February 8 Defense Department Briefing

By The Pentagon, The Pentagon - February 8, 2012

            GEORGE LITTLE (Pentagon Spokesman):  Good morning.  I'd like to welcome back to the Pentagon briefing room Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti, United States Army.  He is the commander of ISAF Joint Command, the deputy commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.  He joined us in October of last via DVIDS.  General Scaparrotti is on his second tour in Afghanistan, and he assumed his current duties in July 2011. 

            Previously he served as the commanding general of I Corps and Joint Base Lewis-McChord after serving for two years as the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division.  During that time he deployed to Afghanistan as the commanding general of Joint Task Force 82 in eastern Afghanistan.  General Scaparrotti also served as the director of operations for the United States Central Command and the 69th commandant of cadets the United States Military Academy. 

            In addition to his assignments in Afghanistan, he has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as missions in Bosnia- Herzegovina, Liberia and Rwanda. 

            General Scaparrotti regularly travels throughout Afghanistan to gather a full picture of ISAF's coalition and partnered efforts, and today will provide an operational update. 

            He will make some opening comments, and then we'll take your questions. 

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

            LIEUTENANT GENERAL CURTIS SCAPARROTTI:  Good morning.  I'd like to make a comment or two up front, and then we'll take questions. 

            Well, it's good to be here, and I look forward to the discussion with you.  Today I plan on giving you an update on the progress that's made -- been made over the past seven months that I've been in Afghanistan by both Afghan and coalition forces, my priorities as the operational commander of ISAF Joint Command, the combined team's operational planning efforts for the upcoming fighting season and IJC's objectives for 2012. 

            As most of you know, it's IJC's responsibility to manage the day- to-day operations for the coalition's military operations throughout Afghanistan.  IJC is a NATO headquarters of approximately 1,400 personnel, both military and civilian, from 33 nations.  The six regional commands throughout the country report directly to our headquarters. 

            Since returning to Afghanistan last summer, I've personally seen steady progress across the country.  The Afghanistan government and partnership with the coalition has taken significant steps forward. Surely Afghanistan will continue to face tough challenges, but together with our Afghan partners, our strategy remains focused, the combined team engaged.  And I believe we have the right plan.  We certainly have the momentum, and we've got the resolve to succeed. 

            Currently approximately 50 percent of the Afghan population has entered the process of transition, and the Afghan government and local communities throughout Afghanistan are increasingly taking the lead for their own security, governance and development, all without any significant spikes in the violence in the areas that have begun transition.  As you know, our primary objective is the transition of the Afghan National Security Forces into the lead. 

            And therefore, I spend a lot of time focused on the Afghan security forces and their capacity and their competence. 

            The ANSF are improving, and they are increasingly demonstrating their ability to protect the people.  A recent UNDP report found that 81 percent of the Afghan population has respect for the police, and 59 percent report they have access to a police station within 30 minutes of where they live.  That's up 42 percent in 2009.  These are higher favorable perceptions than we have seen in the past and a sign that the police are moving in the right direction as well. 

            With over 300,000 Afghans in uniform, freedom of movement has increased, insurgent support bases have been reduced, and the people are gaining respect for their Afghan security forces.  I believe this trust and sense of security will increase as the Afghan forces step into the lead. 

            Kabul is a great example of where the ANSF have the lead for security, and they've mitigated multiple threats and denied the insurgents' objectives.  Recent examples of their success include the Loya Jirga security, the Ghazi Stadium opening.  Both occurred without a major security incident despite credible public enemy threats. 

            Of significance, the Afghans developed the operational plan Op Naweed 1391, which I hope to talk to you about a bit.  That plan will guide the combined team operations in 2012 and in 2013.  Op Naweed was written by the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Defense and the National Directorate of Security planners, and it was written in Dari by them and then translated into English.  And that's a first, and I think it's an important step.  The focus of this plan is to enable the Afghans to take the lead and to hold and expand our current security gains. 

            As the Afghan security forces have continued to grow and develop, so have the programs and capabilities to train and professionalize the force. 

            Officer and NCO basic and branch courses are now established, and literacy training is integrated into the Afghan forces at both institutional and unit levels.  And today, Afghans conduct approximately 70 percent of their training -- of the training on their own, Afghans training Afghans.  These are all good indicators that they're on the right track.   

            As I conduct battlefield circulation to assess our progress and challenges, I emphasize the following priorities and these are my priorities presently for the campaign: Maintain the momentum of the campaign, we must relentlessly pursue the enemy and sustain the tactical defeat of the insurgents in the decisive terrain of the south and expand the security zone surrounding Kabul, denying insurgent support areas, caches, and infiltration.  The second:  Accelerate the development of the Afghan national security forces and move them into the lead as soon as possible.  Third priority:  Assist GiRoA's efforts to improve public administration; assist in the hiring, placing, protecting of civil servants and the delivery of basic services to the people.  The fourth is communicate visible, tangible and recognizable progress; it's really our communications.  And then fifth:  To maintain our agility and planning and force posture, both in the coalition and the ANSF.  And finally, we must sustain the coalition:  The diversity and strength of the coalition has been and will continue to be essential to our success in Afghanistan.   

            In early January 2012, the Afghan defense ministries, in coordination with IJC, began implementation of Operation Naweed, which means "good news" in Dari.  Op Naweed will expand on the success of Op Lomed, its predecessor.  It will focus both Afghan and coalition forces on deepening the gains we've achieved and expanding them during 2012.   

            We will continue to ensure security in the major population areas like Kabul, Kandahar, Helmand, Mazar-e Sharif and Herat, and we'll protect the commerce routes that connect them.  In particular, we'll connect Kabul to Kandahar to Lashkar Gah, and focus on the improved border security in this coming year. 

            These operational objectives directly support the Afghan Inteqal, a transition process.  And all of these activities will be bolstered by the introduction of security force assistance teams in this coming year. 

            In conclusion, it's an honor and a privilege to serve with our Afghan partners, and especially the brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians of this great coalition.  I'm humbled by their sacrifice in this cause.  And as a combined team, I assure you that we are unified in our effort and we're confident in our success. 

            And with that, I would welcome your questions. 

            MR. LITTLE:  Bob? 

            Q:  General, Bob Burns with AP.  General, I'd like to ask you to respond to the article that was published in Armed Forces Journal by Lieutenant Colonel Dan Davis in which he says that ISAF leaders -- presumably, including yourself -- have been misleading the public about the degree of progress that's been made there.  He says that, whereas compared to the rosy scenario that he hears that -- he says there's been a lack of -- a lack of success -- I think he said a lack of success at virtually every level in Afghanistan. 

            GEN. SCAPARROTTI:  Right.  I read the article.  I -- what I would say is this:  It's one person's view of this.  From my personal point of view, I do a lot of battlefield circulation; I talk to commanders and soldiers; I have assessments from others, like my sergeant major that I put on the battlefield virtually every week to walk with both Afghan and coalition parts.  So I take in a lot of -- a lot of data from many different places to determine my assessment, to include a very objective, detailed assessment we do every quarter. 

            So I'm confident that -- in my personal view that our outlook is accurate. 

            I did read the article, and I think that as you read that article, I don't doubt what he describes in a sense, for instance, his occasion of watching a policeman watch an insurgent depart an area. You know, I think those things happen. 

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