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August 25 Defense Department Briefing

By The Pentagon, The Pentagon - August 25, 2011

            JAMES TURNER (deputy director, Pentagon Press Office): Good morning here and good evening in Afghanistan.

            I'd like to welcome to the Pentagon Briefing Room Army Major General Daniel Allyn. He's the commanding general for Regional Command East. General Allyn and the 1st Cavalry Division assumed authority of RC East in May of this year. In full partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces, he commands a combined team of eight U.S., French and Polish task forces. As you know, RC East's area of responsibility includes 14 provinces with a combined population of 7.5 million Afghans.

            This is General Allyn's first briefing with us in this format, and today he joins us from his headquarters in Bagram airfield. He'll take some opening comments and then take your questions.

            And with that, General, I'll turn it over to you.

            MAJOR GENERAL DANIEL ALLYN: Thanks for that introduction, Jim. And I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you today.

            Combined Joint Task Force-1 assumed duties here in Regional Command East on the 19th of May, so just over three months ago, from Combined Joint Task Force -101 and my good friend [Major General] John Campbell. On behalf of all the courageous teammates of Combined Joint Task Force -1, it's an honor to represent the troopers of Regional Command East today.

            Our main effort is to partner with and develop the Afghan security forces to achieve security primacy and to set the conditions for security, governance and economic development for the benefit of approximately 7 1/2 million Afghans in the 14 provinces and 160 districts that comprise Regional Command East. We have built upon the successes of Combined Joint Task Force 101 and sustained the momentum and continuity of this campaign.

            Our current focus, shoulder to shoulder with our Afghan security force partners, is to expand the Kabul security zone and interdict insurgent infiltration along the 450-kilometer Afghanistan-Pakistan border. It's been a dynamic three months amidst a very tough fight and courageous actions by our troopers and task forces. We are making substantive progress in building Afghan security force capability and expanding the Kabul security zone.

            The Afghan government and security forces in our area continue to grow in capability and confidence, allowing us to build upon security conditions and deliver essential services to the people of Afghanistan. Tactically, along with our security force partners, we have kept the pressure on insurgent networks, cleared several support zones and, in the process, strengthened the leadership and capability of our Afghan partners.

            A side effect of this pressure on the insurgent networks is the ruthless, desperate and inexplicable actions of insurgents against the people of Afghanistan. Their blatant disregard for the Afghan people manifests itself in suicide attacks that predominantly target innocent civilians, and ill-disciplined direct and indirect fire attacks that brutalize population centers.

            Over the past 90 days, 85 to 90 percent of Afghan civilian casualties are caused by insurgent violence. As a result, more and more communities are becoming inhospitable to insurgent influence and cohabitation. And we see increased cooperation between the Afghan people, the local government and the security forces who serve them.

            As an example, the Afghan National Police led a combined effort during early August and delivered 160 tons of humanitarian assistance to the citizens of Nuristan. And unlike months before in previous missions, this operation was conducted with limited coalition force assistance. It was an extremely complex operation led throughout by capable Afghan security forces with complete freedom of movement in Kunar and Nuristan provinces, and with minimal insurgent capacity to deter mission success.

            During the first round of transition to Afghan security force and governance control, we had two provinces and one capital district begin the transition process, and in each area, progress and development continue. Transitioned areas continue the process towards full Afghan primacy in security, governance and development. We will continue to support our partners and ensure they reach irreversible stability.

            While much work remains to be done, we are witnesses to the Afghan security force and government institutions strengthening their capacity and effectiveness. We will continue to press forward with our Afghan partners to achieve a stable and secure future for the people of Afghanistan.

            And with that, I'm happy to take any of your questions.

            MR. TURNER: OK, Bob.

            Q: General, this is Bob Burns with AP. With the progress that's been made in the south over the past year or so, and with the beginning of the withdrawal of the surge forces this year, has there been or will there be a transfer of either troops or transport or other military resources to your region in the coming weeks or months?

            GEN. ALLYN: Well, Bob, thanks for that question. And obviously that's an area being reviewed right now by General Scaparotti and General Allen. And while our campaign plan right now calls for us to accomplish our missions with the resources that we have, we are clearly identifying both opportunities and risk with future decisions that they will make.

            Q: Just a quick follow-up, General. In your estimation, do you need additional forces or other resources in order to carry out a full-blown counterinsurgency campaign in your region?

            GEN. ALLYN: Yeah, I have the forces that I need to accomplish the mission that I've been given. Obviously if there's a desire to accelerate progress, then that creates conditions which might cause me to adjust that estimate. But as it stands right now, with the mission that I've been given, I have the resources I need to accomplish our campaign plan.

            Q: General, it's Spencer Ackerman with Wired. Your predecessor, General Campbell, described his main mission as closing down the infiltration rat holes from Pakistan into Afghanistan and securing the main roads. You described yours as partnering with the ANSF and expanding the Kabul security zone along the Af-Pak border. Can you talk about the degrees to which this is a change from the security conditions in the plan that your predecessor passed on?

            GEN. ALLYN: It's really not a change. In fact, we had a very clean handoff, and we have great continuity between our two plans. And frankly, he was partnered with the Afghan security forces while he worked to interdict the border with Pakistan, and we remain committed to that mission. And concurrent with that, and really as an integral component of that, we are expanding the Kabul security zone. So I hope that answers your question.

            MR. TURNER: (Inaudible.)

            Q: General, Craig Whitlock with the Washington Post. I wanted to ask you about the Tangi Valley. As you know, it's been in the news here recently due to that terrible crash of the Chinook with the special operators and others onboard. I was hoping you could elaborate a little bit on the decision to withdraw U.S. forces from there earlier this year and why the Afghan forces weren't able to secure that area or at least take control, and whether you're reconsidering going back in or not.

            GEN. ALLYN: Well, obviously we conducted a very extensive operation in there immediately following the crash of the aircraft and recovered all of our personnel and equipment and operated for the better part of a week in addition to targeting several networks that I know that General Allen has talked about. So we had freedom of movement in that area and -- as we do across all of Regional Command East -- we work with our Afghan security force partners and determine where our forces need to be arrayed to attack any enemy safe havens that exist.

            Q: If I could follow up my first couple questions on that -- maybe I didn't catch the answer. Could you elaborate on why U.S. forces withdrew their constant presence from there to begin with? And why were the Afghans not able to move in?

            GEN. ALLYN: The decision to reposition from the center of the Tangi Valley really amounted to where you could best achieve the effect that needed to be achieved. And so the decision was made several months prior to deny enemy access from that valley to population centers. And the Afghan security forces are arrayed where they need to be to protect the citizens in the population centers in Logar and Wardak.

            Q: Hey, General Allyn. It's Courtney Kube from NBC News. Still on that same subject, has there been any -- has there been any luck in catching and/or killing the original insurgent that was -- that was the -- part of the operation that the Chinook was headed towards when it was shot down? I don't know the guy's name, but has there been any luck in finding him?

            GEN. ALLYN: Well, I believe that that effort is continuing as we continue to pursue all the enemies of Afghanistan and we work, as you know, Courtney, with all of our partners here in special operations forces and our Afghan security force partners to pursue relentlessly all the enemies of stability here in Afghanistan.

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