February 2nd, 2016 16:05 EST
Afghan Forces` Progress Uneven, But Improving
Progress in Afghanistan has been uneven, but this is no time to waiver on America`s commitment to the country, the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan told members of the House Armed Services Committee today.
Army Gen. John F. Campbell, who also commands NATO`s Resolute Support mission, told the committee that building an Afghan national security force that can protect its own people and prevent a return of terror groups in the country remains vital to the United States, Afghanistan and the international community.
A strategic stalemate without end is not the goal of this campaign, " Campbell told the House members. The Afghan Unity government is fragile, but holding, he said, as are Afghan security forces.
Mixed Results for Afghan Forces
Progress has been uneven, the general said, with Afghan forces performing extremely well in some circumstances and poorly in others. Ultimately, Afghanistan has not achieved an enduring level of security and stability that justifies reduction in our support in 2016, " Campbell told the committee.
President Barack Obama`s decision to maintain current force levels in the country " 9,800 American service members " through most of 2016 was welcome and important, " the general said. The decision set the example for NATO and other coalition allies and partners to maintain or increase their support to the Resolute Support mission. "
Al-Qaida and the Haqqani network are degraded but still-potent threats, and constant pressure " needs to be applied to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Eastern Afghanistan, Campbell said.
Now more than ever, the United States should not waiver on Afghanistan, " the general said. The crucial investment we are making provides dividends that achieve our strategic goals, secure our homeland and position us well in the region -- a region that has been a source of terrorism and instability for decades. "
Campbell addressed head-on the assertion that the security situation in Afghanistan is declining. The situation is more dynamic than a simple yes or no answer would adequately address, " he said. In fact, as of last week, the units we have on the ground reported that of the 407 district centers, eight of them -- just under 2 percent -- are under insurgent control. We assess another 18 -- or just under 4 percent -- are under insurgent influence. At any given time, up to 94 district centers -- or 23 percent are "at risk.` "
That means about 70 percent of the districts are under government influence or control, he said.
The general also addressed claims of insufficient progress in training and equipping the Afghan national security forces. The army and police, he said, have made progress. It is important to remember that when the Taliban were driven from power in 2001, the army " was a collection of militia, he added.
Too many times we try to compare the Afghan security forces with the U.S. Army, " Campbell said. The U.S. Army has been around for 240 years. "
Afghan forces have proved to be resilient in their second year of control of the country, he said. Afghan forces retook Kunduz from the Taliban in October and are pushing the Taliban in Helmand province.
As the Afghan military fights, its leaders in Kabul are trying to establish the organizations that will allow the tactical units to succeed. The Afghans are working on establishing the logistical and maintenance organizations the security apparatus must have, Campbell said.
While these systems are far from perfect, the foundation has been laid, " he told the committee. There are shortcomings in the Afghan forces, Campbell said, including aviation, combined-arms operations, intelligence collection and dissemination.
One of the greatest tactical challenges for the Afghan security forces has been overcoming the Afghan air forces extremely limited organic close air support capability, " he said.
Campbell attributes about 70 percent of the problems within the Afghan forces to poor leadership. The Afghan government is aware of this, he said, and has fired 92 general officers and has intensified efforts to reform the ministries of defense and the interior.
But this kind of change takes time, " Campbell said.
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