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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid