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November 22 Defense Department Briefing

By The Pentagon, The Pentagon - November 22, 2011

            CAPTAIN JANE CAMPBELL (Pentagon spokesperson):  Good morning here in the Pentagon Briefing Room and good evening in Afghanistan.  I'd like to welcome Army Major General Daniel Allyn back to the Pentagon Briefing Room.  As most of you are aware, General Allyn is the commanding general for Regional Command East.

            General Allyn and the men and women of the 1st Cavalry Division assumed authority for 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.  RC-East's area of responsibility includes 14 provinces with a combined population of more than 7.5 million Afghan citizens.  This is the general's second briefing with us.  He joined us in August of this year and will be briefing us today from his headquarters in Bagram Airfield.  Following his opening remarks, we'll take your questions.

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

            MAJOR GENERAL DANIEL ALLYN:  Thanks, Jane.

            And I appreciate the opportunity to talk with all of you.  On behalf of all the teammates of Combined Joint Task Force 1, it's an honor to represent the troopers of Regional Command East today.

            Combined Joint Task Force 1 just completed our six-month assessment on our campaign plan progress.  And with the 68,000 Afghan security forces with whom we partner, we are currently on glide path to accomplish our assigned missions.

            Our main effort continues to be partnership with and development of the Afghan security forces to achieve security primacy for the approximately 7 1/2 million Afghans in the 14 provinces and 160 districts that comprise Regional Command East.  Due to the successes of our predecessors in CJTF 101, we are able to focus more and more on the Afghan security force partnership and capacity of the Afghan army, police and border police.

            The campaign continuity with our predecessors has allowed us to sustain the momentum and maintain the initiative against the various insurgent groups such as the Haqqani Network.  We continue to see indicators that Afghan security forces and coalition forces have disrupted security threats.  During last month's Operation Shamsheer, Afghan security forces and coalition forces captured or killed a dozen Haqqani leaders and captured dozens of fighters.  This operation involved almost 2,000 soldiers, 60 percent of which were Afghan.  It postured us to keep the pressure on the enemies of the people of Afghanistan this winter.

            Conversely, insurgent attacks this fall have failed miserably across the board.  Examples of failed insurgent attacks in the last two months include suicide bombers who failed in their attempt to attack the Paktia governance center in the Gardez district on 16 October.  One attacker detonated his device and killed himself, while Afghan police stopped the remaining three attackers.

            In a separate incident, insurgents tried an ineffective attack on the Chamkani district center in Paktia on the 10th of November, where Afghan police and security forces killed eight insurgents. Additionally, coalition forces killed multiple insurgents during two separate failed complex attacks on Combat Outpost Marga in Paktika province on 7 October and 8 November.

            It's increasingly evident that we are facing and defeating inexperienced and poorly-trained and led insurgent fighters.  Most recently, despite public sentiments of their intent to use any and all available insurgents to attack the traditional Loya Jirga, the Afghan national security forces provided a secure environment for this historic gathering this past week.

            Over the past 90 days insurgent violence continues to cause 85 to 90 percent of Afghan civilian casualties despite insurgent leaders such as Mullah Omar's recent directives to stop targeting civilians. We can deduce that the insurgents that continue to target Afghan civilians are either undisciplined, or their leaders lack the ability to enforce their own directives.  Because of the enemy's continued violence against the Afghan people, we see increased cooperation between the Afghan people, the local governments and the security forces who serve them.

            I believe we are now seeing in eastern Afghanistan the result of having the right inputs for the past year now.  Senior leaders professed this last year, and recent successes demonstrate how vital those inputs are.  Much more work remains to be done, but we are seeing tangible progress in the Afghan security forces and provincial government capacity.  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 your questions.

            CAPT. CAMPBELL:  Thank you, sir.

            And we'll start here.

            Q:  Thank you.  Thank you, General.  This is Raghubir Goyal from India Globe and Asia Today.  My question is now some elements in Pakistan are now trying to reconcile, or they have announced that they will not attack anymore in Pakistan.  What I'm asking you is, is this going to help you that the Haqqani network -- you will be controlling if they are having peace inside Pakistan, so this will affect your mission?  And also, as we approach Thanksgiving, what is the mood of the -- during this Thanksgiving as far as the U.S. -- your mission is concerned?  Thank you.

            GEN. ALLYN:  Well, I think I understood the second half of your question very clearly.  Our morale is high.  Our soldiers are very confident, and they're very excited about the capacity that's developing in their Afghan security force partners as we look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving here in the -- in midweek.  And we definitely feel the support of our families back home and also of our leadership.  We have many visiting us during the holiday period.

            And in terms of whether or not the Haqqanis' dialogue with Pakistan affects our efforts here -- remains to be seen.  And we will obviously be -- we are ready to continue to maintain relentless pressure on any and all insurgents who attack the Afghan people and the efforts of the security forces of Afghanistan.

            Q:  Hi, General.

            It's Courtney Kube from NBC News.  You mentioned in your opening statement that you believe that the inputs are right in your area over the last year of the increase in U.S. troops there and Afghan troops, but we've been hearing more and more that there will be a third or another increase of U.S. troops into RC East next year and maybe into the middle of the year before the surge starts drawing down.

            Do you still anticipate that?  Do you anticipate that you'll have an increase in troops and perhaps an increase in operations in your area coming early 2012?

            GEN. ALLYN:  Well, thanks, Courtney.  And I know you're well aware that this was really the first full fighting season with all the surge forces on the ground.  And I think we can clearly see the impact that it had on denying the insurgents any opportunity to regain lost ground both in the south, the southwest, and also in the areas that we wrested from their control during the summer campaign.

            We are obviously still in the process of the early phase of the 2011 reductions, and we are on track to meet that by the middle of next month.  And the resources that we have now are -- have us in good shape for both the winter fighting season and heading into the spring campaign.  And I'd say any future decision that General Allen or General Scaparrotti make on resources is something that is probably best addressed to them.

            Q:  General, hi.  It's David Cloud with the L.A. Times.  Wanted to ask about the partnering effort that you mentioned.  There are some here in Washington who think there ought to be a shift in that effort away from partnering U.S. units with Afghan National Army units and toward an embedded adviser kind of approach as -- in order to speed up the ability of Afghan units to take over battle space.

            Do you -- my questions are -- two questions:  One, do you have any embedded advisers with ANA units?  And two, are you -- are you thinking about moving to that kind of model, and do you think it would be beneficial?

            GEN. ALLYN:  Well, thanks, David.  And frankly, the quickest way that you accelerate the development of Afghan security forces is by putting the world's best army at that mission, and that's what we've been doing with our embedded partnership with the tolais and kandaks -- that's the companies and battalions of the Afghan security forces.  And we have seen a marked improvement through that embedded partnership.  And that has also built the confidence of their leaders, as well as their competence, as we do that.

            Now, we also have security force assistance teams as a part of our effort, and we align them with the units that are -- have made the most progress, so that we can partner with those units that most need the development work.  And frankly, it's a very careful assessment that our commanders at every level make, to ensure that we have our embedded partners with the right units and the right leaders, as well as our advisers working with those units that have developed to the point where advisory assistance is sufficient to sustain them toward the final readiness.

            Q:  So you have -- it sounds like a mix of embedded advisers and partnered units.  Can you just help me understand what the -- what the breakdown is there?  I mean, of the ANSF in your -- in your area, what's the -- and the units in your area, how many have embedded advisers, and how many are partnered units?

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