Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry briefed the Pentagon press corps Thursday on progress and challenges in Afghanistan. He is the commanding general of Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan. Following are highlights.
Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2001
- Under Taliban rule.
- A haven for al Qaeda.
- Country had endured two decades of brutal warfare; much of population heavily armed; factional fighting rampant; no national recognized security institutions.
- Much of infrastructure devastated; education and health systems destroyed; 20 percent literacy rate; women denied access to schools and health care.
Mission of the Military Response to the Attacks
- Defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban regime that harbored them.
- Set conditions to prevent Afghanistan from ever serving again as a sanctuary for international terrorism.
- Although fighting continues, al Qaeda ejected from Afghanistan, Taliban toppled.
- Has a constitution, and a democratically elected president, parliament and provincial councils.
- Afghan National Army now 30,000 strong; nationally recognized institution; nationwide presence; completed first deployment out of country – supported earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan.
- Afghan National Police force taking shape; training still being emphasized; program in place to focus on provisioning of equipment and mentoring.
- Roads, clinics, wells, schools being built; millions of children attending school, many for the first time.
- Strong international consensus to continue productive partnership with Afghans.
- Work with Afghan and Coalition security forces to continue war against al Qaeda and its associated movements.
- Continue in partnership building Afghan national security forces and their leadership, emphasizing quality; develop organizations to sustain the forces.
- Continue in partnership improving governance, developing infrastructure.
- Production and trafficking of illegal narcotics still a significant concern.
- Narco-trafficking is significant threat to country’s future stability and its ability to stand up governance and justice institutions.
- Afghanistan and international community increasing efforts to stop narco-trafficking, eliminate poppy cultivation. Long-term, sustained effort required to combat problem.
- Campaign is complex: involves law enforcement, eradication, justice, providing viable alternative to farmers.
- Many U.S. government agencies involved, including Departments of Justice and State, USAID, Drug Enforcement Administration.
- U.S. military plays supporting role: provide support for intelligence; support for interdiction or law enforcement operation; can provide medevac and close-air support.
- U.S. in charge of 12 of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs); PRTs help to offer alternative livelihood programs.
NATO Role Growing
- NATO major contributor to Afghanistan’s security: currently fielding nine Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and approximately 12,000 troops.
- U.S. forces will continue to work closely with NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
- Transition planned for ISAF to take over responsibility for Regional Command South. Political discussions ongoing within NATO regarding exact configuration of how the command will look. U.S. will contribute to the NATO force.
- If expansion into Regional Command South moves forward, U.S. force levels will be adjusted. There are approximately 18,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan now.
Progress Continuing Against Al Qaeda Leadership Network
- No reason to believe Osama bin Laden killed in Oct. 8 earthquake in Pakistan.
- Forces will not rest until bin Laden captured or killed.
- Al Qaeda is a movement; not just one man.
- Coalition continuing progress against al Qaeda leadership network and associated movements.
- Coalition working to change conditions that gave rise to the movements.
- No concrete evidence fighters or facilitators moving from Iraq into Afghanistan to train Taliban or al Qaeda associated movements; foreign funding continues to be made available to those Taliban or al Qaeda associated movements.
- More fighting over the past year in Afghanistan, much of it initiated by Coalition forces and by Afghan forces, whose numbers have grown over past year, allowing them to operate in areas of traditional Taliban influence, including eastern Afghanistan and northern parts of southern Afghanistan.
- Shift in tactics by Taliban, such as using more IEDs and suicide bombers, is sign of their weakness. These attack numbers are not extraordinary. Coalition, Afghan forces pursuing counter-tactics, sharing techniques and training.
- Afghans’ willingness to provide tips to Afghan, Coalition forces steadily increasing.
- Broader trends in country give sense that Afghans are winning.
Links: transcript; Lt. Gen. Eikenberry bio; Afghanistan map
Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan www.cfc-a.centcom.mil