COL. DAVID LAPAN (deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations): Good morning to those here at the Pentagon.
I'd like to welcome to the Pentagon Briefing Room Colonel William Roy, the commander of Task Force Wolverine and the Vermont National Guard's 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. As part of Regional Command East, Task Force Wolverine took over operational responsibility of Parwan, Panjshir and Bamyan provinces in March of this year. Colonel Roy also has battalion task forces serving in Paktia and Laghman provinces with other units in Regional Command East.
This is Colonel Roy's first briefing with us, and he joins us today from his headquarters at Bagram Airfield. He'll provide a brief operational update and then take your questions.
And with that, we'll turn it over to you.
COL. ROY: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. It's truly a pleasure to be here today to talk about the 86th Mountain Infantry Brigade.
I'd like to start off with a quick overview of our command, our area of responsibility, our mission, and finish with a success story about the Afghan government here in Parwan.
Our command, known as Task Force Wolverine, has the distinct honor of being the first National Guard brigade to conduct full-spectrum operations and serve as a battlespace owner here in Afghanistan. Beyond our organic units from six separate states, we have units from New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Malaysia and Macedonia as part of our formation.
As a National Guard brigade, we bring much to this mission. Beyond our core competencies as a combat brigade, as citizen soldiers we also have the specialized skills needed to train, mentor and build the Afghan government and assist in the all-important economic development of small business. With men and women who serve in the communities back home as town clerks, federal judges, law-enforcement professionals and small-business owners, we have much to offer our Afghan friends in helping to rebuild their communities in the three provinces of Bamyan, Panjshir and Parwan.
The primary focus of our mission is increasing the capacity, capability and credibility of the Afghan government. I like to refer to our three provinces as “Afghanistan 2.0: The Next Version.” The reason for this is the security situation in these three provinces allows for the provincial reconstruction teams, embedded training teams and agribusiness development teams to maximize their efforts on development versus security operations. Additionally, our task force is also responsible for the security of the Bagram air field.
With this being my fourth tour in Afghanistan, I can tell you firsthand that the Afghan government has made tremendous progress in their ability to both protect and govern the Afghan people. One small example of this occurred last month, with -- the Parwan provincial governor directed the Afghan army and the Afghan police to conduct a joint operation in western Parwan. This operation, planned and conducted solely by the Afghan security forces, resulted in the detention of five Taliban operatives who attempted to place IEDs along a major road network. We see this as a tremendous example of the progress they're making.
With that, I welcome any questions you might have.
COL. LAPAN: Okay. Michael.
Q Mike Evans from the London Times. Colonel, in your three provinces, would you recommend -- in your three provinces, would you recommend to General Petraeus in the next six months perhaps that there are certain districts which could be transitioned to the Afghan security forces?
COL. ROY: Yes. I think it's recognized that provinces of Bamyan and Panjshir are very strong. The forces that -- the security forces -- Afghan security forces have taken the lead in responsibility for security, and doing very, very well. In fact, the north provinces -- the primary forces we have are at the provincial reconstruction teams and small teams of embedded trainers.
So the ANP [Afghan National Police] are in the lead in two of our provinces, and in the third one they're -- you know, they're just about to take over. And I expect in the next six months that they will be absolutely in the lead. In fact, the last province, you know, that will take the lead for responsibility is Parwan, and that's the one I spoke of earlier where they did a joint operation where the ANP and the ANA [Afghan National Army] went out and detained the Taliban.
So we're definitely making huge progress. I think one of the things that we have is that the -- for the people in Bagram, you know, they know we look at the ANP for assistance. We continue to provide feedback to the ANP on how -- you know, how to continue their success and provide security to the people, and messaging with them on how to connect with the population and having tremendous -- tremendous effect there. So we look across our battlespace as prime for transition in the days ahead.
Q Sir, this is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra. Given what you know about your mission in these three provinces, could you give us a clear idea about the size, the capacity, the capability of the Afghan security forces?
COL. ROY: Sure enough. In all three of our provinces, the only security force is the Afghan National Police. There are no Afghan National Army forces in Parwan, Panjshir, or Bamyan. So the Afghan National Police are in the lead. And, you know, they've received continuous training. In fact, one of the initiatives we have is we bring in the Afghan police, we train them on a specific skill set, and then they go out to each of the districts and they do training for all the policemen out in the districts.
And it's having tremendous impact in increasing their capability.
We're also seeing some topnotch individuals recruited into the Afghan National Police. And when you take a look at the province of Bamyan, you actually have a literacy rate of about 90 percent for the Afghan National Police there. When you have training class and you have seats for 30 individuals, you have 50 show up, so the desire to learn and to grow in their capability is tremendous.
Q This is -- this is Tejinder Singh, from AHN Media and TV Network Today.
You said that this is your first -- fourth time there. So from your experience, how will you comment on this statement? Last week, I interviewed former Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger, and he said that it is better to have Afghanistan under an international alliance than to hand over to government in Kabul. He said the government in Kabul is not capable of taking care of the whole of Afghanistan. So how do you perceive it, from being there?
COL. ROY: If I understand you correct -- your question correctly, basically, what you're -- what you're talking about is, you know, the capability of the central government to oversee all of Afghanistan. You know, my focus is on the province, at the provincial level. And I can tell you that the governors that we have in all three of our provinces securely understand what the requirements are to oversee the needs of the people. Obviously, they continue to grow in their capacity.
We focus much of our attention on building the capability and credibility of the Afghan government institutions -- not only security forces, but the provincial government and the district government -- helping them with building budgets and projects that will oversee their provinces as they go forward; so, economic development.
And then, you know, the bottom line is the security conditions in these three provinces really have allowed us to move forward and focus on development, development of government and developing of the Ministry of Mines, et cetera. In fact, in Panjshir, they just opened up a marble mine factory that is really providing a lot of revenue as well as jobs for the locals. And we see tourism in Bamyan in the days ahead, certainly with the artifacts of the Buddhas, the -- (audio break) -- et cetera. So, again, that's why we like to refer to these provinces as “Afghanistan 2.0: The Next Version,” because security does allow development to continue. And it's a story that doesn't get a lot of headlines, but it is truly, in many ways, a peaceful place.
We also see some tremendous movement forward in bringing in what have been in the past elements of society that were left out. For instance, in Bamyan, we have the only female governor in the country, representing the Hazara population. And we see in Panjshir and Parwan, both, development of women's products, women's industry; so, definitely moving forward in our area of operations. And again, I think we can see a transition coming in the days ahead for them.
The international community will continue, obviously, to provide support but, you know, I think we've got a great start point here with our area of operations of Bamyan, Parwan, and Panjshir.
Q And how do you see the relationship of these provinces with the central government?
COL. ROY: I'm sorry, could you repeat the question, please?
COL. LAPAN: Well, I'll try from here at the lectern. The question was: How you see the relationship between the provincial governors and the central government in Kabul.
COL. ROY: Okay. The relationship between the provincial governments and the central government is very strong.
You know, in Panjshir, we've seen success in which the Ministry of Agriculture put together a budget, sent it forward to the minister at the central government, and actually received the budget back to execute in their province.
So, you know, as the international community continues to work with the central government, we work with the provincial governors. We've seen a number of instances in which -- here in Regional Command East we've held a governors’ conference. All the governors came in, and then line ministries from the central government came in and talked about, you know, how we move forward or how the Afghans move forward with the budget process, communications, et cetera. So it's certainly making a difference.
Another initiative, we're working closely with the Afghan government on media training so that all three governors can reach out to their people and talk about what's happening. I personally sat with both the governor of Parwan and the police chief, in which we talked about the elections back in September, you know, a week or so before the elections, getting the word out that it's important to vote, and cast, you know, as part of a democratic society to vote for who they felt was going to be the person that would help lead Afghanistan into the future at the parliamentary level. So every step along the way, we really see huge progress in our area of operations. And I -- you know, I see that growing all across Afghanistan in the days ahead.
Q Colonel, this Kevin Baron from Stars and Stripes. Going back on your comments on economic development, you know, RC East is one of the areas where we hear that that's happening more than everywhere else in the country.
When you said that you're doing economic development with civilians, can you just explain a little bit more of what it is the military guys do versus what the civilian guys do when it comes to development, not just, you know, giving NGOs ride and security? What kind of tasks are you guys doing? And how is that transfer of responsibility happening now, you know, with the civilian surge? Are there enough civilians -- is the balance right right now that you're able to transfer, you know, jobs that the military's doing to the civilians, which is, you know, what the plan is supposed to be?
COL. ROY: Roger. Well, I think we've got a great example of that here in AO [Area of Operation] Wolverine. All three of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams that are in place have civilian directors. So in Bamyan, they have a New Zealander who is the lead for their PRT [Provincial Reconstruction Team]. In Panjshir, we have a Department of State who is at the lead. And here in Parwan, we actually have a South Korean PRT, which is led by a civilian. So that certainly is setting the tone for the future as we turn much of this mission in development over to our civilian counterparts.
In my brigade headquarters sitting beside me is the senior civilian representative for a unified command. So I have a Department of State representative, and he works with his team in our brigade, you know, as we plan future operations, as we develop our campaign plan to ensure that we focus on the development of the human capital, whether it's the civil service within the district government or provincial government, or economic capability.
You know, the Agribusiness Development Team there we have focuses on increasing capability. For instance, soy. They are planting soy, a great opportunity to put protein into the diet. We have -- so we have a Bastion seed company standing up with the capability of taking the soybeans and turning it to soy flour, and then selling it.
We're also focusing on cold storage, where the Afghans can actually take their produce and store it. In many cases now, they actually send the materials to Pakistan, where it's stored, and then it's sent back to Afghanistan months later for the population to buy at a much higher rate with -- helping them develop a cold-storage capability, that doesn't happen. And so it's going to increase their own economic capability.
And as we mentioned earlier, you know, the opening-up of mines in Panjshir, tourism in Bamyan. And here in Parwan, an economic corridor developing the capability of the agribusiness, as well as transit.
There's a major transit route between the northern and southern parts of Afghanistan with the Salang Tunnel.
So, you know, when I was here in 2002, when you went from Kabul to Bagram, you know, it was -- there was virtually nothing on the road. Now, in about an hour-long drive, halfway between, you know, Bamyan and Kabul, you get the development all the way along, businesses growing up, gas stations on the side of the road; so, you know, just continued development of small businesses, which really are going to be the future for Afghanistan.
Q Just if I could follow, I hear what you're saying. I'm still a little unclear. You know, what do guys in uniform do, versus what civilians do? When you say agribusiness or you're saying tourism, I assume that there aren't soldiers setting up tourist shops, you know, or tourist businesses. What -- you know, what are the tasks that are now in the hands of military that are going to be or are being transitioned to civilians?
COL. ROY: Sure. You know, the military has a program called CERP, Commanders Emergency Response Program, in which we provide funds to help the Afghans for immediate-impact projects. For instance, if a bridge is broken in a village, we'll bring in the cement and they'll use their human capital to build that bridge. So we'll establish a contract with a local contractor, and he'll -- and in that contract we direct that they basically hire local labor. So we can increase their capability of building bridges, of building roads. So all the projects we do, we mandate that the local populous is involved in the -- you know, the building of the project.
In Kapisa, you know, they've got an excellent program where they're using this money through road-maintenance teams. So as they build the road, they train these teams on the maintenance of the roads, as well as the security of the roads. These programs will soon be turned over to the Afghan government, but this is where our soldiers are working side by side with the Afghans in order to build their economic capability.
There are also opportunities with USAID where they provide small grants. So they'll provide a grant to a small business where they can start a tailor shop or making shoes.
We've also seen with the Agribusiness Development Team, which is a military organization working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on honey bees, providing hives to Afghans to start developing honey and that honey to be sold; and then the hive is divided, and then you can continue to increase the amount of honey that is produced. So these are all examples of where uniformed personnel are assisting the Afghans alongside our USDA and USAID counterparts. I hope that answers your question.
Q Hi. It's Gordon from Politico. I was just struck by the four tours you mentioned. I wonder if you could just tell us how long was each tour, where was each tour and just expand a bit on kind of what the difference you saw from the first one to the current one.
COL. ROY: Sure. I came in August of 2002. And at that point in time we were graduating the second battalion of the Afghan National Army. And the police program had not kicked off, and so basically the only organization was the Afghan National Army, for providing security. And at that point in time, you know -- you know, with two battalions, they really weren't integrated into the operations.
However, over time, we've seen the Afghan National Army continue to build. The first unit that was actually trained was trained by the International Security Assistance Force, specifically Turkey. And they provided that organization -- the Turkish light-colored green beret to signify them as a military organization. Underneath General -- then-General Eikenberry, we recognized that this was a good opportunity to use this beret to separate the Afghan National Army from another -- a number of the other mujahideen forces that were out there at the time. And over time, that beret became a recognition of a force that was there to serve and protect.
A great vignette is when we did our first operational mission down in Orgun-e, and we were going through the town of Orgun-e with the Afghan National Army, and the people came up to us and -- because we were in desert-colored uniforms, and they asked us through our interpreters, you know, who these -- who these forces were. They didn't recognize -- and they're asking us what country we were from. You know, they're wearing clean uniforms. They had this green beret on. They were, you know, behaving like military members should be: respectfully. Their weapons were pointed down, fingers outside the trigger wells, you know, just -- you know, acting like a professional military force.
And when we told them, hey, you know, these are your soldiers from your country; it's your national army, you know, they didn't believe us. And we said, well, go talk to them. They walked over and they started talking to them and realized that, you know, these are soldiers from all across the country. They were coming, you know, from -- you know, from Helmand in the south, from Mazar-e Sharif in the north, from Herat in the west, from Jalalabad in the east, all put in into basic training together and building truly a national army.
So coming back here in 2010, you know, you see the Afghan National Army and it has grown by leaps and bounds. The professionalism of the officer corps, the building of a very strong NCO corps is tremendous.
And you know, I get a chance to run into many of the individuals that I worked alongside in 2002, 2003, 2004, and you know, when you work alongside them in this type of a mission, you become very close friends. And to see these individuals go from being company commanders to battalion commanders, from battalion commanders to brigade commanders, from battalion-command sergeant majors to brigade-command sergeant majors -- I had a great conversation with one of the former company commanders in English. You know, he went through the training center to study English, and we had a tremendous conversation when I came back.
So, so very proud of the successes the Afghan National Army has seen. And the Afghan National Police, with all the attention they're getting, is right on the heels of the Afghan National Army in becoming more and more respected for providing to the -- security to the people of Afghanistan.
And I'll also tell you point-blank, in our area of operations, the Afghan National Police focus more on crimes and providing security to the people from criminal activity than they do from insurgents. So truly, tremendous progress that we're seeing.
Q Colonel, hi. It's David Cloud with the L.A. Times. Two questions back on the subject of transition in Panjshir and Bamyan.
First is, are you talking here about a formal transition of control of the province security -- control of the province to the Afghans? And what will that mean for your forces? Will you close FOBs [Forward Operating Base]? Will you close COPs [Combat Outpost], thin out your forces? For you, what will that mean?
Second question: Do you fear that a -- if it is a formal transition, you will essentially be inviting the enemy to increase operations in those areas, and you'll see a -- some backsliding?
COL. ROY: Well, first of all, the Afghan National Police do own the security for their provinces.
As far as transition -- a formal transition of the -- of each of the provinces, you know, that's, you know, being discussed at much higher levels, upcoming Lisbon conference and another of -- and other venues.
What we focus on basically is enabling the government until such time as that happens. But for security, in Panjshir and in Bamyan, the Afghan National Police absolutely have the security. All we have in Panjshir basically is a Provincial Reconstruction Team of about 50-some-odd individuals and then a small embedded training team working with the Afghan police and the Afghan security council.
And over in Bamyan, where the Kiwis [New Zealanders] -- they've got a base of about a hundred-some-odd Kiwis that's focused in Bamyan. And their focus, again, is on development. And there's a couple of small FOBs that are spread throughout Bamyan, but again, they're primarily there to enable the district governments with civilians and the small Kiwi teams, patrol teams, that are really there to train the Afghan National Police and increase their capability to -- for instance, if there's a crime, to help them do site exploitation, to make sure that they capture all of the information for processing through the judicial system.
So, you know, for those two provinces, they have security, and you know, we have no combat military formations here of any size that -- you know, that are keeping security. It's the Afghans who are leading the way. And it's been that way for quite some time.
COL. LAPAN: You're -- oh, yeah, a second question from -- (audio break) -- whether you have any concern about backsliding, that they -- the enemy will exploit the fact that, you know, coalition forces are moving out or thinning out.
COL. ROY: Certainly no concern about that in Panjshir. As everybody knows, I mean, Panjshir has been a very difficult place for the enemy to get into, whether it was during the Soviet occupation or Taliban.
So, you know, the Panjshiris control their province. In Bamyan it's the same way. You know, if in fact there are insurgents that come in and attempt to conduct operations, they immediately respond to the scenario and take care of it on their own.
So I -- you know, I certainly don't see any backward sliding for either Bamyan or Panjshir. They've got tremendous capability in the Afghan National Police, and that we've shown at time -- over time that they've been able to take care of their people. Whether it's, you know, an attempt to put IEDs on the side of the road or it's a natural disaster -- you know, when the flooding occurred in Bamyan, you know, the Afghan National Police were right there. We provided some support, but they were right there.
In Parwan, when we had the avalanche last year, the Afghan National Police were right on the spot, helping the victims, pulling them out of the avalanche, providing medical support -- so a tremendous capability, you know.
And then most recently, when there was a plane crash from a plane that was coming from Kunduz to Kabul, you know, the Afghan National Police used their own aircraft -- the Afghan government used their own aircraft to get the Afghan National Police up there to do recovery operations.
So in these three provinces, we're really seeing some tremendous progress for the Afghan security forces and the Afghan government itself.
Q Thank you.
Colonel, Viola Gienger from Bloomberg News. Can you talk a little bit about what kind of system of justice there is in these provinces for the capable Afghan National Police to feed into? Is there a credible justice system? And how much problem of corruption do you see in that area? How much of an issue is that?
COL. ROY: First, on the judicial system -- the combination, really, of Shari'a law and constitutional law -- I'm very fortunate that I have a federal judge in my task force who works rule of law. We also have in my judge advocate general staff an individual who was the commissioner for human resources from Vermont -- so have a great understanding of the judicial system.
And we do training -- actually, you know, we do training with local national lawyers, who go out and do training with the Afghan National Police.
We also have an Afghan National Police colonel who goes from province to province and district to district to do training on the judicial system and how to process individuals who have executed a crime or bring forward issues of land dispute, theft, adultery, rape, et cetera.
So we're seeing forward movement in the judicial system for all of our provinces. We have court systems set up. They have the constitution. They have the laws. And in fact most recently here in Bagram, they had one of the first trials of both insurgents as well as criminals, tried by the Afghan judiciary. So we're seeing tremendous forward movement there, certainly some -- you know, continued growth needed, but you know, they are making forward movement every day.
And really, this is through our local national lawyers, who are going out and working with the judiciary and the police force.
Q Jim Mannion from AFP. I wonder if you could say how many combat troops you have in the three provinces, because it sort of sounds like the -- that there will be a transition without a -- really a significant reduction in U.S. and coalition forces.
COL. ROY: Right, again, in Panjshir, the primary focus we have up there for U.S. forces is the provincial reconstruction team, and then a very small, 10-man embedded training team that works with the Afghan National Police on training.
Over in Bamyan, we have the New Zealanders, who, again, are led by a civilian director, and, you know, a number of small teams that go out there and do training with the Afghan National Police. So really no combat force to speak of there. And then in Parwan, you know, we have a cav [cavalry] squadron that basically -- you know, its primary focus really is security for the Bagram air field. And it goes out also at -- with platoons to the districts to do training with the Afghan National Police.
But for all intents and purposes, you know, our primary focus is really on the development of the Afghan National Security Forces, development of the district governments, and not on conducting counterinsurgency operations. And really, for all intents and purposes, the Afghan National Police are in the lead. And as I mentioned before, you know, they've got tremendous intelligence capabilities on their own.
And when they recognize that there's a problem, they reach out to the Afghan National Army, they conduct joint operations and go after the insurgents. You know, we -- we provide enablers for them, but, you know, they conduct their operations -- the vast majority of operations on their own. The national defense security agency -- also, the Afghan national defense security agency also does a number of operations in which they are arresting both criminals as well as insurgents in the area.
You know, but for the last week, for instance, we had two SIGACTS [significant activities], one where a vehicle was shot at as it was going through a village and another instance where we found some rockets that were buried in a cache. It's pretty quiet for an area of operation where you have three large provinces. So truly showing what Afghanistan is capable of.
COL. LAPAN: Okay. Michael.
Q Hello, this is Michael Hoffman with Army Times. With the responsibility of full-spectrum operations, how do you feel that your Guardsmen were prepared for the mission, as it seems that it's less of a combat mission and more of a development mission? And to go along with that, what type of lessons have you passed on to the Iowa 2nd Brigade Combat Team that's moved into that region as well?
COL. ROY: Okay. Thanks. First of all, I have two battalions that are supporting other brigades, one of them in -- with Task Force Bastogne, 1st Brigade, 101st Combat Team. And I have another battalion that's down with 3rd Brigade, 101st Combat Team, Task Force Rakkasan. And they are truly doing full-spectrum operations. They are conducting combat operations with the Afghan National Security Forces, whether it's the police or the army, virtually on a daily basis.
And so beyond just my task force and AO Wolverine, I have formations that are out there conducting combat operations. And I can tell you, they're doing phenomenal. We had the fortune to do two rotations at the Joint Readiness Training Center before we came over here, and speaking to the commander of the Joint Readiness Training Center after we completed our second rotation, just days before we flew into theater, you know, he said, basically, you know, our brigade compared with the top five of all brigades he'd seen come through the Joint Readiness Training Center. And so, you know, we got a lot of combat veterans in our brigade.
I would say over 65 percent of our soldiers are combat veterans of either Afghanistan or Iraq. And all of my battalion commanders have been in combat previously, and their commander sergeant majors have as well. So we've got a lot of experience in conducting, you know, our combat mission. But we also have a lot of experience because of our -- you know, the very nature of being a National Guard unit operating in communities and being citizen soldiers providing, you know, increased capability for developing the government, small businesses, et cetera.
So we really bring the full spectrum to the mission, you know, whether it's combat operations or it's development, tremendous capability for our forces. You know, our -- one of our battalions down in Rakkasan has conducted one of the largest air assault operations for U.S. and coalition, and -- you know, so a lot to be proud of our great mountain warriors out there.
COL. LAPAN: And the second part of the question was lessons learned passed on to the Iowa Guard.
COL. ROY: Roger. Sorry about that.
The 2nd Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls are on the ground and working their way into Afghanistan. We worked with them when they came over here in late June, early July on what the mission looked like and how to prepare for it. So even prior to their mobilization, they knew what they were getting into. And then when they went to their mobilization station, they focused on the mission set that they were going to have here in Afghanistan. When they went to the national training center, they executed full-spectrum operations, did an excellent job, and are here in theater.
We've already transitioned one of our battalions. My 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry -- Task Force Iron Gray out of Connecticut, fourth oldest Army regiment in the Army's inventory, has already transferred authority over to the battalion from the 2nd 34th. And in the first week of the 2nd 34th's operation, Task Force Iron Man, they were able to with their partners capture a major Taliban operative in their province. So they are truly ready to conduct the operation, whether it's development, or whether it's combat operations. I'm very proud to see our sister brigade come in here ready to get after it.
Q Sir, it's Luis Martinez with ABC News.
Did you formally recommend that Panjshir and Bamyan Province be approved for turnover? And is the distribution of your forces, the way that you have them in a security role in Parwan and you have other battalions elsewhere in a full kinetic fight pretty much what the definition of "thinning out" is? That's the term that we keep hearing about what's going to -- the process that's going to begin in July.
COL. ROY: Yeah, I can't speak to the final decision for transition. All I can do is, you know, pass on through RC East commander what -- you know, where we stand in our three provinces as far as security, as far as government, as far as development. And then, you know, the government of Afghanistan along with the international community will make the decision as to when the transfer -- transition will occur.
As far as thinning out, you know, the mission here in Parwan certainly shows that -- and Bamyan and Panjshir that, you know, there is very little need for forces there. And as we slowly transition over to our Department of State/USAID brethren, to take that mission on, or in the case of the Korean PRT, taking on that mission, and, you know, with the transition of some of our battalions helping other brigades, that's just because of the size of their battlespace. So I can't really speak to the thinning of the lines. I can speak to, you know, the capabilities that we have here in Parwan, Panjshir and Bamyan. And I really do see that, you know, again, from my experience being here in 2002 until now as what Afghanistan will become in the year or years to come province by province.
And it's not just here. You know, you've got places like Herat that are doing very, very well. And you've got places in the north that are doing very, very well. And so when transition comes, when, you know, an agreement comes from the international level and the government of Afghanistan on what transition means, I think you'll see it take off like wildfire across a number of provinces.
COL. LAPAN: So I'll send it back to you for any closing remarks you'd like to make.
COL. ROY: I'm sorry.
COL. LAPAN: For anything you'd like to say in closing.
COL. ROY: Thank you for the opportunity to talk about the successes of both Mountain Brigade and our Afghan friends in this important mission. I'm so very proud of the great strides that we made during our deployment, a true example of the tremendous capability the citizen soldiers of the National Guard bring this mission.
Also, looking forward to the 2nd Brigade, the 34th Task Force Red Bulls taking on this all-important mission of helping Afghanistan move forward. You know, the -- I think I can truly say that our formations alongside our active component brigades are making a difference every single day, and there's a much brighter future for the Afghan people. And they see it.
You can see it in their eyes. You can see it as they wave at you as you drive by. So, you know, the focus on connecting to the population, separating the insurgents from the population is certainly making a difference here. And, you know, day by day, week by week, month by month, we're making progress, steady, steady progress; certainly, continued work that needs to be done. But with the -- our Afghan partners, who are getting better and better, I see nothing but a brighter future for our Afghan brothers and sisters out there.
Lastly, for our fellow Americans, tomorrow, I'd like to wish all of you a very happy Veterans Day, and, you know, thank you for this opportunity to talk about the 86th Mountain Brigade, and the tremendous things our mountain warriors are doing here in Afghanistan.
COL. LAPAN: Right. Thanks very much.