May 5th, 2006 02:36 EST
Afghan, Coalition Forces Are Effective Counterterrorism Partners
Washington – Afghanistan is a key partner in the global War on Terror says a U.S. military officer who is working with newly trained Afghan army recruits and police.
Even as NATO’s International Security Assistance Force prepares to assume a prominent role in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Major General Robert Durbin said U.S. and coalition forces will continue their role of training and equipping the Afghan national army and police force and combating terrorism. (See related article.)
Speaking from Kabul, Afghanistan, via video teleconference to reporters located at the Defense Department May 4, Durbin said the people of Afghanistan are “great allies” in the long war against terrorism.
He was joined in his remarks by Afghan army chief of operations Lieutenant General Sher Karimi, who said al-Qaida-related forces are active in the east and southeastern parts of his country. Although these extremists have had some success in terrorizing Afghans by using remote-controlled land mines and handmade bombs along roadways and conducting ambushes and hit-and-run attacks, they are being hunted aggressively by Afghan security forces, he said. “We’re not waiting for the enemy to come to us,” he added.
Karimi said some foreign fighters from Arab countries and elsewhere have entered Afghanistan to carry out suicide bombings. He said it will take time and superior intelligence to eliminate such interlopers. Defeating terrorist operatives affiliated with the Taliban does not require large military forces, he said, but rather demands smaller, well-trained special operations units. (See related article.)
Speaking on the same day that an Afghan rebel leader affiliated with the Taliban released a video pledging allegiance to Osma bin Laden, Karimi said it is difficult to track small insurgent cells operating in rugged mountain terrain. The job of Afghan and coalition forces is complicated further, he said, by the sanctuaries extended to these groups on both sides of the Afghan border. “It’s not easy to eliminate such people. It is like looking for a needle in a haystack,” he added.
Durbin said there is an active counterinsurgency operation under way in the eastern and southern part of Afghanistan. But it is different in the western and northern portions of the country, he said, where the problem is related more to smuggling, criminal activity and narco-trafficking. (See related article.)
Durbin and Karimi provided an operational update on the growing Afghan army and police force, the developing cooperation between the defense and interior ministries, and the overall challenges faced by members of the international community who are training and equipping the Afghans, as well as helping rebuild communities.
Karimi said the army is being built from the ground up, while the national police force is being reformed after years of corruption. He said a great deal of progress has been made during the past four years. Already the two security forces have conducted a number of successful joint operations, he said, including cooperating as part of the ongoing spring offensive, “Operation Mountain Lion.”
Karimi, who trained at the U.S. Army’s Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Georgia, and attended the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, said the size of the Afghan army has grown to 30,000, with 4,000 officers in training, and another 1,000 added each month. The army has five corps and 10 brigades already in place, he said.
Under the police reform program, Karimi said 30,000 national police are located throughout the country.
Asked when Afghan security forces would be able to stand alone, Durbin responded it would be a multiyear process. Their capability is growing daily and eventually the Afghans will lead all counterinsurgency and other operations, he said.
The end game for Afghanistan will be professional, competent security forces and institutions “that are sustainable, affordable, respected and dedicated to protecting all the Afghan people,” Durbin said.
For more information on Afghan reconstruction, see Rebuilding Afghanistan and its related photo gallery.