Setting-And Capitalizing On-Conditions for Progress in Afghanistan

By Petraeus, David H. | Army, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Setting-And Capitalizing On-Conditions for Progress in Afghanistan


Petraeus, David H., Army


The past 18 months have been a time of significant change in Afghanistan. During this period, we have seen a renewed national and international commitment to preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven from which al Qaeda and other transnational terrorists can launch attacks on our lands. We have also seen an increased sense of urgency to accomplish that difficult mission. Consequently, amplified commitment and urgency now characterize our effort to implement the comprehensive civilmilitary counterinsurgency campaign that is required to achieve our critical national security objectives here.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces- Afghanistan - in partnership with our Afghan counterparts and members of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, and other embassies and key elements of the international community - have implemented significant changes to set the conditions for moving forward in Afghanistan. As a result of those changes and amid tough ongoing fighting, we are beginning to see progress in the security, governance and development arenas, though that progress has been uneven and varied from location to location. The year ahead will be a critical period during which we can help our Afghan partners further their gains and work toward long-term security and economic opportunity in their country.

Setting the Conditions for Progress

Over the past 18 months, coalition leaders have worked hard to set the conditions for progress in Afghanistan by ''getting the inputs right." Critical to this effort were the leadership, vision, energy and expertise provided by GEN Stanley A. McChrystal during his time as the ISAF commander.

Getting the inputs right began with building the organizations and structures needed to carry out a comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency campaign. The ISAF commander, for instance, is now dual-hatted as both a NATO commander and the commander of U.S. ForcesAfghanistan, thereby allowing greater unity of effort. A three-star headquarters, the ISAF Joint Command, is now responsible for the near-term planning and conduct of our operational campaign, which allows the four-star ISAF headquarters to focus more on the strategic level. We also now have a joint task force to help develop Afghan rule of law and corrections capacity, several interagency fusion cells, an information operations task force, and an ISAF element that assists the Afghan government with reconciliation and reintegration efforts. Another new organization, the NATO Training Mission- Afghanistan, now heads the critical effort to develop Afghan security forces.

Ensuring that the right people are in charge of these organizations was just as important All of the nations involved in Afghanistan have sent their most talented leaders, from U.N. Special Representative Stefan di Mistura, NATO Senior Civilian Representative Ambassador Mark Sedwill, and U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry to ISAF Joint Command commander LTG David M. Rodriguez, NATO Training Mission- Afghanistan commander LTG William D. Caldwell IV, and ISAF Reintegration Cell chief British Maj. Gen. Phillip Jones, among many others. These and many other senior leaders have brought to Afghanistan important experience from having served in Afghanistan before or having held key positions in Iraq. As a result, the decisions now being made in Afghanistan are informed by a deep appreciation of counterinsurgency principles; a growing, granular understanding of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan; and increasingly strong relationships with Afghan leaders at all levels, from local tribal and religious leaders to those at the highest levels of the Afghan government.

Adjustments to the inputs in Afghanistan also included developing the appropriate guiding concepts for a comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency campaign. From pushing to achieve greater dvil-rnilitary unity of effort and aggressively pursuing the mission of partnering with Afghan security forces to issuing appropriate tactical guidance designed to reduce the loss of innocent civilian life, GEN McChrystal implemented several important changes as the ISAF commander. …

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