Afghan Mission Maintains Momentum, Spokesman Says
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 16, 2012 Despite tragic incidents over the past several months in Afghanistan, the security strategy in that nation is working and coalition and Afghan forces are committed to its successful end, a Pentagon spokesman said here today.
Navy Capt. John Kirby noted a rise in recent months of Afghan forces firing on coalition members, known as “green-on-blue” deaths, the inadvertent Feb. 21 burning of Qurans at the Parwan detention facility, and the March 11 shooting rampage in which a U.S. soldier is accused of murdering Afghan civilians.
“As tragic as incidents like these are -- and there have been a string of tragic incidents in recent weeks -- it would be just as tragic, if not more, if we let it affect the overall mission,” Kirby said.
“I think it’s just as wrong to extrapolate from those incidents some sort of overarching belief or notion that [the strategy] is failing and that our soldiers or [Afghan] soldiers are not committed to it,” he added, “because that’s just not the case.”
Kirby, who has been on temporary assignment to Kabul since Feb. 21, said the war in Afghanistan “has been a long, grueling struggle, there’s no question about that. We’ve taken casualties, our Afghan partners have taken casualties, [and] coalition partners have taken casualties.”
But during his stay in Afghanistan, Kirby said he talked to soldiers and Marines deployed there.
“I made two battlefield circulations with [International Security Assistance Force commander Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen] before I came back to the States,” he said, “one to the East and one down South.”
Kirby added, “Uniformly, the soldiers and Marines we talked to there are very committed to what they’re doing. They believe in what they’re doing and they’re seeing the difference every day.”
While in Helmand province, Kirby dropped in on his nephew, Marine Corps Cpl. Michael Kirby, who has been in Afghanistan since December and serves on an outpost not far from Marjah.
“He was very optimistic about what they’re doing and the success they’re having,” Kirby said. “He said his Afghan counterparts were really good fighters and very reliable, very dependable and that they had a good working relationship.”
The Pentagon spokesman said he found his nephew’s attitude “instructive about the kind of good work that’s going on across the country.”
Afghan security forces are in the lead in many places in Afghanistan. About half the Afghan population now lives in areas that are led by Afghan security forces, officials have said.
“It’s always been the goal here that the Afghans are [assuming] the lead for the security of their own country, for the protection of their own people, for safeguarding their own sovereignty,” Kirby said. He added that “we all share” the strategy agreed upon at NATO’s Lisbon summit in November 2010 that there will be a full transition of security responsibility to the Afghans by the end of 2014.
“And we certainly have made it clear that we expect to be taking more of a support role in terms of combat operations through 2013,” Kirby said, “and at some time in 2013 we expect that, for combat operations, the Afghans will be in the lead.”
He added, “We’re all in agreement that the process of transition is the linchpin here in terms of the success of the strategy.”
President Barack Obama called Afghan President Hamid Karzai early this morning to congratulate he and his wife on the birth of their daughter, according to a White House statement. The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Lisbon framework, with Afghans taking the lead for security in 2013 and completing the process for full transition of security by the end of 2014.
The two leaders also discussed Karzai's concerns about night raids and house searches and recommitted to resolve those concerns, as well as concerns about the presence of foreign troops in Afghan villages, White House officials said.