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Statement by British Maj. Gen. Carter from Afghanistan

Presenters: Commander, NATO-ISAF Regional Command South British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter
July 21, 2010

[Maj. Gen. Carter’s opening statement is provided without reporter questions and answers due to loss of teleconference signal from Afghanistan.]

                 GEN. CARTER:  What I was proposing to do was to talk sort of 15 to 20 minutes, to give people a sense of what's going on, in Regional Command South and Kandahar in particular, and then obviously take questions thereafter.   

                 The last time I did this I think was on about the 26th of May, so about eight weeks ago.  And indeed a good deal has occurred since that date and during the last eight weeks.   

                 Of course just to remind people, RC South now no longer owns Helmand and Nimroz.  That's now RC Southwest, which has allowed us to focus our attention on Uruzgan, Zabul and Kandahar, which are the three key provinces in RC South.  And of course, some interest in Daikundi, which is the province to the north up towards Kabul.   

                 That means this command now is about 38,000-strong, a mixture of U.S., Canadian, Dutch, Australian, Romanian and British troops.  Those are the main nations.   

                 And what I'm going to do is just to give one a quick overview of the geography that I'm going to focus on.  And I hope that you've got in front of you a diagram that shows the area around Kandahar. 

                 In terms of the scale, we're talking about a map that is about 60 kilometers square.  The city, which is halfway up on the right-hand side of the diagram, is around 10 kilometers square.  The key feature on here, really, is the river Arghandab, which flows from the northeastern or top right-hand side of the diagram away to the southwest. 

                 Now this river flows throughout the year, unlike many of the rivers in Afghanistan.  And it does have significant irrigation that comes off it in terms of canals and ditches.  And indeed, off the diagram, to the northeast, it is dammed -- some have called it the Dahla Dam -- which was a project initiated by the Tennessee Valley Authority back in the 1940s.  And this project is a significant project, because what it has done is to really open up the sort of green space to left and to right of the river, and therefore it sustains a significant amount of population density. 

                 The economy is clearly focused on agriculture, given the nature of all of that, and it's really about fruit.  In the Arghandab valley, which is the northeastern part of the diagram, it's about orchards of pomegranates, predominately, but also apricots, peaches, nectarines, those sorts of things.   

                 And to the south and southwest, we're talking about vineyards, with big -- with grapes -- not being grown as they might be in California off vines, but off earthen mounds, which makes the going very difficult if you're a military person. 

                 Kandahar is also a key trading hub.  It sits on Highway 1, which connects Kabul with Kandahar and then away to the west to Lashkar Gah and Herat.  And of course it also has a highway that runs southeast out of Kandahar down to the Pakistani border at Spin Buldak.  It's been a key trading hub forever, and really the idea of silk routes and all of that have all flowed through Kandahar.  And therefore it is a significant place in terms of that sort of aspect of economics. 

                 However, having said that, there's really been no major investment in the city since the late '70s.  And what you find is a pretty typical Central Asian city, but it's one that is rapidly crumbling as a result of that lack of investment.  

                 In terms of the population, in the diagram you see in front of you around a million people live, of which about 500,000 live in the city itself.  

                 In terms of the sort of scale, I guess the nearest comparison I can think of is probably the city of San Diego, but of course -- (12-second audio break) -- environs of the city, particularly in Arghandab, to the north of the city, but also in those rural areas of Zari and Panjwayi in the center of the diagram, particularly in the space to the south of Highway 1 and to the north of the river, right in the center of the diagram, and also to the south of the river, between the Arghandab -- (11-second audio break) -- movement between the towns of Pashmul and west to Nalgham and then to the west of Panjwayi itself -- (20-second audio break) -- mafias, militias, reminiscent perhaps of Moscow in the 1990s or, if you will allow me to be impertinent for a moment, maybe Boston in the 1930s, where things are being driven really by protection rackets and extortion and that sort of background. 

                 Now, to understand that, of course, you really need to go back in history to see why we've ended up with that sort of environment in Kandahar city and around it.  And, of course, if you go back to the end of the Russian occupation, what happened at that point was that the traditional tribal aristocracy through which the size of -- (26-second audio break) -- filled by what I would describe as a personality-driven political order, where loyalties are not to the government or to institutions; they tend to be to individuals.  And powerful individuals have therefore created these pyramids or networks of patronage, with loyalty stemming up that pyramid to the powerful figure at the top of it. 

                 Now, of course, this problem is compounded by very weak governance.  And what you find in the cities -- people may have heard me say before -- is a mayor whose office is small, it's understaffed; he is a one-man band to all intents and purposes, and trying to run a municipality -- (10-second audio break) -- Governor Wisa -- again, his capacity in governance terms is relatively weak, although it's growing on a daily basis, and I shall return to that. 

                 Now, in terms of the way that we are approaching this problem, we see it really along four lines of operation.  The goal of all of those lines of operation is ultimately -- (terminal audio break, ends in progress). 

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