ISAF Troops Step Back as Afghans Become Face of Security
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2012 The competence and capabilities of Afghan security forces continues to grow as troops of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force step back from key roles, the ISAF deputy commander said today.
Lt. Gen. Adrian J. Bradshaw of the British army spoke to Pentagon reporters via video teleconference from ISAF headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, regarding the progress of the transition.
“Today, the vast majority of Afghan people are represented by their own government, and are, to a greater and greater extent, protected by their own security forces,” he said. “While coalition forces continue to play a key role, it’s increasingly a supporting one.”
Progress has been significant, the general added.
“[Afghan security forces] are now leading well over three-quarters of all security operations,” he said. “Afghans now also constitute over three-quarters of all those in uniform defending this country.”
Another sign the transition is on track, he added, is that a large majority of Afghanistan’s population now resides under Afghan security lead.
“This includes every provincial capital, and increasingly, the insurgency is faced by the [Afghans] rather than ISAF,” Bradshaw said. “In other words, the face of local security is more and more an Afghan face.”
By mid-2013, all parts of Afghanistan will have begun transition, the general said, and Afghan forces will be in the lead for security nationwide.
Insurgent attacks have been “reduced by nearly 10 percent last year, and continue this year on a steady downward path,” he said.
“This year, we’ve seen their ability to strike in the population centers significantly reduced,” Bradshaw said. “They’re, more and more, being relegated to the less-populated margins.”
Reintegration also has affected the fight throughout the country, Bradshaw said, noting that more than 5,000 fighters have turned their backs on the insurgency and reintegrated into society.
“Reintegration is not yet a game-changer,” the general said, “but it has the potential to become so as conditions for the insurgents become more difficult as their motivation to get rid of foreigners from their country becomes less and less relevant.”
Afghan security forces are now more than a third of a million strong, Bradshaw said.
“Their confidence and competence is increasing noticeably all the time, in large part, thanks to our advisory teams,” he said. “They’re now planning and leading their own well-coordinated brigade-level operations with ISAF in a support role only. In some areas, they’re routinely maneuvering at corps level and employing their own artillery fire support -- a very significant step forward.”
Through its Security Forces Assistance Model, Bradshaw said, ISAF is moving from leading combined combat operations to a supporting and advising role through purpose-built advisory teams. These teams will step back as Afghan security capability and competence improves from the bottom up.
Bradshaw acknowledged that while the transition process is “on track,” work remains to be done before the end of 2014 -- when Afghan forces will have full security responsibility for Afghanistan -- as the nation emerges from three decades of war.
“We need to continue to build capability, but most importantly, confidence in the [security forces],” he said. “We must continue to develop [their] enabling capabilities so they can sustain their own needs. We [also] need to get the balance right between making them implement their own improvements under pressure and stepping in to help.”
As Afghanistan’s districts and provinces move through transition, Bradshaw said, improvements are apparent.
“We’re seeing the government of Afghanistan assume more responsibility,” he said. “Insurgent leadership are realizing they cannot achieve their political ends by military means alone. After a decade of exile, the message is clear: cash in your chips and join the political process, or face another decade or more away from your homes.”
Bradshaw said NATO can take great pride in all that the coalition of 50 nations is achieving in Afghanistan.
“Much more needs to be done,” he said. “But we and our Afghan partners sense the gaining confidence, competence and appetite for Afghan forces to take on the job that, for so long, it has been our responsibility to lead.
“We look forward to finishing ISAF combat operations at the end of 2014,” he continued, “confident in the ability of [their security forces] to stand on their own feet, with our continued strong backing through financial and training support.”