U.S. Committed to NATO Efforts in Afghanistan
By Tech. Sgt. Sean P. Houlihan, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2007 The U.S. military is committed to supporting Afghanistan and the NATO International Security Assistance Force mission there, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said after a visit to Afghanistan on Feb. 4 and 5.
“The United States is the single largest contributor to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization International Security Assistance Force. The U.S. currently has some 15,000 troops assigned and supplies the bulk of intelligence, a huge amount of logistics, tremendous enablers including communications and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms,” Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani said Feb. 5 aboard an Air Force C-17 traveling back to Washington after an eight-day overseas trip that included stops in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“All and all, we are the single largest contributor, far and away, to the International Security Assistance Force, and we will continue to be so,” he added.
Giambastiani said one example of U.S. military commitment to the 33,000-strong NATO force was U.S. Army Gen. Dan K. McNeil’s assumption of the ISAF command. McNeil assumed command from British Gen. David Richards on Feb. 4 in Kabul.
McNeil took over command as NATO has increasingly taken the lead for security in the nation. In summer 2006, the United States provided security in the southern and eastern sectors of the country. Those areas are now under NATO security control.
Another example of the United States commitment to Afghanistan is the intent to accelerate training and equipping the Afghan National Army and Police. “We plan on going from training and capacity building to building capabilities and making these forces sustaining and stand alone,” he said. “Those are very important keys for us to eventually drawdown our forces and reduce our overall footprint inside Afghanistan.”
The Kabul National Training Center is one institution that builds capability for the Afghan national security forces. Giambastiani toured that facility Feb. 5. The center is responsible for training 2,000 Afghanistan National Army basic trainees a month. The numbers of recruits has grown from 600 a month two years ago, and officials hope to be able to accelerate training to as many as 3,000 recruits a month in the future.
“The Kabul Military Training Center is the main training location for new Afghan recruits,” Giambastiani said. “They teach basic training, shooting skills, leadership training and a substantial number of courses. The Afghans can be self-sustaining in basic military training. … Currently, 90 percent is done with Afghans in the lead with mentors from the United States and other allied forces. It is important for them to stand on their own two feet as they build an entirely new army -- building and training an NCO and officer corps and sustaining them from the ground up.”
The center also conducts drill instructor, mid-level noncommissioned officer and officer, literacy and technology courses; the computer and literacy courses are reported to be standing-room only.
While in Afghanistan, Giambastiani met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Feb. 4, and Karzai conveyed a simple message.
“He wanted me to express his gratitude to servicemembers and the United States for continued support of the Afghan people and nation,” Giambastiani said.
The admiral also wants soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines stationed in Afghanistan to know that senior leaders view their mission as extremely important, he said.
“We are working to help build institutional stability in these nations,” he said. “I’m here to find out what servicemembers need to help them get the job done.”
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sean P. Houlihan is assigned to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office.)