Progress Quietly Proceeds in Afghanistan, General Says
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2007 More Afghan adults are employed; more of their children are attending school; and the Afghan government is expanding, the senior U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said today.
“The Taliban have not achieved any of their objectives in the last year,” Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76 and commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division, told reporters in the Pentagon via satellite connection from Afghanistan.
“By contrast, over the past year, U.S. forces and coalition partners have made great progress in the creation of a stable, secure and viable nation state in Afghanistan despite the Taliban’s attempt to impede that progress,” he said.
During a briefing on Afghanistan operations, Freakley discussed recent changes in the organizational structure of security operations. “In the past few months, we’ve experienced significant changes in Afghanistan,” he said. “On Oct. 6, Afghanistan completed its transition from the U.S.-led coalition to a NATO-led coalition headed by the International Security Assistance Force.
“Over the last two years, ISAF has assumed responsibility for security operations in five different provinces or regional commands: Center, North, West, South and now Regional Command East, which we command, which has 14 different provinces,” he said. “We now have 26 NATO countries and 11 other nations that have staked their national reputation to the outcome in Afghanistan,” he said.
Recent command changes will enlarge ISAF’s and the international community’s role in security operations, Freakley said.
In addition to expanded international effort, 3,200 U.S. Army soldiers with 10th Mountain Division have had their deployments extended to help continue progress in Afghanistan, Freakley added.
“Construction, education and economic development are indeed linked to security,” he said. “And where there is infrastructure like roads and electricity, there are economic opportunities, … which bring jobs.”
Afghanistan’s civic leaders and local civilians say unemployment is their greatest challenge, Freakley said.
“(Unemployment) has some men turning to terrorists for employment vs. serving their nation,” he said. “Given the choice and means to achieve new goals, Afghans embrace new opportunity to better their lives and reject extremism.”
The extension of U.S. troop deployment in the region and a $10 billion aid package has encouraged optimism in the region, Freakley said.
The reconstruction aid “has buoyed the Afghan confidence in both the American commitment to this nation and the international commitment to Afghanistan, and their ability to withstand any type of terrorist activity (aimed at) taking back the progress they’ve made over the last five years,” he said.