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Defense Department Report, August 4: Afghanistan Update

04 August 2005

U.S., coalition forces focused on successful election September 18

U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan will maintain aggressive combined offensive operations up to and through Afghan elections for a national legislature, a senior U.S. military official says.

Army Brigadier General James Champion said that on September 18 Afghans "will take yet another step forward in electing a national assembly to give them a voice in their government."

U.S. and coalition forces expect former Taliban-regime insurgents to do what they can to disrupt the process, he said, because the 2004 presidential election dealt a substantial blow to their claim to legitimacy.  The aggressive operations are intended to enhance security for voters as they decide on 249 seats for the national assembly.

Champion, the deputy commanding general for operations and intelligence with Combined Joint Task Force 76, briefed reporters at the Pentagon August 4 via teleconference from Afghanistan.

Champion said that nearly 6,000 Afghans have filed to run as candidates in the September elections for the 249 seats -- an average of 24 candidates per seat.  Moreover, he said, since the presidential election, approximately 1.7 million additional Afghans have registered to vote.

The total of registered Afghan voters has reached nearly 12 million.  During the latest voter registration drive, he said, an average of over 50,000 Afghans per day registered to vote.

He also had good news about Afghan army and police forces.  Current operational army strength exceeds 24,000, based in units throughout the country, he said.  A further 5,000 are currently in training.

"Practically all of our missions we conduct now involve [the Afghan National Army -- ANA] as a partner," Champion said.

He highlighted ANA efforts in Oruzgan province, calling it "a true success story."  The ANA has the main combat role against terrorist activity there, he said.

 The ANA has not only clearly demonstrated ability to conduct large-scale and coordinated operations, he said, but has also  "decisively defeated" enemy forces every time it has met them.

U.S. and coalition involvement with Afghan National Police has increased as well, he said.  Plans are to partner with the Afghan police in similar fashion as with the Afghan army, Champion said, and to use $900 million in recently allotted U.S. funds to assist the police.  There are currently more than 41,000 police deployed, with another 9,000 being trained, he said.

At the Pentagon, Defense Department spokesman Brian Whitman talked about the joint U.S.-Afghan announcement August 4 that the United States will gradually turn over Afghan detainees to Afghan government control.  (See related article.)

Whitman said that the transfers will require U.S. assistance to build a detention capability, including "the necessary facilities and appropriately trained personnel."

He added that transfers will not take place until the Afghan capability is in place.  There are about 110 Afghan detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility, he said, and about 350 detainees held in Afghanistan at Bagram.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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