Violent Contacts Down in Afghanistan, Commander Says
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 7, 2005 Violent contacts between coalition forces and enemy fighters in Afghanistan are declining in number, a senior commander of forces there said today.
"Over the past year, the number of areas where the Afghan central government and international organizations classify or describe the environment as insecure has gone down dramatically," said Army Maj. Gen. Eric T. Olson, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, at a news conference in Kabul. Combined Joint Task Force 76 is a subordinate unit to Combined Forces Command Afghanistan. It is the operational military headquarters in the country.
"The number of contacts we have had, combat operations that we have had, and the number of casualties, both on the side of the coalition and the side that opposes the coalition, has gone down."
Olson said the security situation in Afghanistan has reached the point at which violent contact or troops in contact situations are rare. Afghan security forces are now operating "much more freely in some of these areas that used to be very violent," he added.
"We are starting to experience nongovernmental organizations and international organizations and aid groups much more willing to go into many areas in Afghanistan than they were willing to before," he noted.
Olson said the more secure environment has enabled reconstruction projects to move forward. He said the coalition has spent millions of dollars over the last year on new schools and government buildings, and on other construction projects throughout the country.
Nineteen provincial reconstruction teams are spread throughout Afghanistan and are "specifically dedicated to economic development and helping Afghanistan to reconstruct," he emphasized. "The PRTs are accepted very readily by the Afghan people and work very closely with Afghan governmental officials."
Such acceptance of the coalition by the Afghan people is perhaps the greatest accomplishment by the coalition over the past year, Olson said. A recent poll revealed the popular support for the coalition now is at an "all-time high," he reported.
"I would say that personally speaking, as I reflect back on the year that I've spent as the commanding general of CJTF-76, that my own proudest accomplishment is the close connection we have established with the Afghan people and the bonds of friendship that have been formed, plus the cooperation with the institutions and organizations of the Afghan central government."