News / Asia

US General: Security Transition in Afghanistan Will Start Soon, But Will be Gradual

General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 15, 2011
General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 15, 2011

Multimedia

Al Pessin

The American commander of all coalition forces in Afghanistan, Army General David Petraeus, says security responsibility will begin to be transferred to Afghan forces in the coming months and that U.S. troops will begin to withdraw in July as planned.  But he told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the process will be gradual to ensure that Afghan troops and government officials can sustain the areas where they take responsibility.  

General Petraeus said the increased numbers of foreign and Afghan troops and civilian officials have made significant progress against Taliban influence during the past year.  And he repeated his view that the insurgents’ momentum has been stopped in much of Afghanistan and reversed in several important areas, including Kandahar and Helmand Provinces.



The general said the effort to create local police forces in 70 key districts has been particularly important, along with a sharp increase in activity by U.S. special operations forces, working with Afghan troops.

He again endorsed President Barack Obama’s intention to begin drawing down the nearly 150,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan by July.  But Petraeus stressed that the withdrawal and transition to Afghan responsibility must be gradual.

"As we embark on the process of transition, we should keep in mind the imperative of ensuring that the transition we take will be irreversible.  As the ambassadors of several ISAF [i.e., International Security Assistance Force] countries emphasized at one recent NATO meeting, we’ll get one shot at transition, and we need to get it right," he said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce the first areas to come under Afghan control during the Afghan New Year celebration next Monday.  Those areas have already been agreed to by a joint international and Afghan team and endorsed by NATO defense ministers.  

But General Petraeus said foreign forces will not completely leave those areas.  Rather, he spoke of “thinning out” the troop levels and sending some of them to other areas or to work as trainers for the Afghan army.  Relatively few will return to their home countries because, Petraeus said, most will be needed during the coming warmer months to ensure his force can maintain recent gains and expanded them.

"Although the insurgents are already striving to regain lost momentum and lost safe havens as we enter the spring fighting season, we believe that we will be able to build on the momentum achieved in 2010, though that clearly will entail additional tough fighting," he said.

Petraeus used what has become the standard description of progress in Afghanistan, calling it “fragile and reversible.”  NATO has set the end of 2014 as the target date for full Afghan security responsibility throughout the country.  Even then, officials say, U.S. and other foreign troops will need to remain to support the Afghan effort.  

But support for the war among Europeans has been low for a long time, and it appears to be waning among the American people as well.  A new public opinion poll published by The Washington Post newspaper and ABC News indicates that about two thirds of Americans oppose the war, a record high level.  And three quarters of Americans want a “substantial” withdrawal this year.

General Petraeus responded to the poll at Tuesday’s hearing.

"I can understand the frustration," he said. "We have been at this for 10 years.  We have spent an enormous amount of money.  We have sustained very tough losses and difficult life-changing wounds.  But I think it is important to remember why we are there at such a time.  That is where al-Qaida had its most important sanctuary in the world, and it had it under the Taliban."

Petraeus also said there is increased cooperation with Pakistani forces to squeeze insurgent groups between their safe havens in western Pakistan and U.S. and Afghan forces across the border.  And he said Iran appears to be increasing its support for the Afghan insurgents, with the recent seizure of a large shipment of more capable rockets than the Taliban has usually had in the past.  Petraeus said the shipment came from Iran’s elite Quds force.

The general also emphasized that the Afghanistan campaign is not only military.  He said the coalition will not be able to kill or capture its way to victory, and that civilian efforts to improve governance, fight corruption and support Afghan reconciliation are crucial to success, and to the eventual withdrawal of most of the foreign troops from Afghanistan.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs