DOD News Briefing with Maj. Gen. Campbell via Teleconference from Afghanistan
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 Army Major General John Campbell, the commanding general of Regional Command East. General Campbell assumed his duties in Afghanistan in June of last year. He previously spoke with us in this format in October. And he joins us again today from his headquarters at Bagram Airfield.
Next week General Campbell will transition responsibility for Regional Command East to the 1st Cavalry Division's Army Major General Daniel Allyn.
General Campbell will make some opening comments and then take your questions.
With that, sir, I will turn it over to you.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Well, thanks, Dave. I'm at a disadvantage because I can't see anybody out there, so I'm not sure who's out there. I'm sure I've talked to many of you over the course of the year or seen you around the halls of the Pentagon. So thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak to you tonight.
I think it's customary to have a written statement here at the end to kind of go over all of your accomplishments over the past year. I don't really want to do that. I do have some cards that talk about security, governance, development, information ops, but I won't go through those. I'd rather really get right away to your questions and answers.
But what I would tell you is it's been a very, very exciting year here for Regional Command East. We've been honored to serve with our Afghan partners for the past year. I do want to bring up three different points. So first is transition of authority.
As Dave talked about, next week we'll turn over to the 1st Cavalry Division, a very good friend of mine, Major General Dan Allyn. He's over here now. We're going through that transition process. Our legacy really is how well we set up the unit that comes in behind us, and that's what we're trying to do here.
Staff officers have been working together over the last year. There's been several leaders' recons here by both Dan and all of his staff personnel, his commanders. You are most vulnerable when you transition, but I believe we've really mitigated that risk because of the great cooperation we've had between both the 1st Cavalry Division and the 101st Airborne Division, just like we had with the 82nd when we transitioned with them a year ago. Again, the Army does these transitions of authority at every level. We've been doing them for many, many years, so I think we got this down pretty well. So I feel very comfortable, first off, about the transfer of authority. And I could not have picked a finer officer to come behind me than Dan Allyn.
I'd like to talk about realignment of forces. We've been doing that over the last year, getting the inputs right. There was a lot of talk early on in the February-March time frame about coming out of the Pech River Valley. What I'm here to tell you is we did not come out of the Pech River Valley. We realigned forces. I still have forces in the Pech River Valley. But over about a 10-month period, we really looked hard at what General Petraeus talks about, getting the inputs right.
And so across the battle space in Regional Command East, we've been getting the inputs right. That's moving around Afghan forces where they needed to be, where we needed them. We've added additional battalions over the course of the year. We've added additional police over the course of the year. We really do think we have a pretty good set now and that we have the right structure, the right Afghan forces, the right coalition forces, the right leadership and the right strategy. And we've seen great progress every single day; although, some days are very frustrating -- two steps forward, one step back -- it is progress. And we're very proud of our coalition partners and of the Afghan partners.
And so we have been realigning some forces over the course of the year. We have over 130-plus COPs, or combat outposts; or FOBs, forward operating bases. We have transferred some of those to the Afghans recently. We've closed some, and then we've plussed up some. And that's a continual process that every commander, as they come in, continues to do throughout his tenure here in Afghanistan. So we've continued to do that. But we feel pretty good about the set that we're going to turn over to both the 1st Cavalry Division and our Afghan partners here.
A little bit about the spring campaign season -- and we've been at it about the March time frame. Over the winter time frame, the op tempo continued to be high here in Regional Command East. We've stayed after it. The number of caches we've been able to take off the battlefield -- munitions, IEDs -- is well over double what it was the same period last year. And we really think we've changed the dynamics of the battlefield by doing that as the insurgents have tried to come back and do their own spring campaign. They announced it in late April, said on or about the first of May that they would come at us hard. We have not seen really an uptick in Regional Command East on attacks. For about the 30 days prior to 1 May, the number of insurgent-initiated attacks was between 25 to 30 per month. And that number after 1 May has continued to be the same.
What we have noticed that has continued to go on is they also said as they've made that pledge about 1 May and the spring offensive is that they would try to reduce civilian casualties. And they have done the opposite of that. On the 1st of May, in fact, they killed seven Afghan civilians and wounded 34 in some vicious attacks against women and children. And again, 90 percent of the civilian casualties are caused by the insurgents in Regional Command East.
We have our own spring campaign that really has worked hand in hand, shohna ba shohna, with our Afghan partners. I'm very proud of how they have continued to uptick their planning and their integration with the coalition forces. We have several operations that are ongoing at this point in time. We've been very aggressive out there going after the enemy. I think that has really made a difference on what the enemy's tried to do and come back for their own spring campaign, which again, we have not seen.
You know, going back to that piece where -- the insurgent casualties on the 1st of May; that was done by a 12-year-old boy, a suicide bomber that the Haqqani network coming out of Pakistan had strapped on some explosives, walked into a marketplace and killed many of those civilians, as I talked about.
So on the spring campaign, again, I've been asked a lot lately about the difference of the spring -- have they come on harder, have they changed since the death of bin Laden after the 1st of May -- and my answer really is no. We have not seen that increase. We've heard a lot of talk about it, but again, the coalition forces and our Afghan security partners are prepared for that and feel very good about the set that we have right now.
The last thing I'd really like to talk about here at the beginning is our -- is our cooperation, our coordination with our Afghan security partners. Everything we've done over the past year has been shohna ba shohna, shoulder to shoulder, with both the army, the police and the ABP, or Afghan border police. We've really worked at that hard, and I think we can really see the results over the past year. We feel very good about where the Afghan National Security Forces are. Still a lot of work to be done, but we do think that we're handing off a much better Afghan security force than we had a year ago. And that really is a lot of great work by the coalition partners but also by the Afghans themselves. They've really stepped up, and we really feel good about the future of Afghanistan, especially RC East based on the performance to date.
Again, with that, I've talked to many of your throughout the year, but I welcome your questions. And thank you for the opportunity to speak to you here tonight to talk a little bit about RC East. So I stand by for your questions.
COL. LAPAN: Mr. Burns.
Q: This is Bob Burns, general, from AP. Picking up on your point about not having seen yet any uptick in Taliban attacks lately, we had a story today quoting a police chief in Nuristan province as saying that there was a rather large-scale Taliban attack on police. I'm wondering if you have any details on that.
And if I may add a second question; as you finish up your year there and prepare to transition out, what is your view on whether there is room for a drawdown of U.S. troops either in your region -- either the summer or later this year?
GEN. CAMPBELL: OK, Bob, thanks. Appreciate both those questions.
The first one, on the attack on a checkpoint in Nuristan, I think is what you talked about. I've seen the report, also. I just got off the phone with my TAC(1) [tactical air command], which is located at Gamberi in Laghman province. They're in -- they have police there; they have army there. It's a joint TAC. They're in -- they just got off the phone with that same provincial police chief -- General Nuristani is how he goes with us. He had reported about 400 insurgents attacking a checkpoint. He is not at that location.
We're talking about what do they need. We have never seen, the whole year that I've been here, 400 insurgents massed, you know. In fact, I would welcome if we could get 400 insurgents to mass. So we asked him really to go back and tell us what he is seeing; get better information from that checkpoint. The latest that he had was there was three wounded Afghan National Police; they believe they've killed or wounded about 10 insurgents.
We asked them if they needed ammunition. They did not need that at this point in time. He's continuing -- now, he is a long distance away. He's in Paroon. It's about 20 miles to the north of this particular checkpoint. It is not a district center. There was talk that a district center had been run over.
We have moved unmanned aerial aircraft to that vicinity. We are having some weather issues right now. As you get up into Nuristan, as you know, the mountainous terrain up there is very, very tough, and with the weather it comes in and out. So we're trying to get full-motion video so we can see what's going on up there, but the initial reports right now is that checkpoint is still intact; they're still working there. There was some sort of attack; still sketchy on the details. We'll continue to work with our partners there.
We do not have any coalition forces up in that part of Nuristan, so it is hard to get back and forth to try to get the coverage there. There are hundreds and thousands of isolated, small valleys up in Nuristan. And again, communication is very, very tough. But I feel very good with the -- with our TAC, that they are getting at least phone calls in to General Nuristani, and it was not as hectic, with the 400 insurgents that he talked about.
You know, just up in that same area, up in Nuristan, you have Barge Matal. I think all of you are very familiar with Barge Matal. Last year, when we took over, we had to send in coalition forces up there for a period of time. The 82nd did that before us. But we've really tried to move that toward an Afghan solution, and over the last year the Afghans have really picked that up. They've taken control of Barge Matal. There's also reports daily about insurgents up in -- overrunning Barge Matal. We just had an assessment team up there the other day. They have Afghan Border Police, Afghan National Police up there. We resupplied them with ammunition. And it was not taken over. There weren't hundreds of insurgents up there, like we had heard last week on Barge Matal.
So a lot of this really -- and when you get up into the Nuristan area, we've really got to understand that the insurgents have a pretty good information ops campaign and so, you know, we've got to take that with a grain of salt. But at the same time, we really want to make sure that we're providing the support that we can to our Afghan partners when they do need it. But we can't be everywhere.
Hopefully, that gets at your Nuristan question. On the drawdown piece, you know, that's really a decision for the President, for General Petraeus. As I look around Regional Command East, you know, I'm very thankful for the forces that we have in Regional Command East right now. We didn't get our last surge brigade till the end of August. That was 4th Brigade, 101st [Airborne Division], the Currahees. They came in the August time frame. They continue to do great things in Paktika where they're at. But we're just now being able to see the effect of having the coalition surge over the last several months.
Again, when we took over, through the summer, through the fall time frame – (background noise) you've got some jets in the background there -- we were still getting the inputs right, and we really do think we have those right now. And we've got to let this counterinsurgency, you know, our operations here, take effect, and it's going to take some time.
So again, we have realigned forces. I have taken forces from some COPs and FOBs; taken them out of places where they are static, where they're not very agile, and taken them back to places to make them focused targeting forces, where I can air-assault them into different locations at will, so that we can deny sanctuary to the insurgents anywhere in the battlefield. And we feel very good about what we're able to do there.
But as far as forces coming out of RC East, I mean, I will leave that to my higher headquarters, and have not really discussed that with either General Rodriguez or General Petraeus.
COL. LAPAN: Mik.
Q: General Campbell, Jim Miklaszewski, with NBC.
With the death of Osama bin Laden, there's a growing chorus of voices here in Washington, some on Capitol Hill, that say, well, his death should allow the U.S. to withdraw large numbers of troops from Afghanistan and essentially end the U.S. participation in that war.
Now, do you believe that? And if so, why? And if it's not the case, why not?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Thanks, Jim, for the question. You know, bin Laden -- certainly the leader of al-Qaeda, certainly an important man of that organization, but one man does not make this war on terrorism.
You know, in the short term, we have not seen a big impact on his death here in RC East. There has been a lot of talk about revenge, about coming at both the coalition and the Afghan forces here, and we have not seen that here since the 1st of May, since they talked about that.
But again, I don't think that one person makes the war on terror here. They'll find somebody to replace him. They're going to have some issues, I think, without bin Laden there, based on fundraising and ability to have -- the ability to have his charisma to bring in funds and that kind of thing, to recruit.
But again, in RC East, there's multiple insurgent groups, Haqqani just being one of them, that Afghanistan and the coalition forces are going and trying to neutralize here. And so I don't think the war's over, and I don't think the loss of bin Laden will cause us to change our strategy, at least in RC East.
COL. LAPAN: Thom.
Q: Thanks. General, Thom Shanker with The New York Times. Thanks so much for your time today.
This question follows on that, which is whether the death of bin Laden might in some way push forward an effort at reconciliation. You've talked to us before that we shouldn't think of it as one insurgency; it's a syndicate there. Clearly these groups have different relationships with each other and with al-Qaeda Central, either literally or ideologically. Is there a chance now to divide these groups and perhaps bring some of them to the table for negotiations?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Thanks, Thom. Good to hear from you. Thanks for the question.
No, I think that's a great question. I think there's great possibilities here. I've talked, again, about reintegration being a potential game changer out there. We're seeing it in Regional Command East a lot more in the last 60 days. The governors are really picking this up. You have informal and you have formal modes of reintegration. We're seeing a lot more of the informal, where the governors are really picking up; people are coming to the governors, subgovernors and governors of the 14 different provinces we have. So we feel very good about reintegration in the future, and we got to continue to work that hard and educate, through the ministries, on what we can do on reintegration, what we can offer to the folks who want to reintegrate.
I think because of bin Laden and the death of bin Laden, that there's great potential, that there will be many people out there that will want to come back in and have that opportunity. They look at and understand -- they've seen videos now of bin Laden sitting in a small room looking at a TV of pictures of himself up there, kind of alone and desperate, not this -- you know, this big leader that they thought that he was. He's sitting in Pakistan.
Many of the other insurgent groups that we deal with, the leadership stays in Pakistan. They don't come across the border. They don't share the same hardships as the fighters.
I think the insurgents are going to see this, going to say: Hey, you know, why am I doing this?
And I think there's great potential for many of the insurgents to say: Hey, I want to reintegrate.
Now remember what President Karzai in Afghanistan has said is, if they denounce al-Qaeda, if they pledge their allegiance to Afghanistan, they throw down their arms, you know, that Afghanistan will take them back. And they understand there has to be a political solution to this fight here. And I think that this gives us a great opportunity, and I think President Karzai and I think the Afghans are looking at that way as well.
And you know, the truth is, I hope it does. I mean, the Afghan people deserve this opportunity to live a better life, and reintegration's going to go a long way there.
COL. LAPAN: Jim.
Q: Hi, General. Jim Garamone with AFPS [American Forces Press Service]. Sir, when we spoke to you last time, you were talking about your cooperation with the Pakistani 11th Corps, I think it was. I'm wondering if there was a change in that since bin -- the mission to kill bin Laden. And are the Pakistanis starting to cooperate on taking down the Haqqani network, at least along the border region?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Thanks for the question. Yeah, I think on the last -- really, we've been working the border piece very hard since day one, since we got here. And we've really been working the relationship with the 11th Corps. Lieutenant General Asif is my counterpart there. He has the 11th Corps and the Frontier Scouts.
I've gone to Pakistan several times. He's come over to Afghanistan. We've taken our Afghan counterparts over there.
I think really, at the tactical operational level, that cooperation over the last two months is really the best we've ever seen it -- battalion to battalion, brigade to brigade, the border flag meetings that we conduct. Opening those lines of communication has helped all across the 450-plus miles of border that Regional Command East shares with Pakistan. So I think it's gotten really well.
Now after the bin Laden piece, for a day or two, we had some communications issues where battalion commanders, brigade commanders would try to contact their counterparts. We didn't have very good contact, but I'd tell you, about two days ago, the Currahees conducted a brigade-to-brigade border flag meeting, and Colonel Sean Jenkins, Currahee-6 here, will tell you that was the best border flag meeting he's had. That was just two days ago.
So we continue to see great cooperation, at least at the tactical level.
About a month or so ago, we were involved in Operation Strong Eagle III, up in the northern part of Kunar, and as we conducted that operation, our Pakistani counterparts were able to do complementary ops on their side of the border that enhanced, really, what we were able to do with our Afghan counterparts in Kunar.
They've had a very big operation for the last month or so in the Mahmoud Agency, and both the Afghans and the coalition forces in Kunar have been doing complementary operations on the Afghan side to complement what they're doing in the Mahmud Agency. And so I've seen it get better, really, over the last 60 days.
I have not had a chance to talk to General Asif since the death of bin Laden. I'll see him here next week as we bring him over here to really transition with the 1st Cavalry Division as well. And again, we have to continue to work very hard that relationship. I think all of you understand that, you know, you really can't talk about Afghanistan unless Pakistan is in that equation.
So we value that, that relationship, and not only the coalition to the Pakistanis but also our Afghan counterparts with the Pakistani forces, because, in the end, they got to continue to work "shohna ba shohna " themselves, shoulder to shoulder.
Q: Can you -- can you describe the realignment of your forces in RC East? Could you tell us how the insurgents and the different insurgent groups have reacted or not to that realignment in their tactics or in their operations?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for the question. I'll just use [Combat Outpost] Blessing or what we call Nangalam now as a -- as an example. I think all of you know that's the westernmost or was the westernmost COP that we had in the Pech River Valley. We transferred that to the Afghan control. There's a kandak [battalion]-plus -- don't want to go into exact numbers there, but there's a kandak-plus there.
And there was a lot of insurgent information operations after we left -- that they had surrounded the COP, that they taken over the COP, that the police outside the district center that's right outside of the COP were wearing civilian clothes; they weren't doing policing duties in Nangalam.
That word got back to General Abdullah, the 201st Corps commander. He and Brigadier General Warren Phipps flew up there early, early one morning, about 0500 in the morning. They took up the Afghan brigade commander. They took up a brand-new kandak commander because the battalion executive officer was actually running that battalion, the kandak commander, had left. General Abdullah got on the ground. That kandak was all there. The morale was high. He installed a new battalion commander, a kandak commander. The police that were there were in formation. They were all in uniform.
So all those reports we got that Nangalam had been run -- or overrun were not true, and the morale of those soldiers out there, knowing that they taken over this COP from the coalition forces, was something really to be seen.
Now in the month of February there were 35 attacks on Nangalam or Blessing, COP Blessing. Since the 1st of March, there's been maybe three attacks. So a lot of those attacks on there really -- I would tell you that the coalition -- were really a catalyst to get them going there.
So about three attacks since 1 March on Blessing. A lot of the insurgent propaganda IOs [information operations] is that many of those places that are in those isolated mountain regions have been taken over, and that's just not the case.
COL. LAPAN: Viola.
Q: General, Viola Gienger from Bloomberg News. I want to get back to reintegration for a minute. If I understand correctly, the sort of flow of -- the volume of reintegration of lower-level soldiers just really hasn't been what the U.S. had -- and its coalition partners had hoped it would be. It's still fairly slow. And I'm interested to hear from you why you think that might be the case.
And also, are there any areas, either geographically or results-wise, where you've seen some backsliding in RC East in the past year? And what's being done to address that?
GEN. CAMPBELL: OK. I couldn't quite understand the first part of the question. I got the second part, if there are any places that I think had backslid in RC East. Let me answer that first, and I'll have to ask you to repeat the first part of the question.
I can talk about security first. In Regional Command East, again, 14 different provinces, there's 160 districts out there. Forty-five of those districts are what we call key terrain districts. Twenty-one of those 45 are priority of effort key terrain districts. The 21 and the 45 are really where we've applied most of our resources. We cannot be in all 160 of those districts, nor are the Afghans. In many places they just have a small contingent of police that may be around a district center.
But over the course of the year, as far as security, what we're tracking is in 60 of those districts, the security level has gotten much, much better as we assess those, and there's probably just a handful where the security level has backstepped a little bit. So at least 60 have gone up out of that 160. We think that's very, very good.
Many of those we don't make assessments in because we're not there and we don't have the good Afghan presence as well. These are way up in the mountains of Nuristan, way out west in Ghazni, where we just don't have forces. And again, there's not a lot of population out there, as well. If you go back to the Pech River Valley, we're talking about population counterinsurgency, the COIN piece, really if you take a look at those four provinces -- Nangarhar, Kunar, Nuristan and Laghman -- N2KL, as you all know it -- that's only 2.7 percent of the population of all of RC East, and there's 8 million-plus here in RC East. In the Pech River Valley, it's like point seven [0.7] percent of the population. So, not a big population out there. We don't get very good assessments where we don't have the population.
So in the security realm, it's 60-plus districts, I think, that have really gone up in security. Under the governance and development, just a little bit lower, probably in the 35 to 40 districts have gone up. But it has gone up. Everywhere we have applied the resources, we have seen improvement.
And I didn't get the first part of your question.
Q: The first part was about reintegration of lower-level fighters, and what do you think accounts for the fact that there haven't been more sort of laying down arms and rejoining society or turning around?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Well, a couple different reasons. I think the number-one reason is that they're tired of fighting. They've been at this thing for 30-plus years as well. And really the pressure that the Afghan forces and the coalition forces continue to keep on them will force them to reintegrate. They're going to take a look and say, hey, you know, I can sit out here in the middle of some valley someplace and continue to go out and try to attack, or I can get reunited with my family. I can come back in Afghanistan. And oh, by the way, the leaders that are telling me to go attack they’re not even here. They're in Pakistan.
So I think they're taking a hard look at it and saying, hey, why am I doing this? And as we're able to get messages out there and show them the benefits of coming back in underneath the government of Afghanistan, reuniting with your families, I think they're just tired of fighting. But we shouldn't make light of the fact that the pressure that the coalition forces and the pressure that the Afghan forces continue to keep on the insurgents, I think, is a great deal about making them want to reintegrate.
Q: I think perhaps you misunderstood. I was wondering if you had a sense of why there aren't more fighters reintegrating than you already have. And how -- can you give us a -- can you quantify how many have reintegrated, but why do you think those that have not are staying back?
GEN. CAMPBELL: We can get you the exact numbers that we're tracking in Regional Command East. I don't have that here. I want to say it's in the neighborhood of about 500-plus. We've had really about 30 to 40 here just in the last week as we continue to get the message out through the governors, through the sub-governors, through GIRoA [Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan], of the benefits of coming back and reuniting with your family, having a job; you know, living a normal life, not on the run, not sitting in a cave someplace, not knowing if the coalition or the Afghan forces are going to strike you with a bomb or something.
I think, you know, that's driving them. They're seeing that's not a good way of life and that the people that are living in the villages now are starting to see a better way of life, a better hope for Afghanistan. And they want part of that, so they want to reintegrate.
Why that number is not larger? I think that number probably is larger, but it's -- you know, again, I said there's an informal and a formal way to do this. And a formal reintegration works through the governors, it's a very bureaucratic process that we're continuing to work through right now. We're learning -- both the coalition and the Afghans are learning more about it, on how to really implement that and make it better.
But the informal piece, a lot of times we won't even know that's happening. We're dependent upon the sub-governors and governors really to keep us in the loop there, to tell us: hey, here's guys that we're bringing in. Many of the governors, as I go around and talk to the governors, will tell me, hey, I just had a phone call from, you know, this insurgent, this leader of this group here. He wants to bring in 25 people. And they'll work it. In their own time, in their own way, they'll work it. And that's informal reintegration.
And so I think those numbers are much, much greater than probably what you're seeing out there in the press. But we got to continue to let that grow. And I think it's going to continue to get more and more. As they see that -- as the credibility and the capacity of the Afghan security forces continues to grow, they're going to see that running -- a life of running all the time and hiding is not the way to go.
You know -- you know, 99.99999 percent of the Afghan people -- they want the same thing that we want for our families. They want them to have a roof over their head. They want a job. They want to know where the next meal is coming from. They want their kids to be able to go to school. And I think the future is with the free Afghanistan, not with the insurgents.
Q: General, Mike Evans from The London Times. There was supposed to have been a very close personal relationship between Mullah Omar and bin Laden. Now that bin Laden has been removed from that equation, do you see, as I think Secretary Gates implied the other day, that there might -- for that reason, there might be a big impact on the insurgency itself and the way it attacks the coalition forces over the next few months?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Yeah, I heard Secretary Gates say that as well. And I would concur. You know, I have not talked to Mullah Omar, but I would tell you that when he sees that we got bin Laden, that we continue to keep the pressure up, I would think that he thinks that he's probably next. And if I was him, I would encourage the Taliban to reintegrate as well. At some point in time, that's going to happen. And I think President Karzai is reaching out; and I think that Mullah Omar has seen that, you know, what the coalition says, you know, we're going to hunt you down. It may take a while -- it took almost 10 years here -- but we're not going to forget. And he's in that category there.
So I think for Mullah Omar and for the Taliban, at some point in time, they'll see that reintegration with the government of Afghanistan is the right future. And as Secretary Gates said, it's a potential game changer there.
COL. LAPAN: Rachel.
Q: We're both going to get one. You can go first. (Laughs.)
Q: General, this is Nancy Youssef from McClatchy Newspapers. I was wondering if you could clarify something you said earlier. At one point, you said bin Laden's death wouldn't end the war, that the war would continue, that the death of one man doesn't mean the end of this war. And at the same time, you said that it could lead to great potential in terms of reconciliation.
Can you help me understand realistically how much will reconciliation be driven by the death of bin Laden? And when you say at some point it could lead to that, what kind of timeline are we looking at?
GEN. CAMPBELL: I don't know. I can't answer that question, to tell you the truth. I just think that, you know, we're going to continue to keep the pressure on with our Afghan counterparts, the operations that we're conducting throughout the – the offensive operations throughout the depth of Regional Command East that will keep the pressure on the insurgents. We're going to continue to protect the population of Afghanistan. The insurgents are going to find out that there -- you know, this is not the way they want to go forward.
I do think that the death of bin Laden will cause some of them to think twice again, and they're going to say, hey, why am I doing this? I can't put a number on it. I can't put a time frame on it. Again, in the short term in just the last week or so, we have seen some reintegration, particularly in two of my provinces. I can't tell you if that is because of the death of bin Laden or not or if they were thinking about that before. So it's very hard for me to give you a timeline on that. That's sort of out of my lane there.
But I -- you know, I have this gut feeling -- and I think a lot of people do here in Afghanistan -- that, you know, this was the number-one guy for al-Qaeda. A lot of people, to include the Taliban, have a symbiotic relationship with al-Qaeda, and they're going to think twice now, why are we doing this; why is he over in Pakistan or why was he in Pakistan when I'm suffering over here? And they know the leadership of Haqqani is doing the same thing.
So when I said the war is not over, there's many insurgent groups inside of Afghanistan, inside of Pakistan that are fighting the Afghan security forces, that are fighting the Afghan people. So, you know, I really do believe we live in the most dangerous times of our life. And al-Qaeda has shown that where they can come to the homeland. And since our forces have been here in Afghanistan, we have not had another 9/11. And I think we've got to continue to press that fact.
COL. LAPAN: All right. Rachel and then over to Jennifer.
Q: General, it's Rachel Martin with NPR.
Another question about the Haqqani network. You've talked several times over the past year about how the Haqqani represent the toughest element of the insurgency in your area of responsibility. Can you talk a little bit more about how that specific threat has changed? And when you get ready to pack your bags and leave in a week, are you personally going to be satisfied with the level in which your troops have been able to degrade that threat over the past year? And what metrics would you used to analyze that?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Thanks for the question. Haqqani is definitely in Regional Command East the most lethal threat, we believe, to Afghanistan, at least in Regional Command East. They have sanctuary in Pakistan. They come across the border. They kill coalition; they kill innocent women and children. They are well funded. They have the ability to regenerate. We've killed many, many Haqqani. When they mass, as they did last October-November time frame in COP Margah, we feel like we killed probably 90 out of 110, 120. And when they attacked COP Salerno, the same thing. We continue to kill Haqqani. We've taken out a lot of the low- and mid-level leadership. But they do have this ability to continue to regenerate fighters.
Haqqani network I don't think will reintegrate. My gut feeling tells me that right now. So we've got to continue to keep the pressure on. And, you know, along that border, what they've been trying to do is expand their influence. They've been predominantly in Paktia, Khost and Paktika. We've seen signs that they've tried to come up through Nangarhar, they've tried to come up through Ghazni. But again, the Afghan security forces are in depth now. They're really protecting Kabul, all the way down to the borders. The number of attacks in Kabul has continued to go down. I think the lethal attacks has continued to go down. And that's a great credit for our Afghan partners.
You know, since June, I said over 4,000 insurgents have been taken off the battlefield in Regional Command East -- killed, captured, detained. Several of those are Haqqani. I don't have the numbers off the top of my head here for Haqqani, but many, many have been Haqqani. And we've really disrupted that Haqqani network, in Khost in particular. And that's both with the coalition forces, our Afghan counterparts, and our special operating forces who, every single night, continue to go out and go after the Haqqani network. And we feel very good about the progress we've made. We've got to continue to do it.
We're going to need some help from Pakistan. They are doing a lot more. Again, 18 months ago, 30,000 people on the border; now they have 140,000 on the border. They've taken several losses themselves. They continue that fight. That's why we've got to continue to work with our Pak Mil [Pakistani military] counterparts, to build that trust and confidence to fight this common enemy that's killing innocent women and children in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.
COL. LAPAN: (Off mic.)
Q: General, Jennifer Griffin from Fox News.
I was wondering what the current estimates are in terms of how many foreign fighters, al-Qaeda types, are in Afghanistan, and whether you've seen any flood of foreign fighters into your region since bin Laden's killing. And did you change your force posture or reposition in order to catch them as they came back across the border?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Yeah, Jennifer, thanks for the question.
Along the border, we have -- you know, we've gone to an increased posture back in the April time frame, when the Taliban announced that they were going to have a spring campaign. But really, the way that we got at that is we are very offensive in ourselves, and we've got several operations throughout the breadth of Regional Command East with our counterparts. We stayed on the offensive. And we think that's the best way to be defensive: to stay on the offensive against the insurgents. So we continue to work that.
I have not seen a large number of foreign fighters come through since bin Laden's death. I will tell you, over the course of the year, if I was to put a guesstimate on the percentage, it's really around 80 percent are from Afghanistan, and it's probably 15 (percent) to 20 percent foreign fighter. That's what we've really seen in Paktika and Khost. I don't think that's gone up or gone down here over the last several months.
You know, we do continue to get reports. As we're able to get detainees and talk to them and find out, they'll give us information on foreign fighters. But again, Haqqani does bring in foreign fighters, more than many of the other insurgents, so we have seen that in Paktia, Khost and Paktika. But I have not seen a big increase with the death of bin Laden.
Q: Thank you for holding this briefing. Raghubir Goyal, India Globe and Asia Today.
My question is that you are there in Afghanistan because of 9/11, and 9/11 happened because of Osama bin Laden. Now he's gone, and whole world is surprised and shocked. And I'm sure your unit -- and even including President Karzai, he blamed the Pakistanis, that they were hiding him inside Pakistan; which they've been misleading the U.S. for the last 10 years that he's not there in their back yard. Now I'm sure, as far as Taliban and al-Qaeda are concerned, who were coming across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan, now you think they will -- there will be a reduction because their commander is gone? Do you believe that their back has been broken by his death?
GEN. CAMPBELL: I think you asked me if -- do I think that the back's been broken because bin Laden's dead, and have we seen that they'll stop coming back and forth across the border.
Again, since the death of bin Laden, we have not seen an uptick or surge in insurgent-initiated attacks in Regional Command East. I have not seen a big increase come across the border. In fact, the border incursions over the last six months has continued -- the effectiveness, although there may be more in numbers, the effectiveness continues to go down, just like it has throughout Regional Command East. In fact, throughout 2010, the number of attacks or significant activities have gone up about 21 percent, but the effectiveness has gone down 28 percent, becoming less effective. And that's because our Afghan counterparts and the coalition continue to get better and better. We have more -- we have more forces in Regional Command East than before. So we think that's very, very good.
But again, I don't think it's because of his death. I think that's going to have an impact for some people not to come across. I think it's still too early to tell. But in the short term, we have not seen a significant increase coming across the border based on bin Laden's death.
Q: Quick follow. Just quick follow. How about -- what message do you have for Pakistan or what sort of -- what kind of help now you need from Pakistan or what can they do now after his death?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay. I think you asked me what do we need from Pakistan.
You know, I need to continue to keep the lines of communication opened up with the 11th Corps. I have Pakistani LNOs in my JOC. I have three border coordination centers that have Afghan officers, coalition officers and Pakistani officers in them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That continues to build that cooperation, that trust, keeps those lines of communication open. We've got to continue to work together against this common enemy that goes out and tries to kill innocent women and children.
And so from Pakistan what I need is their continued pressure on the places that are harboring these terrorist individuals. For Regional Command East, a lot of that is in North Waziristan. Miran Shah, across from Khost. That's where we have the most incursions across the border. That's where we know Haqqani leadership hangs out. So we'll continue to work that very, very hard.
But again, I feel very good about where we've come the last two months with our relationship with Pakistan. At my level we're going to continue to work that very, very hard, and I think that will make a difference in the long run.
COL. LAPAN: All right. Last question to Luis.
Q: General, it's Luis Martinez with ABC News. Can I ask you specifically, when you talk about the Haqqani network, what is it about them that makes them so resilient? It's obviously took a major hit in numbers this year, but yet they continue to be a strong factor. Is it their recruiting? What is it that appeals to people on both sides of the border for the Haqqani network to continue?
GEN. CAMPBELL: I think you asked me that they've taken a great hit but they continue to come back? Was that the question?
Q: Yes. And specifically, what makes them so resilient? What is the appeal factor in the Haqqani network?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay. Well, again, as we've talked about, they do have this uncanny ability to continue to regenerate forces in the madrassas, in the places across the border in Pakistan. The figure I've heard before is 10 percent. I don't know how true that is. But as we take out X amount over the course of a year, they're going to continue to grow by about 10 percent.
Again, we've seen a great difference, though, because we've taken out a lot of that leadership. And when we first got here into Regional Command East, much of that leadership was experienced, battle hardened. We've taken them off the battlefield. Now a lot of the leadership that we find, much, much younger, less experienced. The amount of supplies that they have. I talked about the caches. Over double what we took off the battlefield a year ago. That has to make an input -- an impact on what they're able to do.
So I think we are, you know, really disrupting what Haqqani can do. Why -- you know, why they have this ability to -- to grow forces year and year -- remember, across that border many of those -- this is the Zadran tribe there, and this is family ties, and there is no border for them. Some live in Afghanistan and some live in Pakistan. So it's a family thing right there, and those family ties are very, very strong. And that's going to be very, very tough.
We've got to continue to work through our Afghan counterparts, through our Pakistani counterparts, to counter, you know, the rhetoric that Haqqani has passed on to the people. And I think over time we'll continue to work at that.
But I think that familiar tie that they have, and the Haqqani network is more of a -- sort of a Mafia-syndicate type organization, as well. And they continue to use fear tactics; they continue to coerce, you know, a 12-year-old -- a 12-year-old boy to put explosives on his body, to walk into a crowded bazaar and blow himself up. I mean, what kind of people do that? Haqqani do it. And so it's a great threat here, and we've got to continue to stay after it.
COL. LAPAN: General, I'll leave it with you for any closing remarks you'd like to make.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Well, thanks very much. Again, I can't see any of you back there in Washington, D.C. I do appreciate you taking the time to come ask questions. I appreciate talking to many of you, as I heard who was there, throughout the year, and to pass on many of the observations we've had in Regional Command East.
You know, the bottom line, I think, is we've seen progress, both in the security, both in governance and in development. We continue to see that day by day. For that soldier sitting on a COP or a FOB: you know, sometimes very, very hard; sort of like "Groundhog Day." But as I -- you get at my level here, you see that progress every single day. And we feel very proud of our relationship with our Afghan counterparts. They continue to grow. They continue to get better. We value their relationship, that friendship with them.
But I've also got to say thanks to our families back at Fort Campbell, the communities that help us out. They've been very, very good. And, you know, we've taken some huge losses here. Every single loss changes the life of many people back there. I carry these cards; I think many people have seen me carry these: 101st soldiers and the other brigades that are with the 101st here. And every one of these are a hero. And we can never forget the impact it's had on their lives. We can never forget their sacrifice. We can never forget the sacrifice of their families. And we've got to do everything we can to take care of those families for the rest of their life. We owe that to them. And so we want to -- we have to be able to honor our fallen like that.
But again, very, very proud of what we've been able to accomplish here over the past year. We know that there's still a lot of work to do. We feel very good about how we're going to turn this over to the 1st Cavalry Division. They'll take it to the next step. They've got a great team coming onboard. All the brigades, for the most part, will stay in place. They'll start transitioning brigades over time. But they'll have some in place for quite a while here as we transition over the year. So we feel very good about where we've come.
And again, appreciate all that you do back there, getting the word out about our Afghan counterparts, our coalition forces. And just never, ever forget our great, great fallen, our great heroes and our families.
Thanks very much. Air Assault! from Bagram.
COL. LAPAN: Thank you for your time today, and all the time that you've given us over the past year while you've been deployed.
Godspeed to you and your forces coming home.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Thanks very much.