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US Defends Progress in Afghanistan

Incoming Lieutenant General Curtis M. Scaparrotti speaks during a change of command ceremony in Kabul. (File Photo - July 11, 2011)
Incoming Lieutenant General Curtis M. Scaparrotti speaks during a change of command ceremony in Kabul. (File Photo - July 11, 2011)
Luis Ramirez

One of the top U.S. commanders in Afghanistan is defending the progress coalition troops are making in Afghanistan, after a U.S. Lieutenant Colonel publicly countered U.S. assertions the allied campaign is succeeding against Taliban insurgents.

Real picture

The criticism has come from U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis in an essay he wrote called Truth, Lies and Afghanistan: How Military Leaders Have Let Us Down, which appeared in the Armed Forces Journal - an independent publication on military affairs.

In it, Davis says his experiences in Afghanistan bore - in his words, "no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground."  He said he witnessed the absence of success at every level.  

U.S. officials say they have made significant progress against Taliban insurgents during the past year, and that well more than half of Afghanistan’s territory is under the control of Afghan security forces.

Opinions

At a Pentagon briefing Wednesday, the U.S. military’s number-two commander in Afghanistan Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti answered Davis’ criticism, saying it was only one person’s opinion of the general situation.

“I am confident, in my personal view, that our outlook is accurate,” he said.

Scaparrotti says he does not doubt some of what Davis wrote, and he believes U.S. forces have work to do in training Afghan forces.

“These soldiers will fight, particularly at the company level," he said. "There is no question about that. They are going to be good enough as we build them to secure their country and to counter the insurgency that they are dealing with now. Will they be at the standard that we have for our soldiers? No. Not at least the conventional forces.”

Transition

Last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said U.S. forces would transition next year from a combat role to training Afghan soldiers and police. His remarks triggered criticism from some U.S. lawmakers who question whether Afghanistan is secure enough to begin that transition.

U.S. officials say Panetta’s statements did not deviate from previously set plans for a drawdown. They have faced further questions after the United nations reported last week that the number of civilian deaths in 2011 was the highest on record in the decade-long conflict, with 3,021 Afghan civilians killed as insurgents stepped up suicide and roadside bomb attacks.

In his remarks, Lieutenant General Scaparrotti said the U.S. military will start sending advisory teams this year to help Afghan forces take the lead in the fight against insurgents.  He said the aim is to give the Afghans enough to time to get trained before U.S. forces depart in 2014.

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