COL. DAVID LAPAN (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Media Operations): Good morning, all here at the Pentagon, and good evening in Afghanistan.
I'd like to welcome to the Pentagon Briefing Room via digital video Major General John Campbell, commanding general for Regional Command East in Afghanistan. General Campbell assumed his duties just over one month ago on June 14th, and he joins us today from his headquarters at Bagram Air Field.
General Campbell is joined today by Mr. Thomas Gibbons, the senior civilian representative for Combined Joint Task Force 101.
Let me briefly note at the top that our speakers today will be limited in answering specific questions related to the recent Wikileaks release of documents and about efforts to locate our missing sailor. As you might expect, with the efforts ongoing for the search and recovery, we don't want to jeopardize that.
So General Campbell and Mr. Gibbons, thank you for joining us. I'll turn it over to you to make some opening comments, and then we'll take your questions.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay, thanks very much. And I was going to say up front that Tom will handle any questions on governance, development, the Wiki page, DUSTWUN [duty status whereabouts unknown], governors, provinces, Pakistan, and I'll take any other questions (laughter). But it's great to be here, morning in Washington, D.C., evening here in Bagram, Afghanistan.
As we talked about, we assumed command of RC East on the 14th of June from the great 82nd Airborne Division. Our appreciation again to Major General Scaparrotti and his folks for a smooth transition.
We've been on the ground since the 14th there and working hard toward our campaign objectives of protecting the people here in RC East.
I think you know that RC East is 14 provinces surrounding the capital of Kabul, about nine million people. We're really working hard toward connecting the people with the government.
Some changes that you'll see between the last rotation to this rotation is we're really going to focus on the police. We've been on the army in combined action with the army very well for the last several years. General Rodriguez has asked us to focus on the police, so we're making some changes now to make sure that we can do that.
We've also got a great civilian uptick that Tom will talk about, both in the State, USAID and the agricultural development. He'll talk those numbers.
We've really integrated our civ-mil campaign, and we can talk about that tonight.
We're going to focus at the district level for the governance and also the security. We believe that we're going to fall in on the campaign plan of ISAF and IJC that were nested very well.
There's 83 key terrain districts in all of Afghanistan. RC East has 40 of those. So we'll focus our resources and priority of effort those 40 key terrain districts.
We think we have some opportunities in the Pak-mil side to look forward to, so we're going to work hard on that; great opportunities at Torkham Gate, and we can discuss that if you have questions.
We really do believe that as soon as Force Package 3 comes in, which will be the 4th Brigade of the 101st from Fort Campbell, that we'll have all the right resources, the right leadership and really the right strategy to take this to the next step.
It is really unity of action, working toward combined action by, through and with our combined partners, and in unified effort with our civilian uptick here as well. So we're really looking forward to that.
I'd really like to introduce Tom. Been in country about the same amount of time. Just came back here after he got to know his family. Came out of Manila. Came here for the change of command, spent a couple days with us, went back to D.C., and has been on the ground here for about two weeks.
So, Tom, I'll just turn it over to you for any opening comments.
MR. GIBBONS: Thanks very much, John. Appreciate it.
Morning, all. It's good to be here.
As General Campbell said, it's a very joint and combined effort here. As he mentioned there -- we're now up to about 200 civilians here in Regional Command East, up from just about 35 last year. So it's a very strong sense of commitment from our civilian participants who are coming from -- (audio break) – USAID, Department of Treasury, U.S. Agriculture Department. But -- and we're closely knit up at every level with our military counterparts here, here at the command level, at the provincial level, and down at the district support team level.
But it's not just about us and the 101st Airborne. We have an array of other partners we're working with here -- Afghan officials at the provincial and district level. Nearly 7,000 Afghan citizens who work with our -- work as implementers with -- on USAID programs and elsewhere.
But it's also a very international effort. We have nearly a dozen foreign military and civilian forces who are here with us in Regional Command East. Our -- there are French and Polish forces who each control a province, and there are -- we have Provincial Reconstruction Teams from Turkey -- (audio break) -- Republic and other countries. We -- (audio break) -- recently -- (audio break) -- to welcome both -- (audio break) -- Afghan citizens.
So it's a very broad coalition of partners, working closely and very pleased to be here.
GEN. CAMPBELL: With that, we'd really just open up for any questions that you have.
COL. LAPAN: Anne.
Q Sir, this is Anne Flaherty with Associated Press. What status update can you give us about the missing sailor and any details that you can provide about the circumstances under which he went missing?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Yeah, I think they just talked about the rules of engagement at the beginning that I would not talk about that subject, just based on ongoing recovery operations. So I'm not going to go there.
COL. LAPAN: Barbara.
Q General Campbell, Barbara Starr from CNN. When you look at something like Wikileaks, as a commander, what concerns you about the -- specifically, if you can, about the disclosure of that type of information and the risk that it can pose to troops, operations and Afghan civilians who assist you? And I ask this because so many people are trying to assess is this really a critical leak of information, or is it just a huge volume of relatively low-level material.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Hi, Barbara. Good to see you again.
First off as you know, we've been tied up with this DUSTWUN operation. So I've not really read any of the 92,000-plus documents that have reported to be leaked.
I would just tell you from my perspective though, anytime there's any sort of leak of classified material, it has the potential to harm or put in harm's way the military folks that are working out here every day, to preserve that.
So I have not seen any specific examples of what's in that. I've been tied up with this DUSTWUN operation 24/7. If it does in fact name names of people that have worked with coalition forces, I could see that that would have a detriment down the road.
My read just briefly from looking at a couple articles early this morning is that much of the stuff that has come out there is really not new news. It's between 2004 and I think December 2009. Most of that I think we've heard about.
So I didn't think there was anything staggering or new that we didn't know. There are some issues there about the Pakistan interaction and the tie-in with what's going on over here.
I would just tell you that we're really working hard with our Pakistan counterparts. I have Pakistani LNOs in the JOC here. I've been over to Pakistan since I've been here, to work with the XI Corps and the Frontier Corps.
I think we have a great opportunity here in the next six to nine months, with the leadership that we have on the border of Pakistan and down to the battalion level, to really work that aggressively.
There have been a lot of operations the last year-plus in Pakistan along the border. I think they realize that we face a common foe and we have to work together, to get rid of that common foe, to make sure that we don't have safe havens in Pakistan.
And some -- I think there's some potential to do good stuff. But as far as the Wikileaks, I don't think there's a great impact currently on us here today. And we have not changed any of our operations or any strategy here based on that.
I hope that got your question right.
Q General, Julian Barnes here with The Wall Street Journal.
I wanted to ask you a little bit about the Haqqani network, which does have a safe haven in Pakistan, operates in your area. Some analysts here have said that operations have diminished the Haqqani network's ability to mount attacks into Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan.
What sort of recent actions have you guys taken against them? What's the sort of status of the Haqqani network in RC East?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Hey, Julian, good to see you as well.
And you know, as I think has been noted before, the Haqqani network is probably one of the most dangerous networks here that we face -- direct tie right back into Kabul, for years has been based out of Khost and Paktia and has now moved into several different provinces like Wardak and Logar.
If you take a look at what happened with the Kabul conference here last week, where the Haqqani network and other insurgent networks had claimed that they would really attack that, and their desired goal was to upset and disrupt that convention.
And as you saw, the result was, they were not able to do that, that's because of the great work done by the coalition forces in and around Kabul, by our special operating forces, and then by our Afghan partners.
So it is still a very deadly network -- (audio break) -- work on every single day, one that I think is responsible for many of the spectacular attacks that you see here, to include the suicide attacks.
I think you know a couple weeks ago, we had the very first female suicide bomber up in Kunar. And I think over the course of the last nine years, there's been about 450, somewhere around there, suicide attacks in Afghanistan. And that's the first by a female, which really shows you that I think the Haqqani network is getting a little bit desperate, that they've stooped down to use females as suicide bombers, really disgracing the Muslim culture here of doing that.
You know, they take no holds barred against killing innocent women, children, Afghans every single day. They're in cahoots with Mullah Omar and the Taliban, have gone out recently and publicly said attack civilians, women and children that are working with the coalition forces and the Afghan national security forces.
I think that the Afghan network is a threat and will remain a threat. And we'll continue to work at disrupting them and neutralizing the Afghani- - the Haqqani network.
MR. GIBBONS: While there are a lot of aggressive military operations going on, General Campbell and his forces have worked very, very closely with the Afghan national army and Afghan national police.
And there are significant portions of Regional Command East that are accessible every day to our civilian and military forces, to go out and carry out the kind of development work that's going to make the -- that we -- that aims to make this a more stable and prosperous country.
We've got about 90 civilians who are out in Provincial Reconstruction Teams and district support teams. Many of them are out every day working with district-level and provincial-level officials, carrying out agricultural programs, infrastructure programs like -- (audio break) -- electricity capacity, education and health programs.
So while there's a tremendous focus on the kinetic side of this, there's also a lot of progress being made and a lot of effort being made on a daily basis here throughout Regional Command East, in order to stabilize and help develop Afghanistan.
Q General, this is Lalit Jha, from Pahjwok Afghan News and Press Trust of India.
Following up on Haqqani Network, it has not been declared as a foreign terrorist organization yet. Does it any way impact on its operations inside Afghanistan?
GEN. CAMPBELL: I had a hard time hearing the question. I think you asked that the Haqqani Network has not been declared a foreign terrorist organization, and does that impact on what we do.
Once again, Haqqani Network is a agile enemy that we've been going against here for the last several years. We continue to work it very hard. You have to attack it as a network. If it was declared a foreign terrorist organization, there are certain other factors that other organizations, whether it's Treasury, State, international communities, could enact against the Haqqani Network that could potentially help or disrupt the Haqqani Network. So in my view right now -- and I think both General Petraeus and General Rodriguez have said that we're working toward that. And I know that has to -- that call is made at level -- (audio break) -- Haqqani Network. And, you know, every day, the attacks against our coalition soldiers, against the -- against the people of Afghanistan, many of those come from the Haqqani Network.
And I've really got to talk about civ-cavs when we talk about that as well, because there's some misconceptions about civilian casualties that's coming out in the last couple of weeks. I know General Petraeus has mentioned this a little bit. But I don't think people back in the United States have a good appreciation about the civilian casualties. And if you just read the paper or listened to the news, you would think that the coalition forces and the Afghan forces were the ones that were causing civ-cavs. But on any given day, 90 percent -- the average for the last six months is 90 percent are caused by the insurgents -- many of those from the Haqqani Network -- 90 percent; so nine out of 10. And out of that 10 percent that are not from the insurgents, probably about 50 percent of those from the coalition forces are based on EOF, or escalation of forces.
So I think people all around the international community have a -- don't really understand the impact of how desperate the insurgents are, of attacking civilian casualties -- and have no qualms about killing, you know, innocent children, women and children, all throughout Afghanistan. So I just wanted to bring that piece up.
Q General Campbell, this is Joe Tabet, with Al Hurra Channel.
As you know, General Petraeus and President Karzai have agreed lately to create what you call the village forces. Could you explain to us, from your point of view, how this plan will help in facing or defeating the insurgency?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Yeah, well, I'm just having a little bit hard time hearing you. I think the question was both President Karzai and General Petraeus have talked about creating what are -- (audio break) -- the local police initiative. And the president signed that decree here, I think within the last week. It's going to be an Afghan lead -- an Afghan-run program, out of the Ministry of Interior. The coalition forces will be in support. Known as LPF: local police forces.
They'll determine areas maybe where we cannot get the ANP, Afghan National Police, or ANA, the Afghan National Army -- maybe some remote places that we still do need security, that the people of the local village have stood up and said, "We want to defend our community." Working through the local tribal elders, they will vet those folks there, and they will defend their local villages. Once again, the implementation for that and the instructions on how that will work have not come down from the government of Afghanistan. We'll work very closely with them, but we will be in a supporting role.
I think we've seen this work in Iraq very well, with the Sons of Iraq.
And I think we've seen it in different places in Afghanistan over the last couple years, where we've had one location up in Wardak where we've had that work very successfully over the last year under a different name, AP-3 -- APF-3 [Afghan Public Protection Program] in Wardak that has worked very successfully in RC East, and that's the only location.
Right now we're taking a look within RC East if there are places that we can work this. And we'll once again -- we'll work through our Afghan forces, through the MOI to make sure that we implement this by the bylaws that are set down by the president. But -- (audio break) -- the implementing instructions have not come down.
Q Just -- may I follow up?
MR. GIBBONS: (Audio break) -- General Campbell's forces in the 101st and also some civilian folks who've come over are working every day side by side with Afghan National -- Afghan National Police forces to work on training, help them set up communications and -- (audio break) -- law-enforcement professionals who've come over who have extensive background in law enforcement in the United States. So even as that -- (audio break) -- develops, we're already on the ground throughout the districts in Regional Command East, engaging very effective and aggressive training program -- the Afghan National -- (audio break).
Q Quick follow-up, sir. Have you seen lately any changes in the Taliban tactics and techniques, especially what we heard in the past two days regarding that they have surface-air missiles? Do you have any comments on that, any information?
GEN. CAMPBELL: I think the question was have we seen any change to Taliban tactics, especially air to -- ground-to-air missiles, I think is what you said. I have not seen ground-to-air missiles in RC East in the time that I have been here. We do see small-arms fire. We do see RPGs that are aimed at -- aimed at our aviation assets. We have seen mortar fire, have come close to aviation assets. But I've not see the ground-to-air missiles.
One of the tactics that has changed over the years is that you do see men now dressed up in burqas that'll go throughout the villages. It's something that we hadn't seen in years past.
You know, in the last six months -- or the first six months of 2010, compared to the first six months of 2009, the number of attacks -- whether it's complex attacks, small-arms fire, IEDs -- have risen about 12 percent. But the effectiveness of those attacks have gone down about six percent. I think we realized that as we bring in additional forces that the number of attacks will go up. And I think we're seeing that.
I think we all know in the summer time frame that it is the fighting season, and we expect and we know that we'll have a tough summer as we bring in additional forces. The insurgents will not let us bring in additional forces without trying to make a statement themselves. They just can't sit back and do that.
So we still have not brought in our fourth brigade into RC East. Not all the forces are set in RC South. And it'll take a while to see the effects of the uptick or the surge of forces here.
But not a lot of changes in the TTPs that I think you brought up; only in that I think we've seen instances where, because of the great aggressive operations by the coalition forces and by our Afghan counterparts, that many times where we would have expected a continuous battle, that they did not have the required ammunition, they did not have the spirit or the guts to continue that fight, and it is sort of a hit and then run.
So -- and then the other tactic, once again, and I can't stress this enough, is that they've really moved toward attacking the Afghan people. And that was brought up again, like I said, by Mullah Omar about a week ago, where they declared that they had to do that. And that just shows an act of desperation.
COL. LAPAN: Courtney.
Q Hi General Campbell. This is Courtney Kube from NBC News. I just want to ask you about a couple things that you said, ask you to clarify, maybe. The first is, you mentioned that the Haqqani network has direct ties into Kabul. What exactly do you mean by that? Can you expand on that a little bit?
And then also, what's your best estimate of how large the Haqqani network is in Afghanistan specifically? I know you may not be able to get exact numbers of fighters, but can you give us a number in the hundreds or thousands?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Hey, Courtney. Good to see you again. Two great questions.
First one -- and I may have misspoke, or didn't articulate that right. What I meant is they've really developed -- the Haqqani network has really developed, you know, out of Khost. And then it's moved into Paktika and Paktia. And that's been the normal ground there with the Zadran tribe over the years; and a direct tie meaning a route of movement into southern Kabul, and that has to go through Wardak and Logar. So I think that the routes that lead into the capital of Kabul go right up through there, and that's what I meant by the ties.
As far as a number, a specific number on how many Haqqani we're facing inside of -- inside of RC East, I don't have a good number. I would say it's well over hundreds. You said hundreds. I think it's well over the hundreds. I would tell you that they have no issue of recruiting, though, as they use tactics and intimidate military-age males and now females to incite them to attack coalition forces.
And there's no loss of the ability to recruit. We've seen places, especially in Khost and Patika, along the border, where we've had significant engagements and where we know that we have -- we have killed many, many insurgents. And actually they come back at it, so I know that there's no issues with recruiting. And we'll continue to work at that, and we have to attack that as a network to work at that.
COL. LAPAN: Okay.
Q General, it's Mary Walsh from CBS News. Why do you -- is the -- is the July 2011 deadline affecting you in your operations? And what are you telling the Afghans that you're working with about the -- that deadline? There was congressional testimony yesterday that the Taliban is using that as a way to tell the people that "The Americans are leaving, and that's 18 months -- 18 months away or a year away. And what are you going to do, you know, the month after the Americans are gone?" So how is it affecting you?
GEN. CAMPBELL: You know, the question, I think, is how does the July 2011 statements affect our operations here in RC East? And they don't. You know, it's been made out several times, both from General Petraeus, from the president of the United States, from General Rodriguez that July of 2011, we'll make an assessment. And based on conditions on the ground, we'll take a look at how we can adjust our force posture.
So right now, from RC East, I've got a year until that time frame. There will be a lot of things that happen day to day over the next year that will impact RC East. I'm not doing anything or changing how I'm attacking the problem set that we have here based on that date.
I really do believe that, you know, personally we've blown that -- (audio break) -- taken that out of context and in being able to use that against the Afghan people there in the coalition forces. I don't see it as an impediment to the strategy that we have here in RC East or all of Afghanistan.
And I know that several people and my bosses have said -- (inaudible) -- conditions-based on the ground. And we'll take a look at it once that time frame comes. We have a lot of work to do between now and July of 2011, and I think the Afghan people -- the Afghan national security forces, the idea was to understand that, we've explained to them. Because we've had to go back because of the pressure in the newspapers and the press and what they hear, that, "Hey, the coalition forces are leaving." They have questioned. They have come back to us and said, "Hey, are you leaving?" And we've had to go back and tell them, "This is an enduring relationship. We will be here with you, side by side, "shona ba shona" which is shoulder to shoulder. And so I think through our combined action with our Afghan partners every single day, they understand that this is an enduring relationship; it is an important relationship to us and we're not leaving them.
Now what I am doing is, I'm -- as I said at the beginning, I'm moving off some of the Army. There are many places that the Army is working pretty well. And I can take those forces and those resources and align them with the police at the district level. And I'm going to do that over the next year, and the Army folks that I deal with understand that.
But we have had to go back several times and reassure our counterparts that we are here. And I think they see that our actions speak louder than what they're seeing in the papers that say something about the U.S. is leaving here in 2011 because that's absolutely false.
COL. LAPAN: (Off mike.)
Q (Off mike.)
MR. GIBBONS: (Off mike) -- clear. This is a long-term commitment to creating a peaceful, stable, prosperous Afghanistan that is no longer a safe haven for extremists. And on the civilian side, we've increased our numbers here to nearly 200. And we've got more civilians on the way to help implement programs. We have multi- year programs in agriculture, infrastructure, education and health. And it's a sign of our commitment -- (audio break) -- continuing to build on the progress that's been made so far.
Q Thank you. This is Raghubir Goyal from India Globe and Asia today. My question is that so much has been written and said about the recent happenings in Afghanistan over this week. But what -- my question is that, what is the mood of the people of Afghanistan, is there or also in the military, as far as this leak is concerned, and also the change in the leadership there? And what is the future, you think?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay, we just had a jet fly over and we had a hard time hearing the question. I think the question was, how is the mood of the people? Could you repeat it? We're just having a hard time hearing that question.
Q Yes, that's right. What's the mood among the military there and also among the people of Afghanistan as far as whatever is happening in the news media and also over these leaks? And I understand this is not new, everybody knew whatever was going on as far as the Haqqani Network or ISI involvement in Afghanistan.
GEN. CAMPBELL: I think I got that what's the mood of the people in Afghanistan based on leaks, the Haqqani piece of it. You know, I think it's different throughout RC East. Many places where we focus and the resources have been there and they have good governance at the district level, and the local governance and the sub-governors are looking out for the people in those villages, in those towns, in those districts, the mood, of course, is good.
In other areas, where you have abuses -- (inaudible) -- governors or governors and you don't have all the resources and they're not providing the needs of the people, then the mood is not good. And then there's other places in Afghanistan that are very isolated, away from Kabul, and, you know, they really don't want the Taliban there and in some places they don't want the coalition forces there. (Inaudible) -- mood is, don't force something on us.
So I think it depends on where you are in RC East about how you feel toward the government. I would tell you that every single day, both the civilians and the coalition forces, along with our Afghan counterparts, are out there among the people. We changed this up a couple months ago under the strategy of population-centric counterinsurgency, and you have to be with the people.
So we're really tied in, moving with the Afghan forces. All of the COBs and FOBs are joint COBs and FOBs, so they're living 24/7 with our Afghan counterparts. Most of then have both Afghan army and Afghan police, and many of them have Afghan border patrol. And so the ones that we don't, we'll continue to move those closer together so that we can work a combined action.
All of the patrols, all of the operations that we do here are by, through and with our Afghan counterparts, from the very initial stages of the planning all the way through execution. And all of those involve understanding what the people need, understanding what the people want. Many, many days, the primary task is for that ANSF unit and that coalition unit to go out into that village and talk to the people to find out where we can help the people.
So I think the mood depends upon where you're at. Where we have ANSF, where we have coalition partners, the mood is good. Where we've been able to bring in governance, development and projects, the mood is good. Where we haven't, and where the Taliban are coming in, the mood is bad, because they don't bring in governance. They don't care about governance. They care about killing innocent people and children. So I think wherever the Taliban is, the fear and intimidation that they bring forward, that mood is completely different from where you have good governance. Where the coalition is, where the ANSF is, they bring hope. And I think where you have hope, the mood is going to be good.
So, Tom, I'd defer to you on your --
MR. GIBBONS: No, I think it's absolutely right, that there is a sense of hope. It is a variable situation. We have three provinces here, Bamyan, Parwan and Panjshir, where it is significantly more stable. Our civilian folks up there are able to move around without heavy security and meet with government officials and implement our development programs in a freer way.
One sort of more subjective observation is that every day General Campbell and I -- nearly every day we fly out and visit provincial reconstruction teams and our military and civilian forces out there. And I can tell you from the helicopter-eye view, there's an enormous amount of construction that's going on -- homes, farms -- throughout the Regional Command East. And, you know, that in itself, I think, is a sign that people feel more hope and have a sense of looking forward toward the future. But we will continue, with all the variety of programs that we have here, to build on that.
One other thing that I think that we've noticed an increase of interest in is that there's going to be coming elections here in the middle of September, parliamentary elections. And we've held numerous discussions with provincial governors and election officials to see how their preparations for that are going on.
And there's a very intensive effort to ensure that these will be -- these elections will be as safe and effective as possible.
So I think that people are looking forward to the future here, and we're doing our best to help them create a better future.
COL. LAPAN: We have time for one more. Go ahead.
Q Good morning, General. Carlos Hamann with AFP news. Just wondering what impact you're feeling in that area from military operations on the Pakistani side of the border. I mean, are you seeing, for example, an increase in Taliban fighters being pushed over?
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay, once again, having a little bit hard time. I think the question was are we seeing an increase of fighters and how is the fighting along the border.
Once again, we have probably about 490 kilometers of border with Pakistan. One of the first places I went when I -- when I came here was to Pakistan to meet the XI Corps commander and Tariq Khan, the Frontier Corps commander. I think there's great opportunities with our Pakistan partners to work the border.
We do -- and we have been working for a while now the border coordination centers. We have one up at Torkham gate. We have another one up at Nawa that is continuing to work through, and have one at Lwara. So there's three BCCs, or border coordination centers, in RC East.
I think the coordination at the lower level, at the battalion level, is very good. The battalion commanders conduct what we call border flag meetings right up on the border that include Pakistan soldiers, Afghan soldiers and coalition-force soldiers on the border where they talk about different operations. When they can work it at that level, that's the best coordination.
We have another set where the brigade commanders come in and work it with their equivalents across the border. We'll continue to do those up in the north, up in N2KL [Nuristan, Nangahar, Kunar, and Laghman provinces] and also in P2K [Paktika and Khost Provinces] with both brigades that I have there.
And then there's another set of border flag meetings where it involves me. In fact, we had one scheduled this week we had to cancel based on some other circumstances and weather. We're working very hard to reschedule that border flag meeting at the general officer level that I'll conduct with the XI Corps and the Frontier Corps. But I think there's great opportunity to work through there.
We've also taken a hard look at Torkham gate, and we've got an overarching plan to really look hard at not only the security piece but the economic impact of Torkham gate. And that'll depend upon working with our Pakistani counterparts as well, because it involves both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
All of you that have been covering Afghanistan know that you can't talk about Afghanistan without dealing with Pakistan, so once again, great opportunity to work with our counterparts. When we do operations on the border, it's transparent to our Pakistani counterparts. We had an operation about two-and-a-half, three weeks ago called Operation Strong Eagle. Before we conducted that exercise, we brought in our Pakistan counterparts, explained to them the exact maneuvers that we would do, and we wanted to run complementary operations on their side of the border that would impact and then really help us on our side of -- on the Afghani side of the border. And that happened, and that was very fruitful for us and just showed the great cooperation between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the coalition forces. And we'll continue to do that and get better at that as we enable those forces.
Once again, I have Pakistani LNOs [liaison officers] in my JOC [joint operations center]here, and I have sent LNOs over to the Pakistan side as well.
MR. GIBBONS: Hard to overestimate the importance of the economic impact of these -- of the border crossings here. Afghanistan and Pakistan earlier this month signed a border trade agreement that resumed -- that had lain fallow for many decades. Very important advancement. And a significant proportion of Afghan trade comes across Torkham gate and Ghulum Khan and other areas. So the -- we're focusing also customs and border experts down there to help the Afghan border police and customs officials to improve efficiency, moving things across, and also to improve oversight of the goods that are coming in.
COL. LAPAN: General, we've gone a bit over time here, so we thank you and Mr. Gibbons for giving us your time. I'll send it back to you for any closing remarks you'd like to make.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Okay. Tom, you go first.
MR. GIBBONS: Just to say that it's a pleasure to be out here with so many dedicated colleagues, both on the military side and the civilian side. One of the things that has struck me here is people's willingness to endure significant hardships but to continue coming back. I've got one colleague here, Gary Domian from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who's been here for over three years now and has agreed to sign up for yet another one. So I'm very, very honored to work with civilian counterparts like this, but also particularly on the military side. Their sense of dedication and commitment to this cause is really very striking. Thanks.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Yeah, and I'd just like to finish up and tell once again thanks to the American people for the great support they provide to all of the soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines here, and our civilian counterparts. We can't thank our families enough back at Fort Campbell, and all the -- all the families back there that support us.
General Petraeus said that winning is achieving progress, and I think every single day we are achieving progress. And -- (audio break) -- some places, they're smaller than others; in other places, where we have some game-changers out there that we continue to work.
So we're very proud and humble to have the opportunity to serve. I think our nation can never forget the sacrifices both of our families and the men and women over here. We've had several fallen heroes in the time that we've been here. We can never forget they're dedicated -- and their sacrifice. And our thoughts and prayers will continue to go out to their families. They'll never be forgotten.
So we are so thankful. We understand that the mission we have at hand is a noble cause. We understand that we have to fight this over here to make sure it doesn't go back to the United States and the rest of the free world. We're very dedicated toward that mission. We appreciate your support. And we look forward to continued dialogue, through this forum and any other forum, and really just appreciate your support.
So, thanks here from Afghanistan.
COL. LAPAN: Thanks, gentlemen. Good evening.
GEN. CAMPBELL: Air assault!
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