January 23 Defense Department Briefing

By The Pentagon, The Pentagon - January 23, 2013

            COMMANDER BILL SPEAKS:  Good morning.  I'd like to welcome back to the Pentagon briefing room Lt. Gen. James Terry, United States Army, who's been here a number of times via satellite and joins us in person today. 

            Lt. Gen. Terry is the commander of ISAF Joint Command, deputy commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, and commanding general, U.S. Army V Corps.  This is Gen. Terry's third tour in Afghanistan, and he assumed his current duties in July -- or June 2012.  He took command of U.S. Army V Corps in November 2011. 

            Prior to this assignment, he served as commanding general, 10th Mountain Division (Light), Fort Drum, New York, from September 2009 to November 2011 and was deployed as commander ISAF Regional Command South from October 2010 to October 2011.  From August 2004 to February 2007, he served as deputy commanding general operations, 10th Mountain Division (Light), and deployed as a deputy commanding general for operations for Combined Joint Task Force 76, Afghanistan, from January 2006 to February 2007, with responsibilities in what is now Regional Commands East, South and Southwest. 

            Gen. Terry regularly travels throughout Afghanistan, often joined by senior Afghan national security force officers, to gather a full picture of ISAF's coalition and partnered efforts, and today he will update us on the progress of the campaign.  He will make some opening comments and then will take your questions. 

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

            LIEUTENANT GENERAL JAMES TERRY:  Well, good morning, all, and thanks, Bill, for that -- that very kind introduction. 

            I can tell everybody here today it's much, much better to see you in person than it is to be sitting there in Kabul in a little -- what we call the can, staring into a video lens there, so it's good to see you all in person.  I see some familiar faces out there, also.

            Bottom line upfront, I tell you, we are -- we're in the process of moving the Afghan National Security Forces into the lead for security.  This spring, we'll reach milestone 2013, and the Afghan National Security Forces will plan, lead and execute all operations across Afghanistan.  IJC will train, advise, assist, and support these operations, and this is a fundamental shift. 

            What I want to do today is talk to you specifically about the Afghan National Security Forces that I've worked with over the course of six years and three deployments, as described by Bill.  Make no mistake -- the progress there I think is very real.  It's my assessment that it is.  It's unmistakable, and it's very substantial. 

            Let me be clear, though.  There are challenges that do remain with the Afghan National Security Forces.  But with our partners, we're going to work through those challenges. 

            In June of 2012, we began moving out of partnered operations and, in fact, now with tranche four announced, the Afghan National Security Forces will have the lead to protect over 85 percent of Afghanistan's population once tranche four is fully implemented, beginning about the March timeframe.  

            The Afghan national police and army can and do fight for Afghanistan and for the people of Afghanistan.  What we must do now is build supporting and sustaining to the Afghan National Security Forces.  Those systems and capabilities allow them to address the current threat through sustained and continuous activity. 

            Now, the way we're doing this is called security force assistance, which encompasses all activities that move the Afghan security forces to sufficient and sustainable security.  In terms of our mission, this is more specifically known as train, advise, and assist.  

            Today, insurgents fear the growing capability of the Afghan National Security Forces.  We are fully engaged in supporting the government of Afghanistan to develop the security forces that are capable of containing the insurgency and managing the violence.  The challenge is to continue to build their capability and capacity, while in the current fight.  And through security force assistance, that's exactly what we are doing. 

            Afghan national security forces are taking a lead not just because of the Lisbon agreement, but more importantly because long-term stability demands that Afghans own, manage, and lead their own security efforts.  The Afghan people want this, and we all know that the nature of this fight requires indigenous forces for the long haul. 

            More importantly, transition undermines the insurgent narrative of fighting foreign forces and will uncover the insurgents' true design -- to control the people of Afghanistan, who quite frankly have grown tired of 34 years of war and desire a better future for their children.  Everywhere the ANSF, the Afghan National Security Forces, are leaning into the challenges.  

            Now, I'd highlight that currently they lead a large majority of all the current conventional operations.  Insurgents have been pushed out of major population areas in our pursuit.  The population centers present an urban energy, one that I did not see six years ago, marked by bustling city streets, markets, cars -- and, of course, with the cars come the traffic jams. 

            Cellphone coverage has expanded over 80 percent of the population, and the kids are back in school.  Human capital is one of the biggest changes I've seen since 2006, as more than 8 million Afghans are in elementary and secondary education, and almost a quarter of them are young girls. 

            Now, unfortunately, insurgents now rely primarily on IEDs, which kill more Afghan civilians than coalition forces.  Quite frankly, the people, as I've said, are tired and have no desire to be controlled by the insurgents.  Perceptions of the Taliban have worsened over time.  Anti-Taliban movements are springing up as the people of Afghanistan reject the heavy-handed tactics of insurgents.  Today polls indicate that the majority of the Afghans think the country is heading the right direction, which is, again, a significant increase from my time in 2006. 

            Where we are now:  in June, we started moving to the next phase in the campaign, which is driven by security force assistance.  More than 400 security force assistance teams are in place, training, advising, and assisting Afghan national security forces as they take the lead for security.  

            We are now bringing purposely built formations -- brigade-sized, in many cases -- that are focused on and trained to train, advise and assist the Afghan national security forces.  They will command the security force assistance teams, provide force protection, and, when required, provide enabler support to Afghan National Security Forces.  Our only -- our early-on assessment is that these formations are serving to accelerate moving the Afghan National Security Forces forward into the lead for security. 

            ISAF forces are actively training Afghan forces to provide their own enablers.  While much work remains to be done, strides have been made in the areas of casualty evacuation, logistics, intelligence fusion, counter-IED, and fire support.  It's important to note that in most cases, these enablers will not resemble U.S. or coalition enablers.  Rather, they will be supported by and sustained by growing Afghan national security force systems. 

            Too often, we look at enablers as a piece of material.  What we must do is have a view toward the future that looks at how Afghans will use these capabilities within their own organizations, how they will adopt doctrinally, and more importantly, how they will educate, train, and develop their leaders for the future. 

            We are witnessing examples of increasing Afghan National Security Force capability.  Let me give you just one example.  In November, the Afghan National Army 205th Corps successfully conducted core-level operations across Regional Command South.  These operations included all security elements, police, army, and were Afghan-planned, Afghan-led, and logistically supported by Afghan forces.  This included planning and conducting their internal re-supply convoys and separate aerial re-supply missions conducted by the emerging Afghan air force, using Afghan helicopters and Afghan pilots. 

            Now, as the Afghan organizations demonstrate their ability to operate independently, security force assistance will focus at the next organizational level.  While this supports a smaller footprint, it is not simply about doing less.  This is about putting our advising and enabling resources in the right places at the right levels within the Afghan National Security Force to ensure that Afghan partners can hold the gains of the past. 

            This is about the right mix of coalition forces and capability that balances risk to security, while continuing to support the Afghan national security forces as they grow their own enablers and capability over time.  Our partners will need our help in this regard, and we will be there to help them. 

            Now, no doubt challenges remain.  While much has been accomplished, we still have a long road ahead.  As we look to the future, it's not without associated risk.  Some were generational, and some were regional.  Insurgent population has proven resilient and will, without a doubt, challenge the Afghan national security forces this spring as they take the lead of security. 

            Now, I'm confident that with our train, advise, assist mission, and security force assistance concept, we can mitigate that risk by supporting our Afghan partners, while continuing to grow that Afghan capability.  There are no short-term solutions; rather, it will take time and a long-term partnership with the international community, as put forth in the Chicago declaration.  We will stick with our Afghan partners as they continue to grow. 

            I would add that while the Afghan national security forces move to the lead, coalition support and coalition forces specifically will still be conducting operations in combat conditions beside our Afghan partners.  The mission will be to train, advise and assist, but, again, it will still be in combat conditions. 

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