KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan: Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, held a press conference here Dec. 2, to address the way ahead following President Barak Obama’s speech regarding the increase of coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2010.
It’s been a long war, General McChrystal said. Coalition forces have been in Afghanistan for eight years and many have been lost, but it’s important servicemembers remain focused for the way ahead.
“The reason I want to talk to you today is because I think we have a significant change in situation here and I think it’s important that we get together and think about where we’re going,” he said.
The role of the NATO International Security Assistance Force has changed dramatically since 2001, and it now has the responsibility of partnering with Afghans across the country, the general said. More than 25 percent of the country is at war and ISAF troops are working to help the Afghan people shape their future, as well as working toward transferring the responsibility of security to Afghan security forces.
“There are 43 nations in this coalition,” General McChrystal said. “Many of the nations of the coalition have been helped before. Many of the nations needed somebody else to help them gain their freedom, protect their freedom, maintain their freedom. Many of the nations had help after a natural disaster or during a war to help them defend themselves.”
Coalition forces are helping each other, he said. He believes in the future Afghans will partner with these coalition forces to work together on other battlefields to protect other people.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said.
The general then went to a drawing board where he illustrated the primary locations of troop populations, as well as multiple insurgencies.
“At the end of the day we have three major groups who operate together loosely, but all threaten the existence of the government of Afghanistan and the safety of Afghan people,” General McChrystal said. “The most dangerous is right where you are. The Taliban wants to replace the government of Afghanistan, wants to be the government of Afghanistan, and has been the government of Afghanistan. And, as you know, after 2001, slowly, they have made a resurgence. There are also smaller elements up in the north but they’re not insignificant.”
The violence in Afghanistan has spread through the country, not only within southern and eastern regions, the general said.
From 2008 to 2009, violence has increased 60 percent. From 2007 to 2009, it went up 300 percent. Insurgents negatively affect the way of life for the Afghan people and security must be improved to help the local people, he said.
He mentioned how the increase of coalition forces in the Helmand River Valley in earlier 2009 has improved security and stability, which also helped to foster essential governance and basic economic development.
“Now, we’re going to change the situation; actually we’ve been changing for a number of months now and this is the culmination of some of those changes that have already started,” General McChrystal said.
He expressed his confidence with the decision announced by President Obama and with coalition partners indicating that they too will increase forces in Afghanistan. He went over some of the successful rebuilding projects that were completed in the country and how partnership with the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army have allowed attacks to go down 52 percent while intelligence went up 80 percent.
“At the end of the day the people are what we are here for,” General McChrystal said. “We’re here to respect the Afghan people, we’re here to protect the Afghan people, we’re here to enable the Afghan people.”
General McChrystal explained his four buzz words, which are clarity, capability, commitment and confidence.
Clarity, he said, is gained by understanding the reason for the presence of coalition forces in Afghanistan, the strategic assessments, the decision-making processes and the impact that is being made within the country.
Capability does not necessarily mean numbers in troop strength or numbers of insurgent deaths, the general said. Examples of capability include the success of all that is being done to rebuild the country and the progress that stronger security has allowed to occur within various regions.
President Obama’s speech was a demonstration of commitment, and all that people do each day for Operation Enduring Freedom is proof of their commitment, he said.
“The confidence we have can be derived from a number of things,” General McChrystal said. “I believe that by next summer the new forces will make a difference on the ground. I believe by this time next year we’ll see a level of progress that will convince us that we clearly articulated the progress and predicted the effectiveness of our operation. And I believe that by summer 2011 it will be obvious to (the Taliban, insurgents, Afghan nationals, security forces) that we can offer them the confidence that we’re going to be able to provide that security.”