News / Asia

Petraeus Cites Progress in Afghanistan, But Tough Year Ahead

Gen. David Petraeus, left, top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, meets US Marines during his visit to Marjah, Afghanistan, 25 Dec 2010
Gen. David Petraeus, left, top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, meets US Marines during his visit to Marjah, Afghanistan, 25 Dec 2010
Al Pessin

The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan says the troop surge last year helped inflict “enormous losses” on insurgent networks, sowed discord among their leaders and put the groups on the defensive. But in a letter to the nearly 150,000 international troops in his command, General David Petraeus said they still have a lot of hard work to do.  

The general’s three-page letter tells the troops they and their Afghan counterparts did “tremendous work” and made “impressive progress” during the past year.  He credits the military surge, including 30,000 fresh American troops, and also the growth and improving quality of the Afghan Army and police.  He also mentions the surge of international civilians working on such issues as development, education, health care and the Afghan legal system.

Petraeus says increased military operations seized the combat initiative and took away some of the most important safe havens for the Taliban and its allies. He also cites what he calls “numerous reports of unprecedented discord” among insurgent leaders based in Pakistan.

Officials at the Pentagon say the general was referring to tension between Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and their bosses in Pakistan, caused partly by the killing or capture of thousands of fighters and commanders and the rise of new local leaders. The officials also tell VOA Taliban frustration is growing because the increased number of coalition forces are now able to disrupt their operations.

The United Nations has welcomed Afghan President Hamid Karzai's announcement that he plans to convene his country's new parliament on Wednesday.

Ira mellman interviewed Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington and an expert on Afghanistan. Last week, O'Hanlon had written that in postponing the convening of the Parliament, President Karzai might have been correct.

Analyst Jeffery Dressler at the Institute for the Study of War adds that some insurgent leaders in Pakistan have become reluctant to travel into southern Afghanistan, where the allied effort has been focused. But he says it is too soon to know whether the progress will become permanent.

“It won’t be until we get through next summer that we’ll be able to state definitively whether the gains that we have achieved there are lasting and enduring," said Dressler.

That is when General Petraeus will have to begin the withdrawal of U.S. forces that President Obama ordered more than a year ago, when he approved the troop surge.  Petraeus re-committed himself to that in Monday’s letter, but no one is providing details yet.

Jeffery Dressler has a problem with that plan. “Drawing down the troops, in and of itself, should not be the goal," he said. "The goal should be reversing the Taliban’s momentum, making progress and ensuring that the Afghans can increasingly take over responsibility for the gains that have been achieved.”

In addition to security issues, the international community is working for sustainable gains in other areas, like economic development and the delivery of government services.  General Petraeus also mentions those in his letter, saying they are important for convincing the Afghan people to support their government, rather than the insurgents.  

On Tuesday, the senior British civilian official in southern Afghanistan, Michael O’Neill, said his teams are working to improve government services in ways that the Afghans themselves can sustain.

“We need to work with the grain of Afghan society and culture, helping them strengthen their systems, but not seeking to impose something which is alien and would not be accepted by people here," said O’Neill. "And trying to get that balance is obviously a complex judgment, but one we’re keeping in mind all the time.”

Speaking from Afghanistan, O’Neill told reporters at the Pentagon progress on civilian issues usually lags behind security gains.  But he says there have been advances in recent months and he expects that to continue, gradually, between now and the end of 2014 - the date set for the Afghan government and military to take full responsibility for governing and securing their country.  But even after that, O’Neill says the international community will need to continue helping Afghanistan for many years.  

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Counties Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs