COL. DAVID LAPAN (deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations): Good morning to those here at the Pentagon, and good evening in Afghanistan. I'd like to welcome back to the Pentagon briefing room British Army Major General Nick Carter, commander of Regional Command South. General Carter assumed his duties in November of last year. Over the summer we made two attempts to have him join us in this format, but those briefings were canceled due to technical problems. So we're happy to see him today loud and clear and live. We think those problems are resolved.
So the general joins us today from his headquarters at Kandahar airfield to provide an update on current operations in Regional Command South. The general will make some opening remarks, and then he will take your questions.
And with that, sir, I'll turn it over to you.
GEN. CARTER: Thank you very much. And good morning to all of you sitting in the Pentagon. I'm coming to the end of a one-year tour which finishes on the 2nd of November, i.e., next week, when I hand over to Major General James Terry, who commands the 10th Mountain Division, and who's sitting with me as we go through the left- seat/right-seat business.
You'll recall that when I took over RC South we were also responsible at that stage for the provinces of Nimroz and Helmand. And of course we were responsible for Operation Moshtarak, which was launched into the districts of Nad e-Ali and Marja in February of this year.
Now, on the 15th of June we handed Nimroz and Helmand over to the newly formed RC Southwest, thus losing around 25,000 U.S. Marines and British troops, so that we could focus our efforts on the provinces of Uruzgan, Daikundi, and Zabul, but predominantly Kandahar.
And it's about Kandahar that I shall really address most of my remarks over the next 10 minutes to quarter-of-an-hour.
I think most people would judge that Kandahar is probably the key tactical battle -- if I can use the term "battle" slightly guardedly -- of the campaign this year. It's an extremely complicated problem, which we'll go into in a bit more detail in a moment. And we've approached the problem, because of its complexity, in three phases.
Operations started in April of this year, and in conjunction, we've been focusing our attention on Wesh-Chaman, the border-crossing point with Pakistan down at Spin Boldak. And I hope that you have a graphic with you which will show you where that is. And in parallel, we've also been focusing on a nightly basis in trying to remove mid- and low-level Taliban leaders from the battlefield. So a combination of all of this is coming together now with the third phase, which is predominantly focused on the districts of Zari and Panjwayi, to the west of Kandahar City.
Now, I know that there's been a bit of a perception of delay about all of this with you chaps in the media. And I suspect that's probably because after the almost iconic operation of Marja and Nad Ali, which involved 60 to 70 helicopters and a number of waves onto a number of landing sites, you were rather hoping that a similar thing would happen in Kandahar. Well, of course, it's a different problem set. And for that reason, we've approached it in a much more deliberate way, focusing on all lines of operation: governance, development and, of course, security.
I think the other thing about Kandahar, given its complexity, is the principle we've applied to it: It's been very much about underpromising, in the hope, in due course, that we might be able to demonstrate some overachievement.
Now, in terms of the deliberate operation, phase one was very much focused on Kandahar City -- a city of around 800,000 people, occupying a site of about 10 square kilometers. It is, as you know, an iconic place. It's one of those things that's really important in terms of Pashtun culture. And it sits on the confluence of a big river and two important routes: the silk route that runs up through Pakistan, Quetta to Kandahar itself, and, of course, the east/west- running laterals that link Lashkar Gah and Herat to the west and Kabul up to the northeast. And for that reason, it's a very important economic hub.
It's also very important in terms of the fruit-growing business around southeastern Afghanistan. And it is fruit that is really the main economic provider for much of the population. And, of course, that's much determined by the fact that the River Arghandab, which runs from the northeast to the southwest above Kandahar City, provides the irrigation and the ability for the population to grow significant quantities of fruit.
In terms of the problems in the city, I've always characterized these as being much more like maybe Moscow in the 1990s. It's very much about mafia or mob rule. It's about protection rackets. And it's about a lack of organization, a lack of order, a lack of registration processes that we would understand coming from our societies. For example, there's been no process of registration for vehicles, for weapons, for private security companies, for madrases, for seminaries, boardinghouses, hotels, all sorts of things that we would take for granted.
It's also the case that the Afghan uniformed police -- around 1,500 of them probably work in the city -- have traditionally not been partnered by ISAF forces, and have often been loyal, I would say, to a number of individuals rather than to the institution as a whole. And what has been required, really, is to try to bring some organization and order to the city, because, of course, the type of city that I've described makes it a very good environment for an insurgency to flourish.
The quantity of people and the nature of the population, there having been a significant rural-to-urban migration during the last 10 years of the insurgency, means that you've got the sort of oxygen in which an insurgency can flourish.
Now, this sort of environment doesn't require a sort of traditional military clearing option in the definition of the terms. It requires something that is about organization, order, and about improving governance and about bringing development to get the population on side. And that's where we've worked extremely hard, first of all to build the security of the structure, through which five companies of U.S. MPs are now working in partnership with Afghan uniformed policemen, but also to try and develop the capacity of governance at the municipal level and also at the provincial governance level.
This is still very much a work in progress, but we now have a number of U.S. civilians deployed in the 10 municipal districts of the city. And over the next few months, they will work closely with the municipal governance structures in order to try and develop them and bring them on.
What we've also done in parallel is we've built, around the outside of the city, a filter, if you like, a security ring of a number of police stations and checkpoints on some of the key egress and ingress routes to the city, which are designed not only as patrol bases from which the population in the rural areas can be dominated and protected, but also to provide the first filter as the insurgent seeks to flow in and out of the city.
This has been a significant engineering project. We've probably built over the last four months some 42 small bases, and probably around 34 of these little checkpoints. It's involved the making of around 8,000 of those significant concrete T-walls which were such a feature of Baghdad life, you'll recall.
But in Kandahar that's really challenging, because you don't have the basic infrastructure and the contractors available to do this, and all of these businesses have had to have been created from first principles. So if you travel around Kandahar City now, you'll see lots of little Afghan locations where T-walls are being made on an industrial scale wherever aggregate water can be found. It's involved, believe it or not, the cracking of around half a million cubic meters of gravel and the distribution of this -- a significant engineering project by anybody's imagination.
Now the second phase of the operation has been focused on the district of Arghandab, to the northwest of the city, an area that has been a real home of the insurgency since the death of the iconic figure Mullah Naqib at the end of 2007.
And this is still a work in progress as well. It's been very much a jungle fight, because Arghandab is predominantly a fruit- growing area, with a lot of orchards, pomegranate orchards, and thick canopy, which makes it into extremely difficult terrain for soldiers to operate in.
We've done this, though, in conjunction with Afghans, and there are more Afghan security forces deployed in Arghandab now -- with ANCOP, Afghan National Army -- that's the Afghan National Civil Order Police -- Afghan National Army and Afghan Uniformed Police -- than there are ISAF soldiers.
But in parallel with all of this uplift in resources, we're now bringing some significant security to Arghandab.
Of course what's also interesting about the problem in these rural districts is, it's very important to try and get the right district leadership in Afghan terms, and we now have a much better understanding of the sorts of people who ought to be district governors and district chiefs of police. And as you get these two key posts working in parallel with each other, what you can begin to do, as you improve the security situation, is to begin to get the elders to return to their villages, because of course where the Taliban has been so clever over the last four or five years is to intimidate the elders away from their villages, thus exposing the population to their Taliban intimidation.
Now, if you can do that and you can then persuade these elders to begin to work in support of the district governor through a process of inclusive and representative community councils or shuras, you begin to provide the sort of stability that is necessary for an enduring solution. And that is where we are in Arghandab at the moment, is trying to construct that inclusive set of structures through persuading these elders to return, that will provide us with genuine stability.
Now, come mid-September, we turned our attention to the districts of Zari and Panjwayi, to the west of the city. And military clear operations are still ongoing in those two districts. And I sense that we'll still be clearing for another couple of weeks before we begin the process of transitioning from clearing to holding.
What has been encouraging about these operations, though, is the extent to which they have been led by Afghans and the extent to which we have had a predominance of Afghan National Army soldiers taking part in these operations. And every day you see their effectiveness improving.
Now, pulling all of that together in terms of how we see the overall picture in Kandahar now, there have been some encouraging signs. I hasten to add, though, as I come to the end of my year here, that there's always a risk of the cycle of what I call "military optimism." And there's always a danger when you come to the end that you sound rather optimistic.
Well, I'm not going to sound optimistic, but I'm going to sound realistic. I'm also going to tell you one or two encouraging things. I would tell you that you, in Afghanistan, have to be very careful about not measuring progress until you match it to the appropriate season and the appropriate time of year. And I sense it won't be until June next year that we'll be sure that the advances we've made during the course of the last few months are genuinely success.
Now, the sort of encouraging signs you see are, first of all, better freedom of movement. Freedom of movement is one of the key challenges in these sorts of rurally contested insurgencies, because of course what the Taliban seeks to do is to hold the population down and prevent them from connecting to their government, from going to the district centers or to schools or to health facilities, such as they are, or for that matter, getting their goods to market. And one of the things that we judge success by is the extent to which Afghans are able to move freely on their highways and on the roads within their districts.
And last week, what was most encouraging, on Highway 1 to the west of the city, was that the provisional -- provincial governor was able to travel in an ordinary SUV from his office in the center of the city some 40 miles to the west along Highway 1, to the village of Hazi Madad in the district of Zari. This is a journey which you just could never have thought of doing in anything other than an armored MRAP three or four weeks ago; and even then, there was every chance that you would be blown up by an IED in the process. But the operations have been sufficiently successful for there to have not have been a kinetic act on that highway for the last four weeks, which is something that one simply would never have believed during the course of about three or four years. So that's very positive.
What's also positive is you begin to see the population returning to the villages adjacent to Highway 1, including the elders. And of course, as that happens, you get the stability that I described earlier when I set out what Arghandab might look like in due course.
The other thing that's encouraging is to see the population coming forward and showing us where caches of weapons and explosives have been hidden, but also telling us where the IEDs are. And in Zari, the find-to-strike ratio of IEDs -- in other words, those that we find or defuse to those that hit our vehicles or our people -- is running at about 40-to-3 at the moment; which is an extraordinary statistic, and one we haven't seen for many, many months.
And the same applies in the city, where 80 percent of the IEDs are now being either handed into the ANP -- the Afghan National Police -- or found by them.
And of course, that puts the insurgency under a great deal of pressure. And what we find increasingly is that the resources available to them are becoming squeezed. And you see the price, for example, of ammonium nitrate, the key ingredient in homemade explosive, going up by a factor of tenfold. And of course, if you apply that to a very poor poppy harvest, it's going to be challenging for the insurgency to resource and fund what it needs to be able to continue to make our life difficult.
These are encouraging signs. They are by no means huge measurements of success, but you can see the general direction of travel.
Anecdotally, the first Eid at the end of Ramadan in the city was more exuberant than Eids for the last five to seven years, which is positive. And indeed, the Iftar parties that took place during Ramadan were later in terms of how long they ran on than Iftar parties in a similar time frame. Now, that's important, of course, because it means that people are more confident about being out after dark, a sure judge that freedom of movement is improving.
Now, there's a long way to go because the real challenge that we have is with Afghan human capacity, and what's needed are Afghans to step up to the plate to be the leaders at district level and in other positions in the police force and of course also in the army. And developing those leadership qualities and capabilities is the key to pushing this thing forward and getting the Afghans to take responsibility for the decision-making needed to underpin what we're doing here.
But there are some encouraging signs. And the partners that I work with on a daily basis -- the chief of police and the corps commander and the border policemen -- are competent professionals who understand the challenges of their institutions and are working very positive to bring them on and to develop them.
And what is also encouraging is for the first time we're beginning to see southern Pashtun recruits coming forward to the Afghan National Army and we're seeing the Afghan uniformed police training courses filled up to the hundred-percent capacity, which is also encouraging, because the key challenge is to grow that Afghan capacity so that we can begin to turn our attention to other requirements and allow those Afghan security forces to step up to the plate and own the problem.
I hope that gives you a sort of sense of context at the moment: some encouraging signs, definitely momentum, a sense that probably the initiative is now with us and not, as it was a year ago, with the insurgency; but a cautionary tale that you just need to look forward to June next year, I sense, to be sure whether or not these positive trends are definitely banked and are being successful.
That's probably enough for me by way of context, and I'll be very happy to take your questions for half an hour or so.
COL. LAPAN: Thank you, General. And let's start with Anne.
Q General, this is Anne Flaherty with Associated Press. In Marja earlier this year, we saw a very successful military-imposed clearing of the area, but then it was followed by painfully slow efforts to build a local government.
My question -- I understand Kandahar is very different, but if you could compare the effort that's ongoing there, that you said is a work in progress to build the local government, how that might compare to Marja; and if it is going smoother -- based on press reports, it seems to be -- why would that be? What is the difference between the two?
GEN. CARTER: Yes. I think that there are a number of differences between Marja and what we've been doing in Kandahar.
I mean, I suspect in terms of the nature of the insurgency, Zari is probably -- Zari and Panjwayi are probably the closest comparisons to Marja because of their rural nature, the sort of quantity of population and the extent to which the insurgency had freedom of action in those areas.
Now, when you're dealing with a place like Marja, or for that matter, Zari or Panjwayi, which have been under the arm of the insurgency for several years, you're dealing, of course, with a population that has been significantly oppressed. They've probably been confined to their compounds. They have no idea who their neighbors are. They have absolutely no confidence that a government is ever going to look after them because no government has ever provided them with any services or security before.
All of that has been provided for them by the malevolent, nihilist regime that is the insurgency, and of course, that means that you have to start from the beginning in terms of building up the trust that's necessary to get people to want to support their security forces and fundamentally to believe that their security forces are going to stay there and protect them.
That's why these things take a long time, and I can remember on- the-record observations that we made on the 13th of February and then about 100 days later about progress in Marja. And at this level, we were exercising caution about how long it would take. And we made comparisons with Nadi Ali, which of course used to be the district that sat over Marja, which was also a work in progress and which now is in a much better place, but four months ago was an equally challenging as Marja was -- because it takes time for people to be persuaded.
Now, I think, in Kandahar, the city, of course, is a very different set of circumstances, and Arghandab is different. And that's why I think it is reasonable to talk about governance perhaps stepping up to the plate at a reasonable pace, but none of this is reversible and so much of it depends upon the talent and quality of the leadership in Afghan terms at the district level.
And if you don't have the right leaders there, then you could very quickly slip back into a set of circumstances where people don't trust each other, the shura breaks up and the insurgency can feed back in, intimidate elders away and begin to take charge of the population.
So what you have to do is to really, really work on making those district governors effective with district chiefs of police working in support of them, and then building these inclusive structures. And if you do that, you can make it happen, and that's where we're really focusing our attention at the moment. And we're learning every day, and of course, as you learn, so you improve.
Q Can I just clarify something, General? So it's not a difference in strategy between Marja and Kandahar, that Kandahar seems to be working better? You're saying that it's actually -- the attitudes of the locals, it's different? You're not having to start from ground zero the way that you did with Marja? Is that -- am I reading that correct?
GEN. CARTER: I think in Kandahar City and Arghandab, that's fair. It's too early to say in Zari and Panjwayi yet. I mean, I think that the population has been as oppressed as the population of Marja and I think time will -- it will take time to be sure of what the real direction of travel is there, which is why I talk about June next year being important.
So I wouldn't make comparisons yet with Marja because I think it's too early to say. Over.
COL. LAPAN: Courtney.
Q Hi, General, this is Courtney Kube from NBC News.
Can I ask you to expand on a couple of things that you said, the first being this notion that it will take until June of next year to see success. Why June? I mean, is that nothing more than season- driven and the weather changes or what? And then also, when you mention that some resources are becoming squeezed going into Kandahar City, especially ammonium nitrate, is that because of check points outside -- at the belts around Kandahar City, or why is that?
GEN. CARTER: Yeah. The reason June is important is that, actually, the campaign here is very seasonal and very cyclical. Now, there are reasons why that is in the south, which are different to the east. We don't have high mountains like the east which get covered in snow and therefore become difficult to get back and forth through. What makes a difference down here is the harvest seasons, and what happens in April and May is the poppy is harvested and then immediately after that you have the wheat harvest. Now, that takes many of the young men to do, and therefore, you find that they are fixed by simple economics in terms of harvesting poppy and then wheat.
What then happens from sort of June onwards is that the canopy begins to come on the trees. The vegetation grows up and you get a lot of really quite complex terrain and cover, which gives insurgents the confidence to operate against their security forces in a way that they don't have that confidence in the months of December, January and March when the vegetation dies off and it becomes very easy to see people moving.
So, I mean, some people would stylize this as the fighting season, I think that's a bit simplistic. It's simply a question of having available cover to have the freedom of movement that they need.
Now, the point about squeezing is important because, in simple terms, anywhere -- Afghanistan is basically or our part of Afghanistan is basically a desert. Where it has water, it becomes green and you can grow things and people live there.
So where you have greenery and where people live, in principle, that provides cover for insurgents, either because they can live with the population or they can live in the green areas.
Now, what has happened around Kandahar over the course of the last six months is that slowly but surely, ourselves and our Afghan partners have taken back all of the green areas and are effectively asserting government authority over those green areas. Now, that means that the opportunity for the insurgency to have freedom of movement has been significantly reduced; that's why I described it as being squeezed. The other reason why it's been squeezed is that a better presence at the border crossing point in Weesh-Chaman and some technology down there and the deployment of a battlefield surveillance brigade means that it's much harder for the insurgency to move its resources -- IED materials and the like -- up from Pakistan and through the border control points, up Highway 4 to Kandahar City and of course, open up the lines of communication.
And a combination of that and getting after their caches and resources in and around the city means that their resource base is also being squeezed. And of course, the process of removing mid and low-level leaders off the battlefield on a regular basis also means that it's being squeezed and it makes it harder for them to coordinate activity and operations, and it means also that their whole area is being squeezed.
So that's what I mean by the term "squeezing."
Q Jim Michaels at USA Today. General, are you seeing any signs that mid or low-level Taliban are willing to reintegrate into -- back into their villages or cities?
GEN. CARTER: Well, of course, whenever one uses the term "Taliban," I think one has to be very careful of what one means by it. I think up until 18 months ago, we always used to think of the Taliban as Taliban with a capital T. Of course, you have to differentiate between those who fight for the Taliban and those who fight with the Taliban.
And the corollary of a population-centric counterinsurgency strategy is having a sophisticated understanding of your opponent and his motivations. And that means that there are some people who are probably motivated by simple economic needs, by the fact that they're perhaps being intimidated by Taliban with a capital T; others who are motivated perhaps by criminal agendas, by corruption; others who have perhaps simply involved in a tribal dispute.
Now, often people who are motivated in these ways are, inverted commas, "reintegrated" back into society simply by our practicing good counterinsurgency. And I suspect that a lot of the people in Arghandab or in Zari and Panjwayi who might wish to raise arms against the forces of the government will simply put their weapon under their bed, pick up a shovel and become a farmer again if they believe that's in their interests and they believe they can support their family like that. Now, whether that is reintegration in the true definition of the term or whether that is just simply the political factor in all of this, I don't know. But I think that there are a lot of people who are doing this who are not necessarily coming in under a large banner marked "reintegration."
The second point I'd make is that the process of reintegration is really only getting under way now because it was only recently, you'll recall, that President Karzai announced the membership and the chairmanship of the high peace council. And many of the provincial governors who we work with on a daily basis down here have waited until the standing up of the high peace council before they set and train their own reintegration policies and processes at the provincial level. And for example, Governor Wisa, who is my partner in Kandahar City, is on Monday hosting a conference at which Rabbani will come down from Kabul, who's the chair of the high peace council, accompanied by some of his colleagues on the council, and also by Minister Stanikzai, who is the Afghan government leader on all of this.
A number of provincial governors will be pulled in from around the region and they will discuss issues pertinent to reintegration, and of course, that will act, I think, as the foundation and in a sense the trigger for a lot of activity to happen down here.
I also think that you have to put the insurgency under a degree of pressure for a while before you're likely to see people come forward. And again, that's why I think that this winter's important, because I think if we continue to squeeze and maintain the pressure that we've maintained over the last few months, then I suspect there's every chance that reintegration will actually be given some meaning. And I would be optimistic that that will happen.
Q Hi, General, it's Megan McCloskey with Stars and Stripes. You said that now you guys have a good idea of what is needed for district leadership.
Can you describe the trial and error that occurred over the last year to get to that point?
GEN. CARTER: Yes, again, if you're happy, I'll take Arghandab as an example and I'm afraid I'll bore you to death with some Alakozai tribal dynamics for a moment.
When Mullah Naqib died at the back end of 2007, his son, the younger Karimullah Naqib was appointed by President Karzai as the tribal leader in his stead. Now, he was only 25 at the time and he lacked probably the strength and leadership qualities needed to pull the tribe together under his leadership. The effect of that was that the tribe broken into various different factions, and of course, that factionalism meant that the political stability in Arghandab was disrupted, which meant that Arghandab became very vulnerable to Taliban intimidation and insertion.
So what was really needed was to try and make sure that the Alakozai tribal dynamic could be binded together in a way that was more proactive and positive. And the provincial governor identified this, and he's worked hard to bring in a district governor who is from one part of the Alakozai tribe, a man called Shah Mohammed, who's well-connected, and has a brother called Atta Mohammed, who is the leader of the Jihadi Shura in Kandahar City.
They then worked out that if the chief of police could come from another part of the Alakozai tribe and a man called Niaz Mohammed, who's recently been appointed to be the chief of police, whose brother Khan Mohammed is a very senior Alakozai figure. They then worked out that if Karimullah's position in all of this could be satisfied as well, that in essence you would begin to bring together the various different elements of the Alakozai tribe in a more united way.
But, importantly, it's also about outreaching to the other minority tribes in Arghandab. And that's why Shah Mohammed's an important individual, because he is genuinely a conflict resolver. And he's reached out to the Ghilzai tribe, who are very prevalent on the west bank, and to the Tarakai and to the other minority tribes. And what he's seeking to do is to ensure that all tribal constituencies are therefore represented in the district shura, but also to make sure that a number of the village elders -- who I talked about earlier -- are encouraged to return to the valley to many of these villages which has been vacated over the last six to eight months so that you can begin to develop the sort of structure which will provide that stability that I described.
Now, I think our understanding of those sorts of dynamics develops every day. And I think that you probably have to spend at least two years studying this campaign and a year living it on a daily basis to be able to understand the sorts of things I've described.
And many of my key information requirements -- and indeed, those that my successor will inherit -- are entirely to do with getting the right district leadership in place in the city, and in the key districts that matter to us. And we work very closely with our Afghan partners to help them identify people who are appropriate, both in terms of capability, but importantly also in terms of their political persuasion to make sure that we're building something that is genuinely inclusive, because of course the crux to all of this is to try and reach out to the population, and make it feel connected to its government at district level.
What you then have to do, as well, I think, is to make sure that you buttress this district leadership from nefarious elements that might wish to interfere from levels above. And if you can get all of those conditions in the right place, then you can genuinely, I think, get the population in a better place than they are at the -- than they have been in the past.
Q Can I follow up on that please?
COL. LAPAN: Sure.
Q Thank you.
This is Nancy Youssef from McClatchy Newspapers. You talked a lot about the right leadership. But I think a lot of people are asking -- Hamid Karzai's been in power for nearly a decade, and his government's riddled with corruption problems and incompetence problems. In Marja, there hasn't been a real successful effort in terms of getting successful, competent governance.
You -- the description you just gave of Arghandab focuses a lot on inclusiveness. But I think my colleague's question was really referring to how -- what have you learned from those past campaigns to make sure that there's a competent and corrupt-free government going forward in Kandahar once these clearing and holding operations are done.
GEN. CARTER: And of course you only expect me to comment on the areas in RC South. I wouldn't want to comment on what happens at the national level or in Kabul.
I think that, on the subject of corruption, this is one of those things that you have to keep chipping away at. And I think you have to understand that the degrees of corruption, of course, relative to what you might expect in some societies in Central Asia. Now, we're very clear that the huge injection of cash and resources that we the international community have brought to Kandahar and the surrounding provinces has had a huge bearing on the economic dynamics, but also on the sort of way people regard the distribution and use of wealth.
And we've learned a lot, I think, this year about trying to distribute wealth more evenly, because the massive contracts that we have in terms of the service sector -- whether it's aggregates, the security infrastructure and all of that -- probably add up in the case of -- just the base I'm sitting in at the moment is around a billion dollars a year going out into the local economy, because what we want to try and do is to make sure that a lot of that money goes to people who haven't got money or the opportunity to make it. And therefore, our whole contract process now is designed to try and distribute wealth more evenly rather than inject it into a couple of rich and powerful families.
And, indeed, my successor will shortly sign a declaration of intent with the provincial governor of Kandahar to say that we wish to contract in a way that is much more inclusive and more positive to the local economy than perhaps we've done in the past. So I think we've learned a lot about that.
I think the other thing that we've learned a lot about is the relationship of the private security companies to all of this. And of course as you improve the capability and capacity of the Afghan security forces, and as you provide a better quality of security -- as I described earlier, on the highways like Highway 1 and Highway 4 -- so the requirement for private security companies on these roads goes away.
And of course that plays usually to the whole issue of crime and corruption, because many of the private security companies are probably only that far away from being militias and therefore working in support of nefarious agendas. And if you can remove that out of the equation, that will help as well.
But I think what's also important is that we are working hard to identify good, bona fide partners in governance terms who we can become confident are working in support of that population. And of course the longer you spend here, the better you get at understanding who good partners are. And General Fazli, who is my regional chief of police partner, is an extremely impressive and honest individual who understands many of these problems, and wants to work with us to help solve them and get the right leadership in place below him.
And of course he believes in decentralization of responsibility, the appointment of people at his level, rather than a centralized level up in Kabul. And of course, if you are prepared and able to decentralize in that way, and appoint people on the basis of their capability rather than on the amount of money they pay you for the appointment, then over time you'll begin to get people to believe that opportunity is genuinely out there. And I think that as we identify partners, like General Fazli, as I described, so we'll be able to change those dynamics over time. Over.
COL. LAPAN: How many follow-ons are we going to have? Go ahead.
Q A quick follow-on, General. Thank you. Raghubir Goyal from India Globe and Asia Today. What Nancy’s saying, what I'm asking is, how do you see the overall security in the area, especially as far as -- because many Afghans have feared that what is their future when 2011 comes when things will change as far as U.S. presence is concerned.
And another question is that when President Obama visits India next week, this issue will be discussed as far as how to protect the foreigners working on infrastructure, especially people from India, as far as infrastructure is concerned.
GEN. CARTER: I'm sorry. I couldn't hear your question. Could you perhaps go up to the lectern and ask it from there? It must be the pitch of your voice or whatever, but I'm afraid I didn't get a word of that. Over.
COL. LAPAN: General, I'll try to do it here from the lectern. The first part of the question had to do with the overall security situation and the people's level of comfort.
And the second question was the --
Q President Obama’s visit next year -- infrastructure and security for the people from India working.
COL. LAPAN: Okay. And the second one, upcoming President Obama visit to India, where they'll be discussions about the security of Indian workers who might be working inside of Afghanistan.
GEN. CARTER: Yes, I mean, starting with the first question -- I mean, these are always very difficult to measure. And that's why I gave you a sense of some of the metrics that we measure in population-centric COIN terms. So either the level of exuberance during the first Eid at the end of Ramadan is an example of that, and how freely people move.
I mean, anecdotally, the man who comes and cuts my hair on a fortnightly basis is a barber who lives in District 6 on the southwestern side of the city, which is traditionally one of the more dangerous districts. And I -- first question I always ask him during my haircut is how are the Afghan National Police treating him this week. And each week, he tells me they're treating him better.
Now, that's anecdotal, but it's those sorts of things that give you a sense of whether this thing's moving in the right direction or not.
And it's a question of whether the Afghan security forces are stepping up to the place and taking more responsibility for the task. And that of course is something that we see more of. And it's a question of freedom of movement.
It's also a question of things like the basic economics, you know. And the fact that the first 10 tons of pomegranates were exported out of Kandahar Airfield on the civil economy last week is a very positive factor, because of course that means that there is something for the pomegranate growers in Arghandab to look forward to during the course of the next year or two.
Very difficult to measure. But when you assemble some of those sorts of facts and figures, and you pull together some of these anecdotes, and you get a sense of the general feeling and atmosphere of the population, so I think you can be sure that things are better than they were.
Now, there's a lot of distance to go, and it is still possible for the insurgency to intimidate and to assassinate a number of the key leaders, and also to mount the odd spectacular from time to time. But I suspect if you wandered around the streets of Kandahar now -- and I know journalists who've done that -- they'll tell you that the man in the street is in a better place than he was three or four months ago.
Now, on the subject of Indian workers, I'm afraid I'm not much of an expert on that, and I certainly can't comment on what President Obama might or might not do in India in due course. But what I would say is that Indian investment here is very important. And of course they've spent a great deal of money on the road that connects Zaranj, the border-crossing point on the Nimroz border with Iran, and Delaram, which is a key highway confluence on Highway 9 and Highway 1. And it's those sorts of investments projects which are going to be very positive for the future of southern Afghanistan.
And certainly when I met the Indian ambassador down here about six weeks ago, I was very encouraged with what he was saying by way of potential investment in southern Afghanistan. And that's good to hear. And I think if he's talking about that, then his sense must be that the security situation is perhaps better than it was a few months ago. Over.
COL. LAPAN: Okay. Time for one more.
Chris, you still have one?
Q Yeah, it's sort of a follow-up. General, Chris Lawrence from CNN. I'm just wondering when you talked about finding good partners politically for local government, between the troops' natural rotation schedule -- in which they're constantly spending time there and then being replaced by other units -- and President Obama's announcement to start withdrawing some troops next summer, how hard does that make it to find good political partners there?
GEN. CARTER: I mean, I of course set my horizon a very limited distance out as a regional commander or divisional commander. And I see progress being made every month to six weeks in terms of our understanding of who our partners need to be.
And, indeed, the adjustments in terms of the personalities made by the governor with our support in Arghandab all fell into place over a period of about three or four weeks. And, indeed, I haven't bored you with it, but there are other districts where similar things are now happening.
So I think that, you know, these things can move quite quickly. But of course, as I said earlier, they're always reversible if one of these people were to fall off their perch. So I don't think you can put time on it. There's a lot of luck involved in it. But I do think it's a bit like a snowball. It will gather pace, because as you get better security, inevitably more people want to come and work down here.
And what I do sense is that more people are now asking to come and work for the mayor and the governor and the city. And indeed, the governor told me only the other day that a number of applicants had come forward for jobs that had been advertised for many, many months. And all of a sudden, they came forward because people were hearing good things about Kandahar.
The fact that Rabbani and Stanikzai want to hold their reintegration shura on Monday in Kandahar is indicative of the way people feel about Kandahar at the moment. Now I think like the snowball gathering pace, you can see that, you know, feeding more progress and more progress. And so I keep saying, see what it looks like in June next year. But we have an opportunity during the course of this winter to build on all of this. And I think that that's encouraging. Over.
COL. LAPAN: Well, General, we've reached the end of our allotted time. So I will send it back to you for any closing remarks you'd like to make.
GEN. CARTER: No, thank you very much for your questions and the opportunity to talk to you. I'm expecting to be in Washington for a week on the 29th of November. And it will be good to get over there, and thank everybody for the support that they've given to us in RC South during the last year or so.
It has been a great privilege for me as a British officer to have commanded so many American Marines and troops this last year. And I'm very grateful to the support that I've had from so many Americans during the last year. And it's a great pleasure for me to hand over to James Terry, who I know is much looking forward to this mission. And I'm sure he's much looking forward to the opportunity to address you in due course.
I have told him, though, that the way out of this at one minute until seven when you're sitting in this table is to have a rocket attack. And we do have a few rocket attacks from time to time in Kandahar. And he knows about the card he can always play when one of you asks too difficult a question.
So best wishes to you all. And maybe we'll bump into some of you in the last week of November. Good night.
COL. LAPAN: Thank you for all the time you've made available for us here at the Pentagon. Thanks.
Q Thank you.