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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More