Afghanistan Efforts Paying Off, DoD Official Tells House Committee
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 29, 2004 U.S. and coalition efforts in Afghanistan are paying off in that formerly Taliban-controlled country, a senior U.S. official told House Armed Services Committee members today.
Peter W. Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said on Capitol Hill that the Afghan people "are embarked on a great undertaking" after decades of war and "fanatical Taliban rule."
Though reconstruction of Afghanistan's political and social infrastructure will take years, Rodman said, he pointed to accomplishments achieved since coalition troops liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban:
- A transitional government was established in June 2002.
- A new constitution was ratified in January.
- More than 8,000 new Afghan National Army troops have been trained. ANA units have participated in joint patrols and combat missions.
- Construction of the vital Kabul-to-Kandahar road will facilitate regional commerce.
- U.S., coalition and Afghan troops remain on the offensive against remnant Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists.
"Our military operations are focused on denying terrorist organizations safe haven and freedom of movement throughout eastern Afghanistan, along the porous border with Pakistan," Rodman explained.
And, Rodman noted, the first Afghan national elections held in decades will take place in September. More than 1.8 million Afghans have registered to vote, he reported, with women making up almost a third of those registered.
The United Nations, the Afghan interior and defense m inistries, NATO's International Security Assistance Force and coalition forces are working a security plan for the upcoming elections, Rodman said.
Although security in Afghanistan "will never be 100 percent," Rodman said the country's political leaders and its people "are not likely to be easily intimidated." The Afghan government, led by President Hamid Karzai, "is redoubling its efforts to strengthen security around the country," he said.
Rodman noted that 20,000 new Afghan National Police are slated to complete their training in June, while the yearly quota for Afghan National Army training has increased to 10,800 troops from 6,000 per year.
A pilot program designed to eliminate private militias across the country has demobilized 6,225 former combatants, Rodman said. That program, he added, has grown into an Afghan government plan to eliminate 40 percent of militias and 100 percent of heavy weapons in the country by June.
Provincial reconstruction teams continue to assist Afghan security and reconstruction programs throughout the country, Rodman said. Leadership of the PRTs, he noted, "will be gradually transferred to the Afghan government" as its security capacities mature.
Rodman acknowledged some regional warlords have been complicit in a "recent surge in poppy cultivation and distribution" in Afghanistan. DoD has a key counter-narcotics role to play in Afghanistan, he observed, noting DoD's supplemental fiscal 2004 budget provides $73 million for anti-drug operations there.
About 17,000 U.S. forces are in Afghanistan, Rodman noted, primarily conducting counter-terrorist missions chiefly in the southern and eastern regions of the country. He said more than 6,000 ISAF troops assist Afghan police and security elements in the capital city of Kabul. Eighteen other countries, besides the U.S., "have forces on the ground" in Afghanistan, Rodman said.