Extremists’ Defeat Requires Commitment, Centcom Commander Says
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 24, 2009 A substantial and sustained commitment is required to disrupt and ultimately defeat al-Qaida and other extremist elements in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the commander of U.S. Central Command told a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee today.
“The strategy described by President [Barack] Obama several weeks ago constitutes such a commitment,” Army Gen. David H. Petraeus told members of the military construction, Veterans Affairs and related agencies subcommittee. “Although … additional resources will be applied in different ways on either side of the [border between Afghanistan and Pakistan], Afghanistan and Pakistan comprise a single theater that require comprehensive, whole-of-governments approaches that are closely coordinated.”
Afghanistan requires a comprehensive counterinsurgency approach, which is what Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force will work to execute with the additional U.S. and coalition resources that will arrive there over the summer, Petraeus said.
The additional forces will provide increased capability to secure and serve the people, pursue extremists, support Afghan security forces development, reduce illegal narcotics and help develop capabilities that will increase the legitimacy of both Afghan local and national governance, Petraeus said.
“A major focus of our efforts in Afghanistan is building the Afghan security forces so that they are capable of assuming full responsibility for their country’s security over time,” the general said. “As was the case in Iraq, additional forces will only be of value if they are employed properly.”
The increase of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has created new critical infrastructure requirements. Expanded contingency construction authorities for Afghanistan and across the area of responsibility provide an important interim solution, Petraeus said. He added his gratitude for the committee’s support of the expansion.
Turning to Pakistan, Petraeus said the situation there is closely linked to that in Afghanistan.
“The extremists that have established sanctuaries in Pakistan’s rugged border areas not only contributed to the deterioration of security in eastern and southern Afghanistan, they also pose an ever-more serious threat to Pakistan’s very existence,” he said. “Al-Qaida senior leadership and other transnational extremist elements are located in Pakistan, and have carried out an increasing number of suicide bombings and other attacks.”
In addition, they have carried out attacks in India and Afghanistan, as well as various countries outside the region, including the United Kingdom, Petraeus said, and also have continued efforts to carry out attacks in the United States.
Though the Pakistani military has stepped up operations in parts of Pakistan’s ungoverned tribal areas in response to the increased concern over this activity, much more work is required, the general told the lawmakers.
“Given our relationship with Pakistan and its military over the years, it is important that the United States be seen as a reliable ally in assisting with that work,” Petraeus said. “The Pakistani military has been fighting a tough battle against extremists for more than seven years.”
The U.S. military will focus its assistance in two main areas, the general said. It will expand its partnership with the Pakistani military and help it build its counterinsurgency capabilities by providing training, equipment and assistance.
“Second, we will promote closer cooperation across the Afghan-Pakistan border by providing training, equipment, facilities and intelligence capabilities and by bringing together Afghan and Pakistani military officers to enable coordination between the forces on either side of the border,” Petraeus said.
These efforts, he said, would be aided substantially by the Pakistani Counterinsurgency Capability Fund.
“Pakistan is a unique situation and nuanced authorities,” the Centcom commander said. “[Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard] Holbrooke and I have determined that we need both foreign-military financing and PCCF to accomplish our mission.”
He explained the Pakistani Counterinsurgency Capability Fund will allow the U.S. military to expand and focus its security development plan with Pakistan, but added that the rest of the region poses challenges.
“As we increase our focus on, and efforts in, Afghanistan and Pakistan, we must not lose sight of other important missions in the Centcom [area of responsibility],” Petraeus said. “There has for example, been substantial progress in Iraq, but numerous challenges still confront its leaders and its people.”
Despite these challenges, Petraeus said, progress is being made in Iraq, especially in the development of the Iraqi security forces. This steady progress has enabled the continued transition of security responsibility to Iraqi elements, further reductions of coalition forces and the steady withdrawal of U.S. units from urban areas, he said.
“We are thus on track in implementing the security agreement with the government of Iraq and in executing the strategy laid out by the president,” Petraeus said.
Iran also remains a major concern for Centcom, the general said. The country continues to carry out destabilizing activities in the region and is continuing development of nuclear capabilities and missile systems that many consider to be linked to the pursuit of nuclear weapons and delivery means.
“Iran’s actions and rhetoric have, in fact, prompted our partners in the Gulf to seek closer relationships with us than we have had with some of them in decades,” Petraeus said. “We are also helping to bolster the Gulf states and the Central Asian states to help them deal with threats to their security, which range from al-Qaida to robust militia and organized criminal elements.”
The United States also is working with partner nations to counter piracy and to combat illegal narcotics production and trafficking, and to interdict arms smuggling. All of these activities threaten stability and the rule of law, and often provide financing for extremists, he said.
“Finally, in all of these endeavors, we seek to foster comprehensive approaches by ensuring that military efforts are fully integrated with broader diplomatic, economic and developmental efforts,” Petraeus said. “There will be nothing easy about the way ahead in Afghanistan or Pakistan, or in many of the other tasks in the Central Command area.
“Much hard work lies before us,” he continued, “but it is clear that achieving the objectives of these missions is vital, and it is equally clear that these endeavors will require sustained, substantial commitment and unity of effort of all involved.”