More Ups than Downs in Afghan Counterinsurgency Fight

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2010 - A counterinsurgency campaign is a lot like a roller coaster with many ups and downs, said Army Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and deputy commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, Rodriguez said, there have been more ups than downs.

In an interview with the "Today Show" yesterday, Rodriguez said the 2014 goal for turning over security responsibility to the Afghan government is possible, and is a "light at the end of the tunnel" for American servicemembers.

The general stressed that the 2014 date -- endorsed by NATO heads of state at the Lisbon Summit last week -- will be conditions-based even then. "We're going to work together with the international community and the Afghan forces to assume that goal," he said.

The general told "Today's" Lester Holt that the International Security Assistance Force commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, had worked closely with Afghan leader President Hamid Karzai and others in setting the date. The questions come to "how we can go forward in this and how long it's going to take and what their objectives are and what our goals are," the general said.

Tactical leaders -- squad, platoon, company and battalion commanders -- carry the brunt of the counterinsurgency strategy, and progress is uneven in an asymmetric conflict like that in Afghanistan, Rodriguez said.

"We're having more ups than downs, and we're moving in the right direction and making progress," he said. "The advantage really gets done over that enemy by the great leaders that you have at every level, innovative servicemen and women, and just a tremendous thinking organization that learns and gets better every day."

There are more than 130,000 NATO troops -- with about 90,000 Americans -- in Afghanistan. U.S. leaders say that this is the first time the mission to Afghanistan has been adequately resourced. The end-game is to train Afghan police and soldiers to assume security responsibility. Officials in the Pentagon and in Kabul expect that in the spring announcements will be made for areas or provinces that will be turned over to Afghan security forces.

At its heart, what will make the counterinsurgency strategy successful is that Afghans do not want the Taliban back. They remember the repression and terror and do not want a repeat, Rodriguez said.

"We just have to help them build enough capacity so that doesn't happen in the future," he said. "The entire process that we're working on -- the transition -- is all about irreversibility. And we're going to pay attention to that every step of the way."

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