Obama's War (2009)
Tens of thousands of fresh American troops are now on the move in Afghanistan, led by a new commander and armed with a counterinsurgency plan that builds on the lessons of Iraq. But can U.S. forces succeed in a land long known as the "graveyard of empires"? And can the U.S. stop the Taliban in neighboring Pakistan, where U.S. troops are not allowed and the government is weak?
In Obama's War, veteran correspondent Martin Smith travels across Afghanistan and Pakistan to see first-hand how the president's new strategy is taking shape, delivering vivid, on-the-ground reporting from this eight-year-old war's many fronts. Through interviews with top generals, diplomats and government officials, Smith also reports the internal debates over President Obama's grand attempt to combat terrorism at its roots.
"What we found on the ground was a huge exercise in nation building," says Smith. "The concept's become a bit of a dirty word, but that's what this is. We started with the goal of eliminating Al Qaeda, and now we've wound up with the immense task of re-engineering two nations."
The brunt of the work is falling on rank-and-file soldiers, and nowhere is it more difficult than in the dusty, unforgiving landscape of Helmand province, the Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan, where FRONTLINE embedded with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. Since the Marines' arrival in July, Helmand has become the most lethal battlefield in Afghanistan. But FRONTLINE found the Marines trying to act as armed diplomats, attempting to build the necessary trust for badly needed economic development.
"It's trying to change the culture of the organization," Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, tells FRONTLINE of the administration's plan. "At the end of the day, our best counterinsurgents are going to be young sergeants who just have an ability to deal with people. We've got to give them the flexibility to make decisions."
Even as American soldiers struggle to make progress in Afghanistan village by village, equally vexing challenges remain across the border in Pakistan. "In Afghanistan we know what to do; we just don't know if we have the resources or the time available to do it," David Kilcullen, a leading counterinsurgency expert, tells FRONTLINE. "The problem in Pakistan is we're not really sure what to do."
When FRONTLINE confronts the Pakistani army about its reluctance to take out key Taliban leaders, the military's chief spokesman, Gen. Athar Abbas, argues that the accusations are misplaced. There is no truth, he claims, that insurgents stage attacks on American forces from the Pakistani side of the border. "They operate from Afghanistan. If somebody claims that everything is happening from this side of the border, I am sorry, this is misplaced, and we refute it."
Barred from sending troops across the border, the United States is left with few good options. No quick fix will solve Pakistan. "If we have a strategy in Pakistan," says George Packer, a staff writer at The New Yorker, "it's to build up the civilian government to the point where it can be a kind of counterbalance to the military and begin to reorient their own sense of their destiny. Is that even thinkable for a foreign power to do? Even as I say it, I think, why do we think we could even begin to accomplish that?"
Afghanistan and the Counterinsurgency War
Lt. Col. John Nagl (Ret.) Fmr. Adviser to Gen. Petraeus
A growing number of people are saying we need to come back home. We need to cut this off at this point and focus on protecting ourselves here and use our resources to go after terrorists camps if they crop up. They say mssion creep is what we're looking at here, and that we've gone from hunting Al Qaeda -- the initial reason for this engagement -- to nation building in two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan.
These are long, hard wars. I've fought in both kinds. I would not choose to fight a counterinsurgency campaign if I had the choice. What we learned on Sept. 11 was that vipers can grow in ungoverned spaces, and that in a globalized world, they can harm us. We cannot police every ungoverned space in the world. But in Afghanistan, there is an enemy that harbors Al Qaeda, and that provides a base from which we can again be threatened.
Or at least they could harbor Al Qaeda. Right now the Taliban does not attack us, and Al Qaeda has slipped across the border into Pakistan.
The Taliban does attack us, but only on the ground in Afghanistan.
Right. And if we weren't there, they wouldn't be coming over here to attack us.
If we were not there, I concur.
They're not global jihadists.
They are not global jihadis. They would resume control of Afghanistan. Assuming that Pakistan continued any degree of pressure on Al Qaeda, I believe that Al Qaeda would relocate back to Afghanistan. It is also possible that were we to pull up stakes and no longer fight in Afghanistan, that Pakistan would then come to a complete truce with the Taliban and with Al Qaeda. In fact, I think that's the most likely scenario, at which point we would be unable to use bases in Afghanistan as a place from which to put pressure on Al Qaeda.
But why not use our assets in surveillance and securing our borders, doing a better job of policing terrorism?
There is a certain amount of counterterrorism we can conduct if we don't have bases inside Afghanistan, if we don't have bases inside Pakistan.
It sounds far cheaper and less ambitious.
It is absolutely cheaper. It is, I believe, less effective. The hard part in a counterinsurgency campaign, in a counterterrorism campaign, isn't killing your enemy -- it's finding your enemy. The more boots on the ground we have in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, the closer relationships we have with those governments, the more advisers we have working with them, the better relationships we have with [their] militaries, the more information we derive on their enemies and on our enemies. And those overlap. They don't absolutely coincide.
Col. Andrew Bacevich (Ret.) Author, The Limits of Power
Given the success we've had thus far in securing the population in Iraq and Afghanistan, does this idea make any sense whatsoever?
Can anybody possibly believe that the United States of America ... has the resources necessary to conduct a global counterinsurgency campaign? Over what? The next 20, 50, 80 years? I think [there] is something so preposterous about such proposals that I just find it baffling that they are treated with seriousness by supposedly serious people. ...
You said it's partly generational?
It's probably generational in that young people -- and this is not necessarily a bad thing -- have bigger dreams, bigger ambitions. Older people tend to perhaps be more given to pessimism or cynicism. I mean, I would like to call it realism, but others might view it differently.
I hesitate to say that older people have a better understanding of the human consequences of unrealistic and naïve projects, because I know that these younger fellows, like Nagl and [CNAS fellow Andrew] Exum, have lost friends. But at the same time, I guess I puzzle over why their personal losses don't cause them to question the implications for the policy proposals that they support.
We've lost over 5,000 American soldiers over the past eight years, between Iraq and Afghanistan. We think Iraq is now finally winding down. At the same time, we ratchet up Afghanistan. So if we do indeed have a full-court-press application of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, certainly at least several hundred more American soldiers are going to die.
And I think it's very, very important to be absolutely certain that no alternative exists that would enable us to achieve our interests in Afghanistan without all those soldiers being killed. I think the people who insist and know it has to be done through counterinsurgency have not seriously examined all the alternatives.
Isn't undermining Al Qaeda a worthy mission?
Absolutely. One of these things I just really don't get is that there seems to be some presumption that Afghanistan is jihad central, that if we can simply succeed in pacifying Afghanistan that the problem of violent Islamic radicalism goes away or is solved.
There's no reason to think that. Violent Islamic radicalism is a transnational phenomenon. Yes, ungoverned spaces would seem to provide a great sort of opportunity for organizations like Al Qaeda to find sanctuary. Afghanistan is not the only ungoverned space on the face of the earth. ... We know that Al Qaeda networks cells can operate in ungoverned spaces like Hamburg, Germany and London, England and Brooklyn, New York. So one of the things that I just don't understand is why people think that fixing Afghanistan is going to fix the larger problem. It won't. ...
All we care about is that Al Qaeda not use the place as a sanctuary. You don't have to occupy the country in order to prevent that from happening. Through a program of intensive surveillance, supplemented with some kind of regime of precision strikes, we can succeed at the very least in keeping Al Qaeda on the run or hidden in caves.
Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn Director of Intelligence, ISAF
There are a lot of Afghan civilians that don't like the way the coalition has operated. They don't like their houses being bombed, their children being killed, the women being killed. They don't like the detention policies of recent times and even torture. So, there are many people that are very skeptical about the American approach.
… If we didn't kill another Taliban in the next six months we could be more successful than if we killed 15,000 of them. And so I think that our measure of success should not be -- and according to the commander, is not how many people we're taking off the battlefield, how many people we're killing or capturing. The measure of success is going to be how well we protect the population. …
[Afghan Taliban chief commander] Mullah Mohammed Omar issued a booklet on how to engage the population. He is instructing them: "Always be careful during your operations. This is our mission, to keep people and their property safe." Sounds like your directives.
That's exactly right. It's a very smart approach. This is a very savvy enemy, and Mullah Omar's been doing this a long time. He understands that the big advantage that Taliban have is their presence on the battlefield, which is very hard to trust and discern. And then there's just this incredible deep ethnic understanding of how people here will respond to the stimuli that he puts out there. But I really don't think that the local population looks at the Taliban and says, "Yep, this is what we want."
Well, some of them do. They join them.
I would say the majority are not ideologically bent. I think that a lot of them are joining because they have little faith in the government that they see. I think what they see is an Afghan government that does not respond to their needs. Mullah Omar runs a sharia court, and they resolve a problem the day it occurs or the next day. Whereas the government, somebody's having to take the time to go back up to the national government, and figure it out. And it takes, in some cases we've seen weeks to turn around.
So, that makes it a competition for hearts and minds?
It's an incredible competition. It is a competition that I don't believe we have studied hard enough. And it's something that I know we're in the process of trying to come to grips with.
We talked about learning their language, spending more time on the ground, getting out of our large vehicles and out from behind our sunglasses and all this gear that we wear, and literally just getting out among the population, so they see us as human beings. And we treat them as such -- rather than looking like something out of Star Wars to them.
Seth Jones Author, The Graveyard of Empires
There were expectations that both the U.S. and the Afghan government could improve law and order in the country. And those expectations have not been met. So there is a credibility gap. ...
Wasn't that credibility lost, or at least deeply tarnished, long ago?
The Afghan government's credibility has been declining for the last several years. The Asia Foundation polls, for example, show deepening concern about corruption at the national, provincial and local levels, as well as failed efforts to establish security from army and police forces in rural areas.
And tolerance, at least, if not support for the Taliban on the rise.
It's interesting. I would say that most insurgent groups actually don't have a lot of support. When you look at the Haqqani network, it doesn't have a large support base in Afghanistan. Its command-and-control mode continues to be across the border in Pakistan.
Even in Afghanistan with the Taliban, a range of tribal elders have said to me, "Our problem with the Taliban is that they try to adopt a top-down ideology." One tribal elder said to me: "I'm a Pashtun. If I want to grow my beard long, I'll grow it long. Nobody tells me how long to grow my beard. This is my problem with the Taliban."
So, even on the Taliban front, it's not clear that levels of support have significantly increased. But what is clear is that levels of support for the government have gone down. So in a sense, it's almost a race to the bottom in Afghanistan.
And I guess if this is a hearts-and-minds battle to some degree, it's a race between a brutal authoritarian Taliban and a weak state. Is that the context at this point?
The choices that are really imbibed in the U.S. strategy are one between a weak, central government and a very hardcore, ideologically motivated, senior Taliban leadership. And I think what's missing is an approach that deals more successfully with local institutions, including and especially tribal institutions.
Celeste Ward Senior defense analyst, RAND Corporation
Counterinsurgency gets a lot of credence coming out of Iraq. Is it an appropriate sort of approach to the problems on the ground in Afghanistan?
I think if you look at Field Manual 3-24 (PDF), and you listen to a lot of the rhetoric of the population-centric counterinsurgency that's most prominent now, it's virtually indistinguishable from the notion of nation building. …
Where does it become nation building?
… Let me start with the concept of clear, hold and build, which is a familiar counterinsurgency dictum. And if you think about it in theory, it makes a little bit of sense. You want to clear the enemy from an area, and then, you hold the area and protect the civilians, and then you build.
The problem is it's terribly vague about what exactly it is that you're required to build and to what point. Are we building sewage plants? Are we building electricity plants? Are we building security forces? And how do I know when I'm done? And so, a lot of these ideas that have become chants or incantations don't stand up to a lot of scrutiny, or at least don't provide sufficient specificity to constitute a strategy.
And then, you get mission creep.
And then, you get mission creep. And then, I've got to build the Afghan economy or the Iraqi economy to some unspecified unknown point, where you get to "We'll know it when we see it." And that's a difficult sell for the American public I think.
I remember after 9/11, and the sort of progressive argument was against the counterterrorists who said, "Well, we got to go out and kill folks." The liberal crowd, or progressive crowd, was saying: "No, you have to drain the swamp. You have to eradicate those conditions that lead to these fundamentalist groups, terrorist groups, if you will, arising." It seemed all pretty reasonable at the time. But isn't that what counterinsurgency now has grown from that soil?
I think it does grow from that soil. And I think as a national strategy that makes sense. But when you're talking about a particular country, then you need to be very specific about what that really means to drain the swamp, and how I know when I'm done.
The problem with Afghanistan is that it's such a poor country. It's, I believe, ranked 219th of countries with per capita GDP. And, you know, quite an ancient, mostly tribal culture that to develop them to some point that would even be recognizable as modernity will take decades, and untold billions of dollars.
And so, if that's what we intend to do by draining the swamp, then I think we need to be explicit about that. And if that's the strategy, then let's call it that instead of calling it counterinsurgency, which sounds a bit wonkish and a bit more abstruse and less explicit about the strategic tradeoffs and decisions that the nation is making about commitment of its resources.
Rory Stewart Author, The Places in Between
We're not going to win a counterinsurgency campaign. We're not going to defeat the Taliban. We're not going to be able to fix the Afghan state. That's not to say those things are impossible. Those things might happen very slowly under Afghan management. But we, the United States and our allies, are not in a position to do those things.
A maximalist approach you called it?
Yes, a maximalist approach because their vision of counterinsurgency encompasses everything: rule of law, governance, development, state-building. In fact, when you read their manuals, it almost looks like a World Bank policy document. It proposes a vision so broad that it can encompass Swedish humanitarians and American Special Forces officers.
It has a moral language that can appeal to the mass media. It's so abstract and vague that it's very, very difficult to pin down what's wrong with it. It's a hypnotizing vision. It's very easy to get people on board with, and very difficult to say: "Well, wait a second. How exactly are you going to do this? What kind of resources do you think you need? How much time is this going to take? And how does any of this contribute to our two key objectives, which are protecting the United States and helping Afghans?" …
The Taliban understandably believes they can outwait us. And of course, to some extent they can. There's a real limit to how long we're going to have the political will domestically to put out for this kind of operation.
Richard Holbrooke Special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Is what we're doing [in Afghanistan] nation building?
It's nation rebuilding. There is a nation in Afghanistan, and until it was wrecked by the Soviet invasion in 1978, it was a poor but proud and functioning country. It was an agriculture export country. It had its own traditions and arrangements. ...
Who is our enemy? Who are we fighting? Who is the Taliban?
Our enemy is Al Qaeda and its allies, people who have publicly said they wish to attack the United States again, people who have publicly called on nuclear physicists and engineers to help them gain access to nuclear weapons, which, as the whole world knows, Pakistan has.
In Afghanistan we're fighting the Taliban.
We're fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, yes.
And the Taliban is not Al Qaeda.
[The] Taliban is not Al Qaeda, but they've very closely allied. ... This is the key point, and I'm asked it all the time. Al Qaeda is mainly in Pakistan. We're fighting the Taliban next door in Afghanistan. Why are we fighting the Taliban in one country if the main enemy is in the other country?
Well, the answer lies in looking at the Taliban in western Pakistan. They are the allies of Al Qaeda. They're [integrally] related. Take a guy like [Siraj] Haqqani and the Haqqani group. Haqqani is in western Pakistan. He is an intermediary, in essence, between Al Qaeda, who targets the United States, who seeks nuclear weapons to attack us, and the Taliban. And he fights Americans in Afghanistan and kills them. He captured two New York Times reporters in recent months, both of whom have, thank God, been released. And he simultaneously carries out joint efforts with Al Qaeda.
Andrew Exum Adviser to Gen. McChrystal
In Afghanistan, it's entirely possible that we wage the finest counterinsurgency operations ever devised by man, that we wage incredibly moral and ethically responsibility campaigns, that we wage a campaign in which we put protecting the people front and center, and we could still lose this war.
And this is something that people don't want to talk about in American counterinsurgency circles. But the reality is that when you engage in a counterinsurgency campaign as a third party, your success or failure is largely dependent upon what the host government does and fails to do.
So we could be perfect in Afghanistan. And so far -- I want to be clear about this -- we have been far from perfect. But we could change everything over the next 12 months and still fail in Afghanistan, because the government of Afghanistan is perceived as illegitimate.
And when I say illegitimate, I mean the people of Afghanistan do not have faith that existing institutions are those most appropriate for society; that they think that the government should either be different or they think that the Taliban presents a better alternative.
This is one of my favorite examples: In southern Afghanistan, the Taliban now has ombudsmen. They send people out into southern Afghanistan, and they say: "How are we doing? What do you think of your local shadow governor? Is he appropriate? Is he just? Is he doing a good job? What do you think about our operations in your district? Do we interfere with your poppy harvest?" They ask questions like this.
And you know what it is: a direct challenge to the way that NATO, ISAF and the government of Afghanistan have been doing business for the past eight years. It's especially a direct challenge to perceived corruption in the government of Afghanistan. And make no mistake about it: We are seen as being entirely complicit with the corruption of the government of Afghanistan. ...
So from the perspective of the Afghan people, they want governance; they want somebody to be in there doing the good job on behalf of the Afghan people. But they haven't seen it from either the Taliban or the Haqqani network or the people that we reinstalled in power after 2001.
You talk about the perfect counterinsurgency campaign putatively. Is a full-fledged reconciliation effort part of that?
... Most counterinsurgency campaigns have to end with either some sort of reconciliation process or some sort of political agreement. They rarely end in complete, overwhelming victory, so there has to be some sort of reconciliation process that takes place, at least at the lower levels.
The problem in Afghanistan is that, as the social science literature and as all the historical literature on insurgents leads us to believe, is that control very rarely follows collaboration. Collaboration follows control.
And unless you establish control over the population, unless you are able to provide security, unless you are able to, in large part, defeat the insurgency on the battlefield, it is going to be very difficult for you to get some sort of collaboration from low-level insurgents or from mid-level insurgents. To bring people into the fold, so to speak, you have to exhaust the insurgency in the same way they're exhausting you.
If you try to buy everybody off at the very beginning -- which is what some people try to say that we did in 2007 -- you're very rarely going to get a friendly security situation. ...
Bilal Sarwary Journalist
The Obama administration has adopted a new strategy. They're talking about counterinsurgency now. When you hear the plan for the new approach, what strikes you?
... Afghans are hopeful and optimistic because there's a new president, and his name is Barack Obama. …
But Afghans are very skeptical. And you can't blame them for what they've gone through. So they would like to see Obama's words in practical terms. And right now it's not happening.
Maybe there are no more civilian casualties for the moment. But the local villages and the provinces -- the writ of the central government is very weak, doesn't exist at all in a lot of places. There's a lot of corruption. People have not seen in their villages, a lot of them, a new bridge, a new water pump or a clinic or a school.
And I think these are the things that matters to Afghans a lot. They may not like the Taliban. But what choices do they have? And that's what I come across each time I go to a province. Taliban are making more headway. …
I ask because one thing you hear a lot in Washington is the new counterinsurgency campaign means, in part, protecting the population based on relationships with tribal elders, spending more time amongst the people. Could you speak to the experience of a tribal elder or a village, as the Americans come -- what is that experience for them?
I remember a tribal elder from the southeast, he said: "The Americans are like nomads. They come with their tents and then the next day they're gone."
And I think there's something to that because if you are a local villager, what you would like to see is a permanent presence of either the foreign forces or the Afghanistan government. … And you're talking about a country where, for decades, there has been no concept of a central government. You've always had a very strong society and a very weak government.
So one of the things that local people would like to see is the active presence of their government, reconstruction, so that they could see some changes in their lives and maybe then the presence of the foreign forces. I think that is something that a lot of people have been talking about. But right now, the Afghans cannot come forward and express their views clearly because again they know who are in charge when the Americans and the Afghans leave the area.
STRIKING A BALANCE: A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY
KEYNOTE ADDRESS INTRODUCTION BY:
DR. JOHN A. NAGL, PRESIDENT, CNAS-Center for a New American Security
KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY:
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, USA, COMMANDER, CENTRAL COMMAND
8:45 AM – 9:45 AM
THURSDAY, JUNE 11, 2009
TRANSCRIPT PROVIDED BY
DC TRANSCRIPTION – WWW.DCTMR.COM
MR. JOHN NAGL: Thank you, Ambassador Burns, for those kind words. Secretary Danzig, thank you for your leadership. The new leadership team of the Center for a New American Security is very excited to be building on to the strong foundation built by Kurt Campbell and Michele Flournoy, Jim Miller, and Nate Tibbits. And everyone else, welcome. Thank you for being a part of the Center for a New American Security as it moves forward into its third year and again continues its tradition of discussing the most pressing issues affecting our nation in a truly bipartisan, balanced, and professional manner.
The tradition continues today as we welcome our keynote speaker for this morning General David Petraeus. General Petraeus is the commander of U.S. Central Command. He bears responsibility for U.S. national security interests in 20 nations stretching through the Arabian Gulf region into Central Asia, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. But he wasn’t always a general.
I met Major Petraeus 22 years ago last month in the hallowed halls of the Social Sciences Department at West Point when he was a major and I was a young cadet. We were introduced by a great old cavalry man named Dan Kaufman. Lieutenant Colonel Kaufman was walking down to meet then Major Petraeus and said, “Nagl, for an infantryman, Petraeus is really smart.” (Laughter.) I think he’s going to amount to something some day.” I spent the rest of that summer writing my senior thesis on a corner of Major Petraeus’ desk in the outer office of the supreme allied commander in Europe. And during that experience, I realized not for the first time just how smart Colonel Kaufman was. This guy was clearly going places and fast, as he demonstrated when he took me out for a run one morning. (Laughter.)
The rest of the story is well-known to all of you. Major General Petraeus commanded the famed Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne division during the invasion of Iraq, and more importantly, during the occupation afterwards, when the 101st became the only division in the United States Army with its own foreign policy – (laughter) – and when General Petraeus demonstrated for the first time to everyone his own genius for counterinsurgency. After taking his division home to Fort Campbell, he almost immediately returned to Iraq as a lieutenant general, responsible for building the Iraqi army that will ultimately allow America to depart Iraq, leaving behind a secure country and region.
He returned from that tour to command the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas teaming with Marine Lieutenant General Jim Mattis, my previous boss in Al Anbar to write the Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. That book played an important role in codifying many of the best practices that many of our best units had already learned over many years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, most importantly, that protecting the population has to come first.
General Petraeus can put that doctrine into practice, commanding coalition forces in Iraq in 2007 and 2008 and presiding over a dramatic improvement in security that few people would have thought possible. He is now bringing the lessons of that fight to bear in Afghanistan and in the global counterinsurgency campaign against al Qaeda.
A thinker and a doer, a scholar and a lawyer, but most of all, one of America’s best leaders, it is an enormous honor to welcome General David Petraeus to keynote the third annual Center for a New American Security Conference. (Applause.)
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, good morning to you all. Thanks very much for that warm welcome. Thanks, John, for you kind introduction. More importantly, thanks for all that you did in uniform and what you’re doing now with CNAS to contribute to the important discussions of ongoing operations that are taking place.
And if I could, I want to offer upfront my support for what Ambassador Burns advocated, calling to strengthen state and AID, I have said this on the record on several occasions on Capitol Hill. And as they say up there, I want to associate myself with the gentleman’s remarks. But the challenges that we face, as I will make very clear, require whole of government approaches, not just military approaches and whole of government means that you have to have all the tools in your kit bag capable and sharp. And that does require a strengthened diplomatic AID, and ranks of other interagency organizations as well. And I’ll make that point
when I’ll show the anaconda slide that counterterrorism by the way, if you want to talk about that being what we do, counterterrorism actually requires a counterinsurgency approach, not countering terrorism. And that’s slightly counterintuitive.
As John noted, I’ve known him since he was Cadet Nagl at the U.S. Military Academy. I’ve developed considerable respect for him over the years. One of the first calls that I made, in fact, when we started assembling the team to draft the Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual in early 2006 was to John. All of us were familiar with his academic work and his field work on counterinsurgency. The latter in Ramadi, I might add, indeed under the great Jim Mattis. And it was terrific to have him on the team that helped develop that manual. There should be no question that he is for a former army officer really smart. (Laughter.)
I also want to salute this organization. The CNAS has, in a few short years, established itself as a true force and think tank in policymaking circles. According to no less an authoritative media source than the Washington Post in fact, CNAS has become, and I quote, “Washington’s go-to think tank on military affairs.” And this conference is certainly one more example of CNAS’s important role. So well done to all those on the team that is CNAS.
In truth, you could almost begin to feel a little bit important standing here at this podium and looking out at such a distinguished and large audience assembled in the ball room of one of Washington’s preeminent hotels, but were that temptation to feel important hit me, I would recall a story that the great General Jack Vessey used to tell as a reminder to keep one’s ego in check regardless of the circumstances.
The time was 1982. General Vessey had only recently become the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, culminating over four decades in uniform that began with service as young first sergeant in Italy in World War II and included earning the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism when his battalion’s firebase in Vietnam was nearly overrun. So here he was serving as the senior officer of the greatest military in the world. And he and his wife had been invited to attend the much anticipated performance at the Kennedy Center where they sat in the presidential box and were treated royally by one and all.
So by the end of the evening, General Vessey was understandably feeling pretty good about his station in life, perhaps even a tiny bit important as he and his wife left the center and stood waiting for their car. Before the car arrived, however, General Vessey saw a retired General J. Lawton Collins, a legendary former army chief of staff who had earned the nickname Lightning Joe as a highly decorated, hard charging, no nonsense corps commander in World War II. On seeing General Collins walk by, General Vessey touched him on the shoulder, held out his hand and said, “Good evening, General Collins. I’m General Jack Vessey, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It’s good to see you, sir.” General Collins turned, took General Vessey’s hand, shook it briskly, looked Vessey up and down and said to him, “Vessey, get me a cab.” (Laughter.)
Well, when I heard General Vessey tell that story some years back, someone in the audience immediately asked him of course, “Well, what did you do, sir?” “Well,” Vessey responded, “I got him a cab.” (Laughter.)
And I want to assure you that if anyone needs a cab later today, I’ll be out front doing my duty. (Laughter.)
Well, this morning what I would like to do, as John said, is provide an update on what we at Central Command are doing across our area of responsibility to provide you with a brief discussion of the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, talk about a couple of other topics and then take your questions.
Next slide please. That’s the topics. Go ahead.
I wanted to show the CENTCOM AOR just to remind folks, John mentioned it, but it good to remember that we start in Egypt in the west, continue on across to Pakistan in the east, extend up to Kazakhstan in the north, and down to Yemen on the ground in the south, but we have all this water, as well, and of course that comes in and we are indeed the counter-piracy crowd as well as the counterterrorist and counterinsurgency crowd as well.
If you look at this, in fact, and this is sort of a one slide this is what we do, I think what you conclude is that probably if you’re the commander of CENTCOM, you feel like the guy in the circus who’s running around trying to keep all the plates spinning. And we’ve got a lot of plates to try to keep spinning. We have the obvious ones that I’ll talk about – Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – but we also have the counter-piracy mission that I mentioned. There is counter arms smuggling that takes place, freedom of the seas, trade routes. You all know that 40 or whatever percent of the world’s energy resources that flow through the Straits of Hormuz, enormous efforts in terms of building partnerships, turning bilateral arrangements slowly into multilateral arrangements. And I would note that Iran is our best recruiting officer right now because the Gulf States and others, understandably, are very concerned about the provocative rhetoric and actions. We’ll see what happens with the elections tomorrow and what transpires after that, but the degree of partnership, the willingness and eagerness in fact to partner on the west side of the gulf is at substantial levels.
We’re also certainly working in the Levant. There are extremist elements there. Yemen, we’re very concerned about the challenges that have emerged there. There have been successes, in fact, in Saudi Arabia and in many of the other Gulf states against al Qaeda and also as al Qaeda in Iraq has been diminished considerably, and I’ll discuss that further. And then, as you look over to the partnership efforts, where we’re trying to encourage a broad partnership against extremism, against the illegal narcotics industry to replace what might be called the new great game that has characterized relationships in the central Asian states, and then of course we go down into Afghanistan and Pakistan and the challenges there and what we’re doing there to reverse a situation that has deteriorated in one country and to support a partner who has demonstrated considerable resolve in the past several weeks in particular in the case of Pakistan.
These are the three areas that I’ll talk about. Here at the bottom lines upfront. There is no question about the substantial progress in Iraq. I’ll show you the usual metrics to show you where we are with those, but the fact is that we’ve gone from a situation, which in June of 2006 or 2007 saw 160 attacks per day on average in Iraq and is now between 10 and 15 attacks per day and has been that way for about six months now, in fact on the low end of that in recent weeks.
There is no question that there are still capabilities of al Qaeda. We saw it again tragically yesterday west of Nasiriyah in Southern Afghanistan to carry out sensational attacks. And in fact, one of the challenges that Iraq faces is that because of the improvements in security, they have reduced many of the measures that were taken during the height of the sectarian violence and that has made it more difficult in some cases to interdict or to prevent attacks because of the reduction of checkpoints, barriers, and all the rest that the people understandably want reduced to allow freedom of movement in their cities.
But again, substantial progress – but as Ambassador Crocker and I and General Odierno and Ambassador Hill also repeatedly stated it’s still fragile and still reversible, albeit I think less so certainly than when I left in September of last year and less so after the elections that took place in January which were really quite heartening with the provincial councils now having been seated and much more representative provincial councils in some of those areas where the Sunnis boycotted the voting back in January, 2005.
That is in contrast to the situation in Afghanistan, where over the past two years, and I’ll show you the statistics that establish this quite clearly, the security situation has deteriorated in specific areas, in particular in the east and the south, the areas of the so-called Pashtun insurgency. And that has to be reversed. And of course, General McChrystal is going over there, flowing in as additional forces are also being committed in substantial numbers from the United States, also additional forces from our NATO partners and some of the other non-NATO members of the coalition because this is what we have to do. And I think that was laid out very clearly in the president’s description of the Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy. It has to be a whole of government approach, as I mentioned earlier. A comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy is what is required to keep Afghanistan from becoming once again a sanctuary for transnational extremists as it was prior to 9/11.
In Pakistan, there is no question I think at this point that the Pakistanis see very clearly the existential threat that is posed to their country by the extremists, in particular by the Pakistani Taliban who have caused such problems in the northwest frontier province and against whom the Pakistani military has responded very strongly in Swat, Lower Dir, Buner and some other districts of the northwest frontier province.
There have also been operations in the federally administered tribal areas, in Bajaur and Mohmand. And, of course, there are significant challenges resident there. That is after all the location for a number of sanctuaries and safe havens that cause problems in Afghanistan for the so-called extremist syndicate, as General McKiernan called it very accurately, al-Qaeda but also Baitullah Mehsud, Commander Hazir, Haqqani Network, TNSM, and a variety of other elements, all of which have loose relationships at various times, but all of which are extremist elements that again pose significant threats to Pakistan and cause enormous problems in Afghanistan.
As these operations go forward – and I was just in Pakistan two weeks ago – it is obvious that there is a clear recognition of the need not just to clear the miscreants, as the Pakistanis term them, from Swat Valley and from the other areas in which they have challenged the writ of government, there is also a recognition of the need to hold those areas and then of course to rebuilding them because there has been significant damage in some of those areas as well, although they were able to clear Mingora reportedly without extensive damage.
But that recognition is there. And I’ll show you on a slide just in very broad terms so as to not get into classified material, the concepts that are being followed there and of course, what we’re trying to do is to provide assistance but not direct tactical or operational assistance but rather logistical assistance, coalition support funding, the funding to support the internally displaced persons camps, as Ambassador Holbrooke, my great diplomatic wingman, noted when he was in Pakistan most recently, now over $300 million being contributed to that by the United States alone.
I think, as we turn and shift our focus to Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is very important to reflect on what we learned from Iraq and to remember that you have to apply what was learned there with a very nuanced understanding, a very granular understanding of local circumstances in which those lessons are being applied.
And to do that you have to go back and recall what the surge actually was because it was really much more than this center line here, the increase in U.S. forces of 30,000 or even the increase in coalition forces which were a number of thousand more, even more than the growth in Iraqi forces during the time of the surge which is about 125,000. They now number well over 600,000 and even more than the single commitment that all of this represented.
What those extra forces did and what the commitment they represented did were to enable the employment in a much more robust manner, counterinsurgency concepts of the kind that John talked about earlier that were indeed codified in the Marine and Army field manual on counterinsurgency, really the best practices that we had learned or relearned during the course of our initial years in Iraq.
And I want to talk about those for a second because, again, they are the big ideas that were the underpinning, the intellectual underpinning for what was done in Iraq, and they’re captured on this next slide here and I’ll go through them one by one.
As John mentioned, the overriding mission of a military force in counterinsurgency has to be to secure the people, to protect the population. And, by the way, I would add to be seen as securing and serving them. This is hugely important. This is of enormous importance as we go to Afghanistan and recall that this is the graveyard of empires. It is a place that has never taken kindly to would be conquerors and we must be partners there, good neighbors, and all of the rest of that as opposed to dominating or wanting to take over.
To do that, you have to – in Iraq – live among the people and there you could live among the people because you had plenty of empty real estate after the sectarian violence took place in which you could put your forces.
We created some 70 – over 70 additional locations in Baghdad alone, just in the multinational division Baghdad area in which we located our forces, and there are some people in here that were in those joint security stations, I might add, and experienced what it was. And we put them where the violence was the
greatest, and I’ll show you a slide that shows where that violence is in Afghanistan and of course that’s where our forces inevitably have to go, and our partners’ forces, and our Afghan elements.
Now, as this was done, you have to realize now that as you apply this in Afghanistan, that you don’t live among the people in Afghanistan. First of all, there’s no empty house. Second, the villages, particularly in the rural areas tend to be small. Now in a city you might be able to do this and it is indeed done in some of the larger cities.
But what you are going to do is provide a persistent security presence by being near the village on perhaps a spot that overlooks the village, but again, being good partners and good neighbors in doing that as well, and have an enormous concern, needless to say, about civilian casualties in everything that we do.
It has to be a comprehensive approach. It cannot be purely military. I’ll show you the comprehensive approach that we applied with respect to the target set that was al Qaeda in Iraq and the Sunni extremist elements that we were fighting there. There is another one of these for the Shi’a and you have to fine tune your strategy for each different element that you’re seeking to counter.
But that has to be much, much more than just counterterrorist operations or even just conventional military operations, and I’ll show that on the so-called anaconda slide here in a moment. But it comes back to what Ambassador Burns was talking about, you have to have a very robust whole of government capability to carry this out.
Needless to say, you have to achieve unity of effort and Ambassador Crocker and I sat down from the get go and said, we are going to be united in everything that we do. When we go see Prime Minister Maliki, we will always go together. When we met a congressional delegation, we were always together. We had our offices together. We linked arms on everything. And we established within our respective structures an environment, a culture that we were going to work together as well. We built fusion cells for energy, for elections, for health, you name it. Across the board we had organizations created that all worked together to a common end even though we didn’t all report through the same chain of command.
Now, these are all the nice things to do. You also have to go out and kill or capture bad guys who are irreconcilable. And we’ll talk a lot more about this critical determination of who is irreconcilable and that requires a very detailed understanding of intelligence, needless to say, and the local circumstances and so forth. But that is part of our job. And we cannot shrink from that at all and we need to do it tenaciously and persistently and relentlessly as that says.
You cannot clear and leave. You have to clear and hold. Yes, disruption does have value. In fact, the operation that was recently carried out south of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province was of enormous value. Over 100 tons of drugs and narcotics precursors and other materials destroyed and a significant amount of money, all the rest of this, very, very significant, but we couldn’t hold that area yet. And so, that will have had, again, an important disruptive effect but not an enduring one.
Ultimately, you have to be able to hold the areas that are cleared. That, of course, that is what the Pakistani military is addressing now with respect to Swat. They have a plan for that and I’ll discuss that very briefly with you without getting ahead of that.
It is vital that you know and have a sufficient understanding of the local circumstances so that when you are trying to help the government, the host nation forces reconcile, if you will – reintegrate is a better term that translates better in the Afghan culture and languages. But as that is done, you have to really have a phenomenal understanding of who’s who, how systems work, who is truly possible to be part of the solution
instead of a continuing part of the problem and so on. And then also who’s irreconcilable because they are, again, going to have to be killed, captured, or run off.
You have to promote it. You have to actually support this. And again, adapting this to the circumstances in Afghanistan with sufficient understanding will be critical.
And one of the efforts that we have ongoing is in fact to not only fill the slots that exist there but to put the best folks we can in and to build the bench and then to keep them engaged in even when they’re back in the United States through, for example, an intelligence center of excellence at CENTCOM, a small cell and a joint staff of 30 or 40 folks – not 400 as I think an article said today – and so on, but a variety of ways to keep them in the fight even when they’re back in the States, they’re staying in this and they rotate back out there as we did ultimately for Iraq.
As you do transitions, when you hand off, you do what was done in Kabul. When the Afghans are ready – I think it’s three of the five districts in Kabul have been handed –lead for security has been handed off but they were based on conditions in this particular case.
When you’re dealing with the press, when you’re dealing with the tribal leaders, when you’re dealing with host nations, when you’re dealing with your bosses, whatever it might be, you’ve got to beat the bad guys to the headlines. You’ve got to beat them to your bosses, the tribal chiefs, the host nation leaders. You have to be first with the truth and that requires really revamping what it is we do.
By the way, we got this right – there’s a story in the Early Bird today, a case where in RC East, by God they beat it, and they did it with video and they showed it for all the world and everything else. But this requires very flat approval structures and you cannot be hierarchical when you’re doing this kind of work. And we went through this in Iraq. In fact, we just also sent over to Afghanistan – with General McChrystal will go the individual who is my strategic communications director, Rear Admiral Greg Smith, who was persuaded to stay on active duty for another year or two.
We have fought for our values for decades, centuries, and we need to continue to embrace them, and we need to fight for them, and we shouldn’t shrink from that, and that should pervade everything that we do.
You need to create cultures in which the leaders at lower levels not only understand the overall intent, understand these big ideas but have thought through how it is that they’ll translate them operationally. And then they need to feel free to exercise initiative and to go out and get after it.
I remember I was walking through an area in a very tough neighborhood in southwest Baghdad as we were well into the surge and came across this company commander’s command post. As – you know, a simple plywood door as usual – he’s really proud of it by the way – and it had a sign on it, and it said: “In the absence of orders or guidance, figure out what they should have been and execute vigorously.” (Laughter.) I took that sign back with me and that became part of a whole line on this.
And then, of course, it’s all about learning and adapting. This is, I might add, something that John Nagl stressed enormously. And in fact, if you look at the Counterinsurgency Field Manual, we pulled what was going to be an annex or an appendix forward to be an actual chapter upfront about the importance of learning in the conduct of counterinsurgency. And of course, his dissertation turned book emphasized that repeatedly throughout it.
So those are the concepts. Those are the big ideas. And if you go to the next one, this is how it is this turns into a whole of government approach when it comes to dealing with al Qaeda in Iraq.
My sole point here – we did this for Congress originally so that we could explain to Congress that it takes more than counterterrorist operations to deal with an organization we call terrorist: al Qaeda and Iraq, which was really an industrial strength insurgency when you took in all of its allies because, remember, there are many more than this Sunni extremist organization or its – (inaudible) – Sunni Jaish al-Islami, you name it, many others.
And they all need this though, they need these – they have these common requirements in the center box. And the only way to take those away from them, to challenge them for popular support, go after them, attack their ideology, disrupt their command and control, cut their links to senior leaders, reduce the flow of money available to them, take away their weapons cashes and explosives, cut the flow of foreign fighters, in this case through Syria, and take out their safe havens and sanctuaries. The only way to do this is to apply all of these tools to it, not just counterterrorist forces. This takes much, much more than – (inaudible) – forces. It takes much more than conventional forces which are required to clear and hold. Let’s remember, we banged away in Ramadi with special special ops forces for years and we disrupted the daylights out of the bad guys. We never could drive from one side of Ramadi to the center of the town without getting hit until we cleared it and held with large conventional forces together with Iraqi force and ultimately enabled by the Sons of Iraq which were a product of tribal awakenings which were a product of support for political reconciliation. So you have to have a huge political component right here and this is embassy kinds of stuff certainly working with local military commanders.
The intelligence piece is huge. I would stress here by the way, the big breakthrough in intelligence is not any one of these platforms or capabilities, it’s the fusion of all of this. It’s forcing every agency to sit in the room without barriers, no walls allowed, and all having to talk to each other together with special special ops, regular special ops, conventional forces, coalition forces, DIA, CIA, NGA, NSA, you name it, all of them there and required and then the applications that enable that in this great new digital world of ours.
We completely revamp detainee operations. By the way, Major General Stone also just happens to be in Afghanistan right now. Some of you will remember that he was instrumental in reforming the conduct of detainee operations in Iraq where we determined that we had to do counterinsurgency inside the wire as well as outside the wire.
You have to separate the irreconcilables in the detainee facilities. We had 25,000 detainees at one time, keep in mind, and we had created terrorist university at Camp Bucca. We had the baddest of the bad guys right in with the not-quite so bad guys and they were recruiting al Qaeda in Iraq operatives for the future. So we finally identified them inside the wire conducting counterinsurgency, got the bad guys into special holding facilities – by the way, we’re building some facilities like that in Bagram now – and ultimately we were able also to create what would be more corrections kinds of functions where you try to help rehabilitate together with our Iraqi partners those detainees that are assessed to be low risk for release. And over time, that knocked the recidivism rate in Iraq way, way down from double digits to at one point I think it was down around 1 percent or so, quite low.
You obviously have to get at the real reasons for discontent in society. You have to help the host nation deal with the challenges when it comes to providing better basic services, jobs education and so forth. And then you need the real whole of government piece out here. Source countries means that the state counterterrorism – Ambassador Dell Dailey went to the North African countries and said, could you please make it tougher for military-age males to buy a one-way ticket to Damascus, and they did. And over time, all of that worked.
And also a huge piece here that all comes under the heading of strategic communications, information operations and building the structures and the processes that enable you to be first with the truth, as I mentioned. Whole of government approach, again, it takes – countering terrorism requires more than counterterrorist operations.
Okay. Well, where are we in Iraq? This starts over in 2004, ends with this past Friday night. And as you can see, the level of violence has come down very dramatically, and in fact, now for six months, as I said, we’ve had an average per day of 10 to 15 attacks per day. That contrasts with, as I said, 160 attacks per day at the height of the surge of offensives in June and also correspondingly significant reductions in civilian casualties and so forth.
I won’t dwell on this much other than to recall just again how horrific the violence was. A lot of that touched off by the cycle of violence in the wake of the Samarra Mosque bombing on 22 February, 2006 which was a horrific even as one looks back on this history.
So again, very significant reduction in security incidents which includes attempted attacks, IEDs found as well as all of the other normal types of attacks.
Now, if you’re protecting the population, this somewhat macabre data of violent civilian deaths is very important to you. You will recall, this is Iraqi data on the top, confirmed coalition data on the bottom. A huge gulf because we weren’t out with the people as much, we weren’t in hospitals, we weren’t in places and the violence was just so out of control.
This is a period when there were 53 dead bodies on average per day. Every 24 hours in Baghdad, 53 bodies on the streets. And Mayor Najim who was here earlier from Tel Afar somewhere could recall that period for you by the way, horrific.
And again, you can see very, very substantially reduced here. Now, there was an increase back in April because of the sensational attacks that are shown on this next slide, next slide right here. We are concerned about these sensational attacks that shows the residual capability of al Qaeda in Iraq in particular.
We do remain concerned about Shi’a extremist elements as well that do continue to receive funding, training, arming, and so forth from Iran, and there have been signature attacks by these Iranian-sponsored elements, the EFPs and indirect fire attacks, albeit at a reduced level certainly from when we were battling the militia, a year and a half or so ago.
And there are some reconciliation efforts ongoing including the release Laith Kazali, not the kingpin Qais Khazali, his brother Laith which is supporting an Iraqi Initiative at reconciliation with the group called Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
Again, these correspondingly come down very substantially. My greeting, welcome back to Iraq in February, 2007 was 43 car bombs in Baghdad in a single month and it went up the next month.
The presence of al Qaeda in Iraq, very substantially reduced. The inset map shows Baghdad. The red means where al Qaeda had a degree of freedom of action and presence. This is the overall map. This is back in the winter of 2006, 2007, the height of the sectarian violence when they controlled the Euphrates River Valley, controlled the approaches from Baghdad controlled the Za’ab triangle, the upper Tigris River Valley and a significant presence in Mosul.
You can see very significantly reduced in Baghdad still there, still able to carry periodic sensational attacks. They have been on an almost every three week cycle, by the way, which we’re obviously trying to break with our Iraq partners. Still some presence again certainly up in Mosul is a very significant readout that they have got to hold on to given its significant geopolitical location, but very substantially reduced.
Okay. That was Iraq, and again, as I said, significant progress, still fragile, still reversible but very significant and it does continue to move forward, broke the all time electricity record on the 4th of June. Got
real traffic going from the Syria port all the way down to Basra. Just a lot of things coming together that folks have been working on literally for years.
Afghanistan, on the other hand, has headed in the other direction. You can see the very clear cycle here because of the weather in the winter again 2004 on the left and 2009, on the right, the current, and you can see that past week was the highest level of security incidents in Afghanistan’s history, at least that post-liberation history.
You can see how it goes up during the summer, comes down during the winter months, then goes up and down again. This down right here, by the way, was when they were harvesting the poppy. I think it was that downturn right there.
But again, there are some tough months ahead. Some of this will go up because are going to go after their sanctuaries and safe havens as we must. And I’ll show where those are and I’ll show where our forces are flowing in. But there’s no question but that the situation has deteriorated over the course of the past two years in particular and that there are difficult times ahead.
What is key to note, and this is – if you take all of 2008 but the pattern has generally continued for 2009 so far, and that is that over two-thirds of all of the fighting, the attacks, the violence and so forth take place in less than 10 percent of the districts and you can see the hotspots right here. By the way, we used to watch hotspots for Baghdad as well and again, the first place we put the first joint security station that was part of the surge concepts not just the forces, the first place was the major hotspot in Baghdad in Amiriyah.
So again, note these hotspots: Kandahar, this is Helmand province right here, the major source of the opium, the poppy crop right there, and also in Kandahar. And then you can see the locations in the east, southeast of Kabul and then long roughly or along the ring road as it goes around again the east and south.
Now, keep in mind, of course, very important what happens in Pakistan. That’s why we have the border areas of Pakistan on here. Balochistan in the south and certainly there are some sanctuaries for the Afghan Taliban in the Quetta and Balochistan area.
Then you have the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the very, very mountainous border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, special arrangements, of course, in terms of governance on the Pakistani side, and that is indeed where this extremist syndicate that I described earlier tends to be located.
And then northwest frontier province with Swat district right in here in the center, and of course, that is where the Pakistani Taliban have caused such problems where they immediately broke the agreement that was brokered with the government and following which all of the elements of Pakistan have really united against the Taliban.
For the first time you see the people rising up against them even in the tribal areas with these so-called tribal lashkar standing up against the Taliban. You see all of the political leaders united, including Nawaz Sharif, the opposition leader – although he’s rejoining the parliament, I believe, now that he has been restored – and even the clerical leaders issuing fatwas against some of the Taliban as well.
But again, back to Afghanistan – next slide. So where are our forces going? Well, first of all, as you know, we are going roughly from about 30,000 or 31,000 at the end of last calendar year around 68,000 by this fall. The first element that already is in and on the ground and operating this task force: Spartan right here just southwest of Kabul. There are additional coalition forces that have gone in during this period as well and you see some of those shown on here.
What is flowing in now and really just becoming operational, the combat aviation brigade which will be based in airfields in the south with the headquarters at Kandahar Airfield but will dramatically increase the number of aviation resources available there.
In fact, we will double the number of airframes, if you will, together with the wing of the Marine Expeditionary Force that’s going in, but we will increase by five or six fold the available helicopters for
operations because many of those helicopters that were positioned in the south were sitting there with medevac missions or quick reaction force missions. So they really weren’t available for daily operations. This will dramatically increase that.
Now you have the Marine Expeditionary brigade, very, very large structure is going into Helmand province principally. That is where we recently conducted that operation that I mentioned earlier although it was largely – (inaudible). They are just coming into operations now. They had their transfer of authority the other day.
Next will be the flow of the Stryker brigade just beginning mostly based again in the Kandahar area. Again, we will spread some of these out in other places. There will be Marines out in Farah, for example, and other locations, and I don’t want to get into detailed locations because of classification but just so you get a sense of where they are going and recall where the – again, where the Pashtun insurgency is, that is has to be the focus.
And then, in a new effort here, we’re taking a brigade from the 82nd airborne division, increasing the number of leaders provided to it and they will then overlay throughout regional command south on the Afghan national army and Afghan national police elements that are operating there and provide advisor and assistance missions and tasks with them and we think that that will have a significant impact on the Afghan forces.
Afghan forces – let’s talk very briefly. I don’t want to get way down into this but I want to make a couple of points about this.
One is that you can see that the current goal, 230,000 net reflects the 15,000 additional police recently agreed. This is all under analysis right now. The – (inaudible) – the training, equip organization in Iraq is doing an analysis again in help from the Army Concepts Agency and some others to determine what is the right number of Afghan National Security forces.
The bottom line is it is many more than this. We’ll have to see what it is but if you look at the good old counterinsurgency manual, recall the ration that typically needs to exist, you will very quickly conclude with some quick back of the envelope calculations that that number will not be sufficient and then we’ll see where it comes out over time.
But they are building rapidly. The Afghan National Army is actually a little bit ahead of the accelerated schedule that was agreed to a few months ago. The challenge here is all about leaders. You can train privates, you can equip people, you can build infrastructure, you can do all of that. You can’t find battalion commanders, brigade commanders, division commanders and staffs for them just anywhere. That takes years of experience, education, training and all the rest and that is ultimately the biggest challenge in this overall effort as it was frankly in Iraq despite having a significant pool of those from the former Iraqi Army and former Iraqi Ministry of Interior.
Quickly on Pakistan, as I mentioned, the big fighting right now, the focus is on Swat and Swat Valley in particular but also in Buner, Lower Dir, perhaps some in Upper Dir as some of the miscreants again, flee from Swat. These have been quite impressive operations and I think Pakistan deserves some significant credit for it. And as I said, having been in there a couple of weeks ago and talked to the leaders there, the concepts are solid and the execution is on track.
As I mentioned, we are not providing direct assistance to combat. We are providing a variety of security assistance, coalition support funding, as I mentioned, in fact, recently $447 million.
I mentioned the funding announced by Ambassador Holbrooke of over 300 million now to assist with the internally displaced persons camps. Those people have to be enabled to get home. These are proud hill people now down in the lowlands and camps and they desperately need to get back there so the conditions must be established and achieved to enable them do just that. You can’t let these camps harden, if you will.
Now, without violating classifications or anything like that, you just see roughly where there are Pakistani elements positioned in and on the edges of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. There have been shifts, as they have announced, of forces from India to the west and in some cases, those are very important shifts that have taken place.
And the reason I mention this is because it reflects their assessment of this threat and everyone has always said, gosh, don’t they see that this is a threat to their very existence? The answer is “yes.” And they are showing that by the deployments and employment of their forces, the actions they’re taking.
We have been very proud, frankly, to be able to help with this in indirect ways with some assistance in some training areas and we delivered yesterday four MI-17 helicopters, the most rapid security assistance effort in the history of the United States, I think, having often had some degree of frustration with the security assistance program as I’m sure Ambassador Burns has had during his lifetime as well and anyone else. It’s just a tough system to work through. And within two or three weeks of a request from them for helicopter support, we wheeled four MI-17s just refurbished out in the back of a – and a Colt yesterday.
Okay, a couple of final slides. There are people who occasionally say, gosh, we don’t know how to fight anymore. We’re not doing enough offense or defense. We’re just doing stability and support.
What I would remind people is that what we are doing is what we call full-spectrum operations. And any operation by definition includes a mix of offense, defense, and stability and support no matter where you are.
Now, we probably have forgotten that a little bit over the years at times and there were certainly times during the fight to Baghdad when we turned around and say, hey, the good news is we own Najaf. The bad news is we own Najaf and where are the guys that are coming behind us? Where we want to reopen the airfield? Who are the guys that are going to bring all this stuff in? Where is this organization or that organization? We’ve learned an enormous amount about that and we don’t forget stability and support operations at this point in time.
Counterinsurgency falls somewhere in here in the spectrum of regular warfare, keeping in mind this is peace; this is big time war right here and the level of violence increases from left to right.
And so what you’re doing is some mix, some balance of offense, defense and stability and support operations. Our troopers can still very much fight. And by the way, they also can even shoot – the normal rap is they can’t shoot artillery anymore. First of all, we don’t shoot much dumb artillery in precision situations like Iraq. We have precision weapons as I will show you were employed in Sadr City in that battle. We do certainly, in some places like Afghanistan, shoot a great deal of indirect fire. And so again, it’s about the mix of what it is you’re doing and it’s about preparing your forces for that mix.
But let me assure you there are units, our leaders and so forth can definitely fight. We may not be able to do a brigade box formation in the desert as John Nagl did in the Gulf War or something like this, but I think we could probably pick that up again with a week or two at the National Training Center.
Where we still do go by the way, we just don’t do the “Clash of the Titans.” We’re not doing the big tank armies colliding in the central quarter anymore. We are doing continuous, complex counterinsurgency which sometimes requires very significant kinetic ops, often requires very significant stability and support all integrated.
And so briefly, this is what we did in Sadr City, by the way. And we created this slide to capture an incredible moment: how we did Sadr City in contrast to how we fought Fallujah. Fallujah in 2004 was a bit more of the old – because we didn’t all these enablers. We had to clear street by street. We used tanks. We used every enabler we had but we had nowhere near the number of platforms that we were able to put up over Fallujah.
We had 11 unmanned aerial vehicles over Fallujah 24 hours a day during the battle of Fallujah when the militia were challenging us when our forces together with Iraqi forces were supporting Iraqi forces in the battle of Basra. So the militia answer was counterattack in Baghdad, we’re going to bombard the green zone, the international zone with rockets and mortars. And they did. They were 12, 15 volleys a day on some occasions, nine to 10 rounds. This is very significant indirect fire and cause enormous challenges for the folks in the embassy and all of us there including the seat of Iraqi government. And they were coming from this area right here. This depicts Sadr City. And there were some two million people or so in that particular area, very densely populated.
What we did over time as we – to support one great brigade commander Colonel John Hort, 3rd brigade, 4th infantry division. He had the world at his disposal: 11 unmanned aerial vehicles include two predators, armed full motion video with Hellfire missiles, special intelligence birds, special soft bird and then these other Shadows and Ravens, three each, 24 hours a day, blimps with optics looking into the city, towers with optics looking into the city, ringed it with radars to tell us precisely where the rounds were coming from, and then everything even above it all the way up to national technical means, and all the way down to sniper, SEAL snipers, tanks, Bradleys, strikers, infantry and certainly Iraqi security forces.
And over time, in the course of a two to three-week campaign, we destroyed 77 rocket teams in the act of shooting rockets were going back to their cache, because we had very good intelligence over time on this including folks inside the city, I might add, from various intelligence organizations sources. And then, also took about 780 militia members during very tough fighting because we had to clear and hold about one quarter to one third of the city just to deny one particular spot from which they had zeroed in with 107-millimeter rockets.
This is how we fight when we can with all of the assets that we have. And we are in fact shifting – augmenting substantially the numbers of these kinds of assets in Afghanistan while still maintaining what we have to a large degree in Iraq so that we can indeed accomplish the tasks and the responsible drawdown policy strategy that has been established for Iraq and which is on track, I might add. So this is the answer.
Now, it doesn’t work this way in the countryside. Afghanistan is different. You have to understand it, but you can still apply a lot of this and what we are doing now is in fact taking those lessons from Iraq, as I mentioned, and trying to apply them in Afghanistan, and then to assist our Pakistani partners as they carry out their fight against their existential threat.
Okay. At the end of the day, though, I just want to remind everyone and I know this audience probably doesn’t need it but at the end of the day it’s all about these folks right here. It is about people. It’s about investing in those people. It’s about educating them, training them, retaining them, taking care of them, and their families, and all the rest.
This is a case in which I was privileged to reenlist 1,250 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines in a combat zone in Baghdad last July 4th. It was a remarkable experience. I think it’s the largest reenlistment in our history. They were raising their right hands swearing the oath of enlistment knowing that that meant they would likely end up back in a combat zone after this particular tour was done. It has been the greatest of privileges to serve with these individuals and we can never thank them enough.
Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you.
MR. RICHARD DANZIG: Sir, thank you for that extraordinary overview of how America’s fighting men and women, diplomats, intelligence agents, largely under your leadership and under the leadership of an extraordinary team managed to accomplish extraordinary things and are working now in some of the most important, dangerous places on earth. We can’t thank you enough for sharing that with us.
General Petraeus is running overtime but he has time to take just two or three questions. And I’ve got microphones available, I think. And what I’d like you to do please is identify yourself and your affiliation please.
Q: Haider Mullick. I’m a fellow at U.S. Joint Special Operations University. Thank you, general for a great presentation. I want to start with your last slide, very moving. And I see some of that happening in the Pakistani military, almost kind of a moral-centric model coming out in counterinsurgency which is an indigenous mix between population and to some degree enemy-centric.
And I was wondering, you did talk about indirect support, training, equipment, coalition funds and then you have proposed a special counterinsurgency fund for the Pakistanis. If you would support some kind of a joint lessons learned mechanism and maybe if there was a way of working with the Pakistani National Defense University on better counterinsurgency tactics that both sides can learn because there are things that the Pakistanis are doing right –
GEN. PETRAEUS: Absolutely. Yes.
Q: – that certainly the Americans would help the Americans in Afghanistan.
GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, it’s a great idea and in fact I think I will actually pursue it which is even better, sincerely. (Laughter.) I should note that we have actually done a fair amount of sharing back and forth by the way, because as you point out, we have a lot to learn from our Pakistani partners, a great deal and there’s much that they can teach us.
General Kayani and I, when we sat down the other day, he gently reminded me that Pakistan has been doing this now for a few decades and they have a reasonable understanding of their federally administered tribal areas and some of the others and it was very nicely done and very politely and professionally done.
But he also welcomed, I should note, in our very first meeting on that aircraft carrier when we were off the southern coast of Pakistan when I was still the commander in Iraq but having been announced as a CENTCOM commander, he welcomed the counterinsurgency field manual and in fact had read, had gone through it. Your country in fact, your joint staff is developing a counterinsurgency concept, actually an interagency counterinsurgency concept. They are providing the military component to that.
And again, what I was trying to highlight here is the very clear recognition of counterinsurgency concepts by, not just the Pakistani military, but by a much more whole of government approach, if you will. And the designation, I should have noted, as you know, your first corps commander was designated to oversee the support for the internally displaced persons effort, perfect choice. He was the deputy head of the earthquake relief effort. He is a highly competent and extremely professional corps commander. He brings the corps headquarters with him (that he brought in his wake ?), so he has real assets. He's brought all of his different support elements. Logistical units are all engaged, and that has been a really wise move.
Some of his units have already been designated to hold Swat Valley, which will allow 11th Corps to continue its focus, as previously has been the case on the Federally Administered Tribal Areas together with the Frontier Corps. And you see the government moving back in.
Now, the challenge is going to be, of course, what do you do long term about the police, in particular, I think is going to be a real difficult one, because under the pressure of the Taliban, under the pressure of any counterinsurgency, the police are always the most vulnerable. And so they're going to have to be substantially shored up and assisted as they are ultimately reintroduced and so ultimately they can draw down.
But I think there's an expectation of a need to keep military forces there for some substantial time, and that's a very good recognition, certainly in my view.
MODERATOR: (Inaudible) -- question. Right in the middle please.
Q Hi there, General. (Name inaudible) -- with Fox News Channel. I had a question for you. There were reports out yesterday from some congressional officials who are concerned that Miranda rights, the right to remain silent or to an attorney, et cetera, are being read to detainees in Bagram and other places in Afghanistan by
DOJ officials. And I was wanting to get your take. Do you have personal concerns or have you heard concerns from military officials in the field that this will in any way make intelligence gathering and interrogation more difficult? So a question on that front, and --
GEN. PETRAEUS: Let me just answer that question, if I could. No concerns at all. Look, this is FBI doing what the FBI does. And there are a very limited number of cases in which this has been done. These are cases in which they are looking at potential criminal charges. And when that is done, as that is initiated, and I've been involved in that in other countries as well over the years, they understandably read Miranda rights.
Our forces -- what was part of the real rumor yesterday was, are your forces reading Miranda rights to detainees? And the answer to that is no. So we're comfortable with this.
MODERATOR: We're going to hold you to one question per, please.
Q I just want to get your take on the detainee photos and your concerns about them.
MODERATOR: We really are going to hold you to one question per, please.
GEN. PETRAEUS: A good try. We wouldn't respect you if you didn't do that. (Laughter.) You've got to have a culture of initiative here, you know.
Q Sir, Bill Castle (ph) with Senator Hatch's staff. In Iraq, you had joint security stations, that was living among the people. In Vietnam and combined action platoons, that was living among the people. In Afghanistan, you hedged just a little bit. You said you were living near the people. How do you make up for that difference? And do you think you'll have the same result by having that subtle difference?
GEN. PETRAEUS: Yeah. Again, what you have to do is ask, what's the objective? That's always a good thing to do, by the way. And the objective is to provide security for the people. And the question is, how do to that in a way that is culturally and operationally correct? It is not culturally correct -- and I'm talking about the rural areas, but that's much of this area in which the fighting is the toughest.
In rural areas, these are small villages. They don't have empty houses in the center of them, waiting for us to come in and occupy. I can guarantee you, if there's a roof in any village out there, it's got 10 or 12 people underneath it. And so what you need to do is say, well, I'm trying to achieve a persistent security presence. How do I do that?
Well, actually, the best way to do it is to get on a piece of high ground that overlooks the village and also overlooks the line of communication that you're probably trying to interdict, because that's connected to the overall challenges that you have, particularly in the east and the south, folks that come in from the sanctuaries and safe haves in those rugged border areas. So that's how you get at that.
We do indeed have places in cities where we certainly have compounds obviously in the center and in a variety of different locations in Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad and others.
MODERATOR: And we've got time for one last question. And I'd like to go over on this side, if I can, right there in the middle. Q Good morning, sir. I'm Jason Campbell with Brookings. My question is that with the influx of new troops into Afghanistan, there's been a lot of focus on improving the security there. But as we all know, we're really going to need more, better governance to create sustainable stability. And I'd like to get your take on how optimistic are you that the Afghan political element will make adequate use of the breathing room we're hopefully able to give them.
GEN. PETRAEUS: Yeah. I mean, you have put your finger on it. I mean, everyone that goes to -- and I was also just in Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago. And again, the message is very clear. You know, we think we can make progress in the security arena. The challenge will be to exploit that progress to make the most of that space, as you put it, to enable the establishment of governance that is seen to serve the people, that is not predatory, that is not guilty of corruption and that provides better basic services, more, if you will, local
commercial opportunities and better access to health care, education and all the rest. By the way, a lot of that progress has continued in Afghanistan. We should not forget the continued progress in terms of more access to schools, medical facilities, the construction of roads, air fields and the like. And even now, much more aggressive in the area of agriculture, an area that Ambassador Holbrooke rightly has emphasized enormously. And we see the interagency partners getting very serious about that now as well.
A lot of this comes to the civilian surge, if you will, as it's being called, although I think it's going to be a sustained civilian increase would be a better description. And in fact, we talked about that at a deputy's committee, and it is on track as of two days ago. And enabling us first getting our footprint out there, bringing in the additional civilian elements from all of the different agencies, not just State and AID by the way, but other partners as well, and then helping the establishment of the governance, particularly, frankly, in the wake of the elections that will take place on August 20th.