnel?
And second, how can you tell who are the good Talibans and bad Talibans, like you said crossing from Pakistan into Afghanistan? What message do you have for the people of Afghanistan for their future?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay. I'm not sure I got the full gist of your question.
I think you said, "How do you tell the good Taliban from the bad Taliban?" and then, "What do you tell the Afghan people about your future?"
Is that what your question was?
COL. LAPAN: Yes.
Q Just the second part, yes, sir.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay.
Once again, you know, the people -- this is a very complex environment here in Afghanistan: many, many tribes, many different -- every single district, as I talked about, is different from another one. Many people are isolated in mountainous regions, have never seen coalition forces, have never seen people from their government with them. And so you have to treat every single area a little bit differently, and you have to understand the culture. You have to understand the second- and third-order effects of what you do in one district, how it impacts somebody else.
Good and bad Taliban. I would tell you, you know, working reintegration -- and that's really, once again, it’s an Afghan-led program. And you've seen that, I think, in the news lately where the president has gone out and reached out to the Taliban to try to get them to reintegrate.
And the people that come back in, the low-level folks that for whatever reason they were fighting against the government or fighting against the people of Afghanistan -- maybe because they were forced to do that from bad Taliban -- they want to reach out to them and bring them back over.
There's no way that you can kill all the insurgents. And they don't want to do that. They want to bring the people back in. They want them to come back home. They want them to understand that they're welcome.
And all they have to do really is put down their arms against the government, treat people with dignity and respect, follow the rules that govern Afghanistan. They have a constitution here now in Afghanistan. They've got to pledge their allegiance to Afghanistan and not go about doing indiscriminate killing.
I mean, that's all the Taliban offer – indiscriminate killing. That's what they're about.
So a bad Taliban is somebody that does indiscriminate killing. A good Taliban is one that has put his arms down and come back and said, hey, I want to follow the constitution of Afghanistan. I want to live in peace. I'm tired of 30 years of fighting. I want my family to be able to go to school.
You know, in 2001 a million people were going to school, or maybe a little bit less. Zero women. Today, there's 7 million kids going to school. Probably 25 to 30 percent of them are females. And there's many more cases like that.
If you're a bad Taliban, you're against that. If you're a good Taliban, you're for that.
And I'm not sure if that really answers your question, but I'll let Pierre see if he can add to that.
GEN. CHAVANCY: Well, sir, you said it. I think that we have not -- we do not have to answer that question, but the Afghans have to answer that question. I don't know what is a good or a bad Taliban, and I have no answer about this. But the answer has to be an Afghan answer.
GEN. CAMPBELL: That's a great answer.
Q Hi, Generals. Rachel Martin with NPR.
You mentioned the safe havens in Pakistan. Can you talk a little bit about border security? Have you seen any evidence that you've been able to abate the flow of insurgents across the border?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Yeah, the -- well, you know, it's just like any other border in the world. There's not a fence up between Afghanistan and Pakistan. If somebody wants to go across, they'll come back and forth.
There are key areas or routes that people historically have come back and forth across. We do have two very big borders -- border gates, where commerce flows through, Torkham being the number one, in RC East. We're really putting a lot of energy into improving Torkham gate, not only from a security standpoint but also from a -- a commerce and a customs piece, to help the Afghan government realize the revenue that can come in through that gate.
I think the key for the border security is really communications. We have three BCCs, or border coordination centers, in RC East. And we do have the longest border in Afghanistan with Pakistan. We have one at Torkham gate, and that's been there for a while. And we have Pakistan, we have coalition forces, and we have Afghan forces sitting next to each other in a joint-operations-type center working together, communicating back and forth, looking at what's going on in Afghanistan, looking at what's going on in Pakistan.
And we have one to the north and then one to the south, one in Nawa, one in Lawara. Those were manned only by Afghan and U.S. forces up until this past week. And now the Pakistani forces have provided senior officers to sit in there with the Afghan people, Afghan soldiers, and with the U.S. soldiers. And now we have three border coordination centers. That is greatly going to improve the coordination and communication between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
I do video teleconferences with Lieutenant General Asif. He's the 11th Corps commander. We do those, and we have border flag meetings at battalion level, at brigade level with our commanders on both sides. And that's happening every single day.
Now, it's slowed down the last month or so. Part of that was because of the great flooding that they had in Pakistan. And a lot of the army was tied up off the border working on the floods. But Pakistan, over the last year and a half, has put about 150 thousand soldiers on the border. You know, a year and a half ago that was probably 25 or 30 thousand. So they've made a commitment to try to improve the security. But still, they're a sanctuary in Pakistan, and people go back and forth. And we're trying to really curb that down.
And I think the way that we've aligned our forces, not only the coalition forces but also the Afghan security forces -- they have Afghan police, Afghan border police and an Afghan army that we've put in different sets, along with our coalition forces, to try to get these historic lines where they come in. And I think as we continue to work that cooperation, that communication between Afghanistan and Pakistan, work through the BCCs, that this is only going to get better.
But again, you can't kill everybody that comes across the border. Many of the regions on the border -- people don't know where the border's at. And the tribes are -- they're intermingled there, and they go across the border. And so you have to be very careful how you work those pieces with the tribes.
But I do think that it's going to get better and better as we continue to work that communication and keep those lines of communication open.
COL. LAPAN: Nancy.
Q This is Nancy Youssef with McClatchy Newspapers. You talk a lot about the Taliban, but you haven't mentioned al-Qaeda. What kind of presence is there in RC East of al-Qaeda? And what's the current relationship, as you see it, between the Taliban and al-Qaeda?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Yeah, we do have al-Qaeda -- I mean, RC East has many, many different insurgent groups – TTIP [Tehrik Taliban-i Pakistan], HIG [Hizb-i-Islami Gulbudden], al-Qaeda, Haqqani Network, Taliban, Pakistan Taliban -- and there's even more than that. So there's many different insurgent groups in RC East.
The most -- the dangerous one for us, as we talked about before, is the Haqqani Network. They're financed better. They're grown larger in the last couple years. They've -- they're really around Khost, Paktiya and Paktika.
But we do have al-Qaeda, mostly up in the northern areas, up in Kunar, up in Nuristan, that impact us.
The difference -- you know, really al-Qaeda -- they've got a reputation. And people -- any time something happens, somebody will say, "Hey, al-Qaeda was tied in that," and that's not the case. We have very small numbers, I think, in RC East for al-Qaeda.
But al-Qaeda -- their vision for the future is more global, where the Taliban is really about Afghanistan. So I think that's the biggest difference where you look at it. Al-Qaeda's really a global network, and Taliban's really focused on Pakistan and Afghanistan, a little bit outside the region, but al-Qaeda's all over the world.
COL. LAPAN: Kevin.
Q Generals, hi. This is Kevin Baron, from Stars and Stripes.
Earlier, you mentioned governance and development happening. It was expected that as security increased, we would see more governance, more development. Can you tell us, is that the case? Are you getting enough of the -- of the civilian kind of surge elements that were expected?
And then, also, can you characterize how important is that piece going to be for troops to withdraw from your region? Is that -- is that a -- you know, one of the top, key things, or is that really secondary to things like the training of the ANA and such? Where do you categorize and where do you rank that factor as something to -- that's going to help bring troops home?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay, I'll try to answer that. And I'll let Pierre answer it from a brigade perspective, as well.
You know, the governance and development pieces are huge, you know, but you have to have security before you can work the governance and development, so they kind of go hand in hand here. RC East has about 150-plus civilians that are working in governance and development. We think that's going to go to about 200-plus here in the next couple of months.
We have civilians that have volunteered for their second, third and fourth tours here. I mean, they have the passion to do that, to help out the Afghan people. And it is absolutely critical that we continue to keep that coming, both from the State Department, from USAID, from the Ag. Department. They're working very hard. We're trying to push that down to what we call DSTs, or district support teams. Once again, we're working at the district level, and we think we can do the most good at that level.
We can't kill everybody in this insurgency. We've got to develop the security at the district-center level so that we can bring in the governance and development at that level and have that spread out, and have the people have confidence in their government. So I think the civilian piece is absolutely necessary. It's critical for the future of Afghanistan. That number for us continues to grow. I have a senior civilian, Tom Gibbons, who came on with me last time that I was here, that works that piece for me. And I think in RC East it's more mature than in other places in Afghanistan. We still have a lot of work to go there.
But every single district is a little bit different. So I think that's key.
As far as transitioning piece, you know, we're going to have areas, we think, in the future that we can transition to full GIRoA, or government of Afghanistan, control. We're going to look at that at different districts. We're going to look at that at the provincial levels. You know, Bamyan, Panjshir, Parwan, three provinces, we still have some work to do there, but right now I have very few coalition forces that are in those three provinces.
But that's still a process and that's going to take over time. So if we transition those three provinces, I would not realize a whole bunch of coalition forces, because once again, I don't have a lot up there right now. We do have PRTs, or provincial reconstruction teams, in those three provinces that are led by civilians, and so that's a great sign of the future as we continue to move that.
So, I mean, bottom line, the civilian uptick in forces -- or civilian uptick here as part of the surge is critical for the future of Afghanistan, and I look forward to continuing to work in that governance, development line.
Pierre can really talk about it at his level, I think, the brigade, where you really see a change every single day.
GEN. CHAVANCY: In Kapisa and Sarobi, we really see that change on our level.
Two points. The first is, of course, the civilian part of all what we do is a major one. And the combination of security, development and governance is the key thing to turn the orange light into the red -- the green light. And that is what (is/isn't ?) happening right now in Kapisa and especially -- and also in Sarobi, and not only in Sarobi -- I will speak about this a little bit later on, but first of all, what you have to know is that the French have built a brand new -- (in French) -- "Stabilite." That is the French version of STABOPS. And my civilian -- my senior civilian representative is -- the former French consul in Karachi -- is a very experienced man and very involved in development and governance matters, and passionate man.
And we are fully shoulder to shoulder to make things happen in Kapisa, along with the Afghan local authorities.
To give you some idea of transfer possibilities in Kapisa and Sarobi, I think that the district of Sarobi -- that is, the last district of Kabul province that have not yet been transferred to the Afghans -- will be ready to be transitioned not later than summer 2011.
And I think that the security conditions there and -- but also -- and mainly the development and governance matters in this area allows us now to think on the short-term transition.
And I think that again, things are being improved in this matter, considering the good coordination of all the assets we have to do so, in support of our Afghan partners, both military and civilian things, and then below – PRT and so on and so forth. And all this one team work together in support of the Afghans to achieve that transition.
COL. LAPAN: And we've reached the end of our allotted time. We thank you for giving your time today, and I'll send it back to both of you for any closing remarks you'd like to make.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay. Pierre, any closing remarks?
GEN. CHAVANCY: No. Again, I am fully comfortable within the RC East, and I'm proud to be -- even if I am a part-timer, I'm proud to be a Screaming Eagle right now.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Air Assault!
GEN. CHAVANCY: Air Assault!
GEN. CAMPBELL: Hey, David, for everybody back there, thanks for the opportunity to talk to all of you today, and thanks for your questions. We are honored as well to have Task Force Lafayette fighting alongside of us. It's been a great honor for us to work with Pierre.
The people of France ought to be very, very proud of Task Force Lafayette -- Pierre's leadership, his personal leadership, but all of his soldiers -- for what they have done for the Afghan people. And it's been huge. And they'll continue to make a difference, as there will be another French brigade that comes in right behind Pierre.
We also have a Polish brigade that works in RC East, and we should be very thankful that both Poland and France have stepped up to provide forces to this fight here. It's very valuable for us, and they do make a huge difference for the Afghan people.
I'd tell the people back in the United States -- thank you for your support every single day. We can never forget that there's a human factor of this. We lost another soldier here today, and we -- our thoughts and prayers go out to the families there. And, you know, every single day is a tough day when that happens, and we can never forget the sacrifice that our soldiers go through, and our families back home for their -- for their love and support. Many times their days are much, much tougher and they have harder jobs than we have.
In fact, at Fort Campbell today, there'll be another, what we call an ERC, or Eagle Remembrance Ceremony, where 16 soldiers here, they will remember. Each month, they do that once a month, where they bring back the families. And I wish I could get back there for that. And our thoughts and prayers go to those families out there.
But again, the human factor of combat, we can never forget the sacrifice. And American people can never forget, I think, what our soldiers are put through for this. But we do appreciate your support. And I would tell you that every single day progress is being made here in Afghanistan, and you ought to be very, very proud of the coalition forces. So we thank you for your questions.
COL. LAPAN: General Campbell, General Chavancy, thank you again.