(Note: The briefers appear via teleconference from Afghanistan. The general's remarks are provided through interpreter.)
MODERATOR: Good morning, and let me take a moment to introduce our briefers today. This is Colonel Edward B. Daly, who is the commander of the -- commanding the 209th Afghan Regional Security Integration Command-North, and Major General Murad Ali, who is the commander of the 209th Corps, Afghan National Army.
Colonel Daly and his troops are helping to rebuild and further develop the Afghan security forces. Colonel Daly and Major General Ali are speaking to us from Camp Eggers today, in Kabul, and as usual in this format, they have some opening remarks that they would like to make and give you an overview of what they're doing and then take some of your questions.
So we'll see if our -- the technology will hold with us. And with that, I'll turn it over to the two of them.
COL. DALY: Okay. Thank you very much. And I'll start first. Good morning. I am Colonel Eddie Daly, and I am the commander of the Afghan Regional Security Integration Command -- ARSIC --North. And my mission is to supervise the efforts to coach, teach and mentor the Afghan national security forces in the northern provinces. The security forces consist of the army and the police.
Also in the last month, we have conducted combat missions in the north as part of an operation called Operation Shaheen Sahara. I have provided some footage, and I hope you get an opportunity to see it. And if you are able to see that footage, you'll see General Murad Ali working with the police leadership, as well as the local and national civilian leadership, in planning and coordinating this very successful operation.
I want you to see what I see every day, and that is, how much the Afghans are taking the lead and they're integrating this into their efforts.
And General Ali, do you have any opening comments, sir?
GEN. ALI: I am Major General Murad Ali, 209th Corps commander. Supporting Afghanistan -- Afghanistan government, parliament and constitution is the task of every Afghan. Therefore, working with the government, parliament and ANA and coalition ISAF forces is not only a -- is not -- (off mike) -- but also it's a service for the country. It's because of feeding their families. So if a person is getting killed in a suicide IED -- (off mike) -- attack, so their family will lose (off mike). Therefore, killing is forbidden in Islam religion.
Reconstruction and constructing new schools, roads, bridges for Afghan people is needed so that girls and boys could go to school and in the future they could be -- (off mike) -- leader of this country.
COL. DALY: Thank you, sir.
At this time I'm ready to take any questions if you have any, sir.
MODERATOR: Very good. We do have some. And we were able to see that video, and we appreciate you being able to provide that for us.
So let's go ahead and get started here. Go ahead, Andrew.
Q This is Andrew Gray from Reuters. I wonder if you could just tell us a little bit about the Taliban presence, the scale of it in your area of operations. We often hear that in the north really the Taliban is not so present, but it's a quiet area of Afghanistan. Is that a fair description?
COL. DALY: Okay, sir. Just so you understand, the question was garbled and kind of fast, but I think I understood what you were asking was about the presence of Taliban in the north, what is generally considered a quite sector.
First off, that has been generally the case. In this particular case, of Operation Shaheen Sahara, there has been an increase in Taliban activity around the western edge of the boundary between 209th Corps and the 207th Corps. The local people in that area asked for assistance. They went to their government for help. The government then went -- (short audio break) -- operation, primarily, number one, to get rid of the insurgents, and number two, to bring stability and humanitarian relief into that region.
So yes, it has generally been a quiet sector; however, on the western edge there has been an increase in Taliban activity, and that's why we had that operation.
MODERATOR: Go ahead, Courtney.
Q Hi, Colonel. This is Courtney Kube from NBC News. Just following up on Andrew's question, where, exactly, is the western edge of the boundary with the 209 and the 207?
COL. DALY: Okay, ma'am. If I understood your question, where is the western boundary. If you're looking at a map, it is basically where Ghormach is located at. In other words, Maimana and Ghormach, it is actually sort of about two-thirds of the way from Maimana westward towards Ghormach along the Ring Road. So that would be the northwest corner of the Afghan map. That is the boundary of -- (short audio break) -- operation took place, and right now we are doing stability operations out there.
Q And can you just quantify how, exactly, the locals were seeing an increase in violence? Were there kidnappings, IEDs? What exactly were they seeing? And then can you give us sort of a sense of where that level of violence was several months ago versus when this operation began?
COL. DALY: Okay. If I understood your question, what kind of activity was happening in that region was there were -- along the Ring Road area, there were attacks on people as they came along that. They were robbing from people in the local areas. So the government asked -- people asked the government for assistance, and that's why we went into that region.
So that was generally what the activity was. Police were in that region at first and police were ambushed, and then we just increased our activity after that.
MODERATOR: Jim, and then we'll go over here to Michael.
Q Jim Mannion from Agence France-Presse. Following up again, to what do you attribute this increase, this change?
COL. DALY: I am terribly sorry. None of us heard that question. If there's any way I can get somebody to repeat it, I'd be more than glad to answer it.
Q To what do you attribute the change in the Taliban activity in that area?
COL. DALY: Okay. If I heard your question -- all I heard was "the Taliban activity." Let me just say again that there was Taliban activity into this region, got Operation Shaheen Sahara. We went in. We went after Taliban known target areas. And right now, after destroying Taliban and capturing some, we are now doing stability operations. We are -- we have humanitarian relief going into that area as well. We are still there.
If I may help out with some of this, this is a region that did not see much activity from the Taliban -- correction, it did not see much activity from the government because it was so remote. In a minute, Hakim (sp), I'm going to ask the general to talk about the Taliban activity that he saw out there, but I just wanted to say that not only did this government get out there and go after the Taliban, they stayed out there, and they're out there right now.
GEN. ALI: The Taliban in those areas were closing the schools for the people, especially in -- (off mike) -- area. And they were very disturbance (sic) for the company which is constructing the road there. So that's why -- they were stopping the road construction there. That's why the people came up with a suggestion of us doing operations. And we did. Shaheen Sahara Operation had been planned because of the press from the Taliban on the people. And that's why we -- and also the people there -- (audio break) -- this operation.
COL. DALY: Any other questions, please.
MODERATOR: Go ahead, Jim.
Q Can you explain whether the Taliban that you've been seeing -- (off mike). (Technical difficulties.)
MODERATOR: Okay let me try it from the mike here. I think -- if I can paraphrase it.
Can you describe where the Taliban are coming from and why you may -- why you believe that they are coming into this area?
COL. DALY: OK sir - I have the question. Thank you very much.
We don't know exactly where the Taliban are coming from, but we do know there was Taliban activity in this north region. (Audio break) ..some limited activity, as the general said, around Ring Road and in the towns of that region there. So we went into that region and went after the Taliban. If they came somewhere, if they migrated from some other area, that information I do not have.
MODERATOR: Give it a try.
Q Is it possible that they came from the people in that area?
COL. DALY: I'm sorry. I did not hear your question, sir.
MODERATOR: The question was: Is it possible that the people that were causing the disruption, the Taliban involved in these activities, could they be from the area? In other words, is it possible that they could be being radicalized right there in their own region?
COL. DALY: Okay. I got your question that time, and this is what I can tell you about -- (audio break).
When we were in the area and we conducted these battles, and when we were talking with the elders, every town told us basically the same story. These people are not local. They didn't say where they came from; they just said that they were not local. They came and they hang around in these groups, which we call -- those are Taliban groups, but they were not some of the towns that we went into. Where they came from that, I do not know.
MODERATOR: Okay. Very good. Let's go to Mike and then we'll go to Donna.
Q Colonel, it's Mike Mount with CNN. Following on that same line of questioning, it looks like you have at least four high-value targets and you've maybe captured some others in that operation. Do you have any intelligence that these Taliban are starting to mass move from elsewhere in the country and starting to mass in these ungoverned areas in the north?
COL. DALY: (Audio break) -- we have no intelligence that says they're trying to mass in that area.
As a matter of fact, since we've conducted these operations, you are correct that we did capture four high-value targets. And we estimate that we've killed 25 Taliban, and we estimate that we wounded 25. And like I said, we had the four high-value targets. But there's no indication that they're massing in that area.
This operation's been over now for about two or three weeks, the decisive phase, and right now, for the stability phase, there's been no attacks at all to indicate anything like that. So we're continuing -- conducting humanitarian efforts now, and showing that the governments in that area are providing stability.
MODERATOR: Okay, Donna.
Q Donna Miles from the American Forces Press Service. I'm curious, as these operations continue, what changes you're doing and how you are mentoring these Afghan forces, what changes to their training programs you're implementing.
COL. DALY: If I could ask someone -- I only heard part of that question -- if you could try again, sir, to repeat her question for us, we're more than glad to answer it.
MODERATOR: Let me see if I can paraphrase for you here a little bit. In terms of these operations, what are you learning from them? And how is it affecting what you're doing in terms of training in order to counter these -- counter this influence that's in the area?
COL. DALY: Okay. I think I understood some of her question.
Let me start off with what we're learning from this operation. Let me just tell you that -- what I've learned from this operation and we think everyone else needs to learn about this operation is that the Afghans had the lead and the Afghans were in the lead. And I'm not just talking about the army. This was an operation with the army and the police.
If we were in a region where there was high threat, the army went in first. If it was an operation where there was no sense of high threat -- (brief audio break) -- circled around the area, provided the security, and the police went in first. But in every event, the police and the army worked together. So that's the first thing that we learned.
I'll talk a little bit about the Afghans. They did very, very well at the company and the battalion level, and of course at the levels before -- below that.
In the north, where we're located at, General Murad Ali has one brigade, so operating that brigade and his corps headquarters and integrating that with these ISAF forces -- that we've learned a lot about. It's the first time we did an operation like this in the north.
And then furthermore, he's doing those operations now, stability, with the police and what is required to do that, the logistics to stay in that area. They have elected to remain in that area.
They're there now. And in some cases, the police, in particular, don't have all the logistics needed -- (inaudible) -- how we can get the necessary items to do that. So we learned a lot about that at the senior level and how to orchestrate, how to coordinate that operation.
I hope I answered your question.
Q (Off mike.)
MODERATOR: Sure. Go ahead.
Q I'd like to do a follow-on, please. I'm curious. You said the police don't have the logistical support they need in these operations. Were you able identify some of the gaps in things that they might need to operate independently?
COL. DALY: I'm terribly sorry, ma'am. I did not hear the question. If I could get someone to paraphrase that. (Inaudible) -- so if I could -- please ask that question again.
MODERATOR: Sure. It has to do with your mentioning of the police and the logistical support and the gaps that they have, if you could identify what some of those gaps and what you are trying to do to remedy some of those?
COL. DALY: Okay. Thank you very much. In a minute, I'm going to ask the general the same thing.
About the police, now, first off, the army has been -- (inaudible) -- assistance and training programs basically over the last five years. So over the last year there's been major efforts by my headquarters here in Kabul as well as the Afghan national government to get the police at a point where they -- (inaudible). Some of those programs include pay and rank reform.
They include pay parity, so that the pay of the individual policeman -- is that comparable to the soldiers' upon the ground there?
The -- we have a focused district development where we are going to go into a district, take the police out, give them an eight-week training program, and then give them the equipment that goes with that. So we've got these programs to try and get the police up to the same status with the army.
And in this particular operation, the army and the police worked together all along in the planning phase, even though there were some logistics issues.
General, do you want to say -- (inaudible)? Please.
GEN. ALI: The ANP has nearly been reformed with the pay, with everything. All the (inaudible word) are trying to get all those logistical problems they have to solve. So the key players are working on that to get those problems solved.
The operation named Shaheen Sahara has been conducted with the joint -- with the joint efforts of the police, and AP has showed for us that if you are doing or conducting operations together with them, they can maintain those places that is being captured together.
So on the logistical side, as I just mentioned, trials, or tenacity are going on, on those, and it's going to get solved by the pass of time.
COL. DALY: Next question, please?
MODERATOR: Let's go to Al, and then I'll probably have to finish up with Courtney here.
Q Colonel, it's Al Pessin from Voice of America. Can you tell us something more about the four high-value detainees? Who were they? Where were they from? What sort of networks were they involved in?
COL. DALY: Sir, if I could you ask to repeat his question for us -- I'm terribly sorry. I did not hear it.
MODERATOR: That's okay. The question was about the four high- value detainees, and if you could shed any light on who they were, where they came from, networks that they were associated with, any additional clarity on the four.
COL. DALY: Okay. Your question was, what can I tell you about the four high-value targets? That is still part of the current operation, and I'm really not at liberty to talk about who they were and where they're from.
But if I may say something about the handling of prisoners, when we conducted this operation, the prisoners were handled by the Afghan National Army and then they were turned over to the Afghan National Police. They were treated humanely during this whole process, and our teaching and coaching -- (inaudible) -- I was there -- we -- (audio break) -- that was handled rather well. So it was handled completely by the Afghans. And to be honest with you right now, where they're at and all that kind of information, that's handled by the Afghans, and I do not have it, sir.
MODERATOR: Hey, Courtney.
Q Hi, Colonel. It's Courtney for NBC again. Are there specific logistical shortfalls among the police you can tell us, equipment -- specific equipment needs that the Afghan National Police do not have?
And then also, a few months ago we were hearing that some of these illegal checkpoints along the ring road and on some of the other areas, I believe in the north, were actually set up by local Afghan police and not necessarily by Taliban who would come into the area. Is that still a problem that you're seeing? Is it something that you're combatting now?
COL. DALY: Okay, ma'am, I don't think I got all of your question, but I understand it was two parts. First was about equipment shortage for the police and the second was something about roadblocks by Taliban or the police up there.
Let me answer your second question first. There is no instances that have come to my attention where the Taliban, if I heard you right, dressed as police or something like that in the northern region. There is some of that going on to the west, that’s why we were out there, but I don't know about that.
Let me go back to the question about the equipment shortages of the police, and then I'm going to ask the general to talk about that as well.
The police have equipment. Unfortunately, they don't have the equipment that we want, and it's very old. The weapons are very old. They're -- you will go see the police at a checkpoint, and one will be wearing a summer uniform, the other will be wearing a winter uniform, and that's all that they have. And they're terribly short on the logistics to maintain that. For example, there out on checkpoints right now and they don’t have the fuel to maintain that.
So that's the kind of stuff that they're short.
And again, I would just like to bring to your attention, before I talk to General Murad Ali about the police, that there is many efforts now under way with this high headquarters here in Kabul and the police, the Afghan national headquarters here, to get the police up to par. I've talked about pay and rank reform. I've talked about electronic fund transfer. I've talked about getting the equipment up to standard and issuing out their standard types of equipment. So these are programs that are under way.
In the north we're going to see a lot of that taking place, focused district development. One district is going to start for us here in just a couple weeks, so we're starting to do that way.
General Ali do you have any questions about shortages of police equipment.
GEN. ALI: There are some problems with equipment. As I mentioned the effort is going on to get those problems and they're working on it.
COL. DALY: Ma'am, if I may add something about the police equipment, we coach, teach and mentor the police as well. For example, on the army side, they have five battalions, and I have five embedded training teams, ETTs, that work with the army. On the police, it's a little bit different. There are 118 districts in the Northern Province, and I have 16 police mentor teams. So you can see that there is already a gap right there. So we are going about helping to get more assistance there to make that happen, but these are efforts that we're just starting to get the police not just equipment, but the leadership and the training like we have with the army.
MODERATOR: Well, Colonel and General, we have reached the end of our time, but before I bring it to a close, let me just turn it back to you in case there are any final remarks that you might want to make.
COL. DALY: Okay. Thank you. I do have a couple closing comments for you.
The first thing I would like to tell you is thank you very much for sharing your time with us today, and I'm sorry that there was some audio on there. I am honored to serve with so many dedicated soldiers, sailors and air men who are genuinely committed to the development of the Afghan national security forces.
I'd like to say something about the Afghans. Listen, war is a performance business, and the Afghans are performing very well. They do need help in enabling capabilities. I didn't get a chance to talk about that. They need the capabilities of air support, medical support, correction - medevac like that, and logistics.
However, they are in the front, and they are in the fight, and they are fearless in battle. They are a people worth fighting and dying for.
General -- (inaudible).
GEN. ALI: Thanks. People, government, our friend- country of U.S., you -- (inaudible) -- help, support to the people of Afghanistan on having elected government, elected parliament and elected constitution law, based on Islam regulation. So it has been succeeded.
In the same time, for defending of these values, the Afghan National Army is representing all the tribes in Afghanistan, is in the development process. And the Afghan National Army is having a very good skill on how to – how to fight against the insurgents and the enemy of Afghanistan.
COL. DALY: General, thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Well, thank you for spending some time with us and particularly for persevering through some of our technical difficulties. We appreciate your time and for letting us know about the operations that are taking place in your region there. Thank you very much.
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