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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Royal Netherlands Army Maj. Gen. Mart de Kruif, Former Commander of Regional Command South, Afghanistan December 14, 2009

Press Conference with Maj. Gen. Mart de Kruif of the Royal Netherlands Army

GEN. DE KRUIF: Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's quite an honor and a pleasure to be here live. I have done this twice from Kandahar, sitting in a chair and listening to your comments and your questions from a distance. I can tell you this is much better.

Actually one of the reasons that I'm here is first to pay my gratitude for the support I received from the troop-contributing nations towards RC South; secondly, to visit as much as possible relatives and families of soldiers who were killed in action and who were wounded. And the third reason is to discuss as much as possible with a broad audience the situation in Afghanistan, especially in southern Afghanistan. And therefore it's a great pleasure for me again to be here and talk to you directly. And to -- perhaps to generate and to fuel some discussion, let me put a couple of lines up front.

First, southern Afghanistan is key for success in Afghanistan overall. Why? Because it is the Pashtun tribe that is dominant there, and there will not be any lasting solution in Afghanistan without the support of the Pashtun tribe.

Secondly, over the last 12 months, I think the situation in southern Afghanistan significantly changed. The headquarters itself developed from a brigade-plus type of headquarters focusing on military effects towards a headquarters that was really focusing on how to deliver, integrate effects from governance, reconstruction, development and the security, in which our planning horizon was defined on how long it takes to implement effects on governance and reconstruction and development, and not security.

So stabilization was the core of our planning process.

And besides that, we -- with the influx of the additional coalition forces, we started with commanding about 18,000 soldiers. We ended in a situation where we command about 40,000 soldiers day by day.

Why'd that change? Of course, three reasons. One, I think we all recognize that, like I told you before, the key for success in Afghanistan is the situation in southern Afghanistan. Secondly, a counterinsurgency can only be successful if you've got a force to do counterinsurgency and protects 90 (percent), 95 percent of the people from the insurgents. And last but not least, we all recognize that overall and in the long run, security is the supporting line of operation, and governance and reconstruction and development are the subordinate lines of operations.

Focusing on security, I think it's fair to say that the influx of the additional 20,000 coalition forces, most of them U.S. forces, denied the initiative at the operational level towards the insurgents. And we're now in a situation that the commander RC South defines where to deploy his military force, which effects to achieve. And the Taliban is reacting to that.

We significantly expanded the ‘ink spots’ where we were able, together with the Afghans, to deliver security. We see an increased pressure on the insurgents' leadership. However, they are still very effective in the use of IEDs. And a key for success in the future is -- will be defined in how we can be successful in detecting the IED network and disrupt and destroy it.

Two last statements: First, southern Afghanistan is a coalition fight.

The last 12 months, we lost 284 soldiers; 109 of them were from the U.S. The majority was not U.S. It is a coalition fight, and the coalition suffers in southern Afghanistan.

And secondly, NATO works. Although we can have long discussions about the decision-making process within NATO, and one nation blocking decisions by 27 other nations, we could only have worked in southern Afghanistan because we had a common NATO background. We had the same structure, we had the same planning process, we had the same mental attitude, we had the same conceptual approach towards operations, and we spoke the same language.

From a technical point of view, the fact that every joint forward air control on the ground could talk with every helicopter and every plane in the air, no matter which country they were from, also shows you that NATO works. And in the way that we were not only, I think, quite effective, but also quite efficient, with only 600 soldiers in the HQ overall, commanding 40,000 troops, is quite effective.

So looking back in hindsight, I can tell you that if people ask me, "What impressed you the most in Afghanistan?", it's first the Afghan people themselves -- great people, loyal, they will never disappoint you if you give them trust and confidence; and secondly, the way the coalition worked. I think we operate as a team with the different nations. And based on that, I think we set some conditions for a better future, although the next year, with the deployment of additional forces, will be a very difficult year, leading towards more casualties, before it will get better.

Open for your questions.

Q Viola Gienger, from Bloomberg News.

I understand you've been here in Washington for how long now?

GEN. DE KRUIF: I just came in yesterday.

Q Okay. Have you, in the course of your time since you left command in early November, had an opportunity to discuss with the political leaders who were involved in developing the strategy? And can you tell us anything about how you think that -- how you feel about the process as it evolved, and what sort of advice you gave? What advice would you give going forward at this point?

GEN. DE KRUIF: Well, I haven't been here in the States. That is correct.

But I did spend some time to visit some of the nations who contributed towards RC South. So I went to Norway and I went to the U.K. two weeks ago. And last week I spent most of my time in the Netherlands.

And to put a bottom line up in front, I think the announcement by President Obama based on the initial assessment by General McChrystal is spot on and is, from my point of view, very well received in Europe, because it shows us two things. First, there is a -- is a very clear understanding of the concept, how you want to secure Afghanistan. And secondly, there is a clear political will to have success in Afghanistan. And I think these two issues alone have really had a positive influence on the discussion on Afghanistan in Europe.

More at a tactical level, I completely agree with the deployment of additional assets towards Afghanistan -- not only additional military force, but also the additional civilian capability that comes along with it, because I think we learned that it's not security that's gone to deliver the effect, but overall it's the integrated approach, the comprehensive approach. And you will never have security without a civilian capability to support government and reconstruction and development, and the other way around. So that's key -- also because it shows you that it is a counterinsurgency.

And you can't do just a little bit of counterinsurgency. You do it and you protect 90, 95 percent of the population, or you don't do counterinsurgency at all. Back in the Netherlands, I made the case that doing counterinsurgency is a little bit like being pregnant. You are or you are not, but you can't do just a little bit counterinsurgency.

And with my discussions with General McChrystal over the last 12 months, it became clear that, to be able to deliver the effect and to be able to have success, it is key that you deploy these additional forces to Afghanistan, with the bulk of them to be deployed to southern Afghanistan. That is key. So from that point of view, I would say I'm very glad to see the developments over the last couple of weeks.

And the announcement about President Obama, it shows you that I think overall we got a concept, right? What we need to have is have the strategic patience to let the concept mature and bear fruit. And it's not security that will deliver the effect on the long run, but it's governance that I see as key for success on the long run.

Q What's your sense, sir, of the -- of the level of corruption in the area in which you commanded forces? There's been so much talk about that recently here in Washington.

And the great concern expressed by a number of officials that no matter how successful you are militarily, if the corruption problem can't be overcome -- there's another factor there too, the ability of the Pakistanis to deal with their end of it from the east -- that the whole effort will really be for naught.

What's your sense of the level of corruption and what it's going to take to overcome that problem?

GEN. DE KRUIF: Well, first, I would say that the definition of corruption in Afghanistan is different than the definition of corruption in the Western world. We see corruption as focused at the person itself -- to get more wealth, more money -- while corruption in Afghanistan is focused on improving the position of the family or the tribe.

So the definition is somewhat different. Fighting corruption however is key, because corruption erodes the trust and the confidence in the people they have in their government. And that comes back to the same issue I raised a couple of times.

Governance by the end of the day will be the key sector which will define success in Afghanistan or not. And I would like to make three remarks regarding governance.

First, it is key that we will have a new Afghan government that is really able to govern. What I mean with that: We need vision. We need policy especially regarding development and security. We've got an Afghan national development strategy. But it's not implemented in a coherent way. I think we need to do better in that.

Secondly we need an overarching Afghan security strategy which clearly defines what the role and missions and task are of the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police. And I know General McChrystal is working together with the Afghans. But that's key. So we need policy, that's one, and governance.

Secondly we have two existing systems of governance, a formal system with President Karzai and his governors and an informal system with President Karzai and his power brokers. And these two systems, they interfere. They interfere.

So what we need to do also as a second step is present options and ways to President Karzai. How do you merge these two systems into an effective system of governance? And last but not least, we should look at governance not with -- from a Western point of view but from an Afghan point of view. And that's key for success. It's been very difficult to implement top- down approaches -- on governance, on rule of law -- to Afghanistan because from its cultural and historical point of view, the tribal structure of Afghanistan makes it a country that is very open for a top-down approach, not a bottom-up approach.

That is why I think we should put a main effort in. What we should focus on is having effect on all the lines of operation at the sub-district and district level.

If you've got a good district or subdistrict governor, if you've got a quite capable ANP leadership, with the ANA and the support of all of the coalition forces, what we see over the last 12 months is that you see a huge amount of acceleration and traction in the development. The deployment of the Marines, for instance, showed that Garmsir and in Nawa, once you've got that security in place, you see acceleration of development in all the lines of operations.

So what I think what we need to do is, besides the formal process of transfer of lead security to the Afghans, which is a top-down approach, we still also think about an approach of a top-down or a bottom-up kind of TLSR process, in which we at the subdistrict and district level, as soon as possible, together with the Afghans, have a system in place in which we give the Afghans, as soon as possible, the responsibility for security and the other lines of operations.

Q Some have said that the focus should be on the bottom-up rather than the top-down. Would you agree with that?

GEN. DE KRUIF: Absolutely. But it's reinforced by the fact that if you give Afghans the responsibility, be it on security, governance or reconstruction of development, my experience is that they will not let you down. They will do all they can to deliver towards your expectations, because they are loyal, very hard-working people. And they've shown it a couple of times, not only at the subdistrict and district level.

For instance, if you look at the elections, we all know there was a lot of fraud in the elections, no doubt about that, but the way they were organized and secured by the Afghans, we have not been in a position in RC South that we thought that we had to play a more active role in supporting the Afghans. It was organized very well and it was secured very well with them.

I would say the second issue is the security on Kandahar City itself. We could talk for hours about Kandahar City itself, but the fact is that security within Kandahar City itself is led by the Afghans, by the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. And although with still a lot of influence within Kandahar city and projected to Kandahar City from the surrounding areas of Kandahar City, within Kandahar City it's also fair to say that over the last 16 to 18 months, the Afghan national security forces showed increased capability to deliver security to Kandahar City. We didn't see a huge, synchronized, coordinated, conventional operation conducted by the insurgents within Kandahar City itself, a type of Sarposa prison break. We saw a lot intimidation, absolutely, and the insurgents still with quite some influence.

But overall, we saw a(n) increased capability of the ANSF to deliver security towards Kandahar City, and it reinforced the point that if you bring the Afghans to a point where they can take the lead in security, governance, and reconstruction and development, my experience is that they won't let you down. So I think it's a key issue to have a kind of bottom-up approach regarding governance and R&D.

Q How long do you think it will take to degrade the Taliban to a point where it's no longer influential?

GEN. DE KRUIF: Well, that's a great question you ask. I could talk for hours. The first question is: Who's the Taliban? And I would say there are three types of Taliban. We've got the religious- based Taliban in Quetta. They will always have a(n) influence, and they were never reconcile or reintegrate. On the other side of the spectrum, you've got the 5(-dollar-a-day), $10-a-day Taliban, that's a farmer's son who hasn't got land to work on, who hasn't got a job, and who is paid to work for the insurgents. He is relatively easy to reconcile or reintegrate. And somewhere in the middle is the Taliban that's linked through the narco-trade, who earn money by protecting the narco-trade. So it's very hard to define who the Taliban is.

But the key in the counterinsurgency is that you deny the support for the insurgents by the locals, and I think we are moving towards a position in which that's more and more the case in southern Afghanistan. There is an increased pressure on the leadership of the -- of the insurgency. We saw more and more signs of in-fighting, troubles on logistics, of command and control. And it all leads to a situation in which you see that, a couple of years ago, the insurgents moved from a conventional approach attacking ISAF towards asymmetric tactics, and they were quite effective in that. Especially the use of IEDs, of course, got a huge impact, and still has a huge impact. But using asymmetric tactics, intimidating Afghan people, knowing the Afghan culture, on the long run will have a very negative impact on the support for the insurgency by the Afghans.

So I think what we will see on the long run that, if you are able to protect the people from the insurgents -- that's what you need these additional forces for -- and protect them 24/7, that you will be in a situation that you will relatively soon see the effects of a degraded capability of the insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

Q And if I could follow up, you talked about the need to merge the formal government and the informal government. How is that possible?

GEN. DE KRUIF: Well, if you can't find any proof or evidence that the informal governance structure is linked with criminal activities or narcotrade, I would say, overall, you can only successfully govern Afghanistan if you take the tribal structure, the local tribal structures, into account.

So that means that at the local level, governance should always be a true representation of the tribal structure in that area. And what we see is that the power brokers are mostly tribally based, and that some of the governors are appointed by the president but lack that tribal base. Well, somewhere you need to merge the two systems. So taking the local tribal system into account, you have to appoint your people, your formal type of governance, in a way that they can have the support at -- local support by the different tribes.

Q Sir, you had just mentioned previously that the Taliban are intimidating the local people and it would be a matter of time before they would kind of get fed up with that. How much time do you think that would be? It's been a significant amount of time now. Did you see -- while you were there, did you see a degrading of that relationship between the local population and the Taliban?

GEN. DE KRUIF: Yes, we did, especially in areas where people realized that ISAF was there to stay and that I'd come back. It just shows you how important it is that the concept of shape, clear, hold, build is implemented the right way. And that means once you start to shape and then clear an area, you cannot leave anymore. You need to stay there. You need to be able to deliver 24/7 security to the people.

What we cannot do anymore is come into a village at 8:00 in the morning and leave at 5:00 in the afternoon, because then insurgents will come back. So counterinsurgency means separating the people from the insurgents, delivering security 24/7 together with the Afghans.

That's what we need to do.

I think the 30,000 additional forces deployed in Afghanistan, from that point of view, will have a significant effect in a relatively short period of time on security overall.

But -- and there's a but there -- security will only last temporarily if it's not followed up with governance and reconstruction and development. So that's the key. We can secure the area. I think we can clear most of the areas in southern Afghanistan. What we need to do is have the capability in place, the civilian and the ANSF capability and the coalition forces to do the hold phase, do the build phase. That will be decisive.

Q You had -- if I could follow up, also -- you also mentioned the -- kind of the head Taliban in Quetta being the ones who were not going to quit, the ones who aren't going to turn over. There are some reports today and yesterday that there's some discussion about maybe expanding the drone attacks into Quetta. Is that something you've heard of? Is that anything you can kind of discuss, or maybe your thoughts on such a plan, if that would be --

GEN. DE KRUIF: I haven't heard of that. And actually it is -- it's a Pakistani issue -- how are they going to deal with the elements of the insurgents who are operating from Pakistani soil.

But at the end of the day, I think we all should realize that if there wouldn't be Quetta tomorrow, it will not be the end of the insurgency overall in southern Afghanistan. So there is that religious leadership, but we would overestimate the importance of the Quetta shura by thinking they coordinate and lead all the operations conduct by the insurgents in southern Afghanistan. Actually, they don't have to.

That's the reason why they moved towards this IED campaign, which is characterized not by a hierarchical organization, but they're very small cells, more or less acting independently. And that is why it's so very hard to detect and destroy that IED network, but it's also very hard for the Quetta shura to synchronize their operations.

And that's what we see. We -- what we see clearly is that the insurgency is locally organized, but they've got great difficulties in synchronizing and coordinating their operations at a provincial and regional level, and that especially the operations conducted by the Brits in central Helmand, the Marines in southern Helmand, and the Canadians and the Stryker Brigade around Kandahar forced the capable leadership of the insurgents to concentrate in these areas. And because of this, because of this capable leadership is that is forced to concentrate in these areas, you'll see a huge amount of progress in Oruzgan and Zabul province, because there's no capable insurgency leadership left anymore there.

The leadership that's left anymore there, that's left there, is under a huge amount of pressure by the Special Forces. And that space is used by the task force in Zabul and in Oruzgan and the PRTs to expand their footprint. So there's a clear link between the fighting for instance in central Helmand and the developments we saw, over the last couple of months, in Oruzgan.

Q General, I'm Al Pessin from Voice of America.

As you know, the Obama administration is going to review progress about a year from now and make sure they're on the right track. What would constitute success? What do you realistically think can be achieved in the next year that would give the administration, the American people, the people of NATO the confidence to proceed with this approach?

GEN. DE KRUIF: I think it's realistic to expect in a year from now, most of the areas in southern Afghanistan, of the key areas, are under control of GIROA, especially the Marjah area – (inaudible) – and probably the upper Sangin Valley. That's more a problem regarding time, but I think if we are able to start a “shape, hold, build” in Marjah area, that will have a significant impact on the security situation also and will show progress.

That brings us to the question how to measure process. And there's a lot of discussion about benchmarks. I can tell you, the best benchmark there is overall, is the amount of shops open in the bazaar. That's by far the best benchmark you can find, because there won't be any shops open if people don't have any trust and confidence in security and a better future.

So I think from a security point of view, clearing these areas is key. And hopefully we'll be able to project the military power to be able to do so in the next 12 months.

Q General, we've heard plans like this before. We've heard counterinsurgency; shape, clear, hold and build; build the Afghan capacity on the military and civilian side. We've heard about these things for years.

What in your view is different this time that you think will make this plan work when the others haven't?

GEN. DE KRUIF: Well, first, regarding a time scale, from my point of view as ISAF commander, we were only there for three years. In a lot of the papers I read, people try to tell me that we had a war there for eight years.

And I would say, from ISAF point of view, we just started this counterinsurgency three years ago. That's one.

Secondly, what I think changed is that we realized that southern Afghanistan needed a counterinsurgency. And a counterinsurgency means that you have to deploy the force to be able to do so. And I think we got the concept right from the start, and I think we got quite a conceptual idea on how to do that counterinsurgency.

But if you don't have the forces to deliver counterinsurgency, to secure 90 percent of the population, if you don't have the civilian capability to bring in the effects and the governance and reconstruction and development in support of UNAMA, then you will not be successful.

So I think we all realize now that what we did in the next -- in the first couple of years when ISAF was there -- clear an area and then leave -- from a counterinsurgency point of view, was not effective, and that we all realize that to be able to -- successful -- to do counterinsurgency, you have to pay a price. And the price is, secure most of the people, deploy the force to be able to do so -- both the coalition forces and the ANSF, and the civilian capability that is needed to implement a comprehensive approach. And I think that emerged a couple of months ago, clearly, and it's eventually led towards the deployment of more forces.

By the way, not only more forces now, but I think that also leads to the first decision, I think, made in December of 2008 to deploy the additional 20,000 coalition forces to southern Afghanistan.

Q General, Luis Martinez of ABC News. Can I ask you, sir, you spoke about the progress in Oruzgan and Zabul and that the forces there, the task forces there, can -- you can now expand their footprint there. Do you need more forces there in order to hold and build? Because if they're just expanding their clearing forces right now, how do you maintain the permanence of the success that you're experiencing right now?

GEN. DE KRUIF: I wouldn't say we need more force there. What we need there is more capability there to do so.

And I will try to explain it. I think, from a coalition forces point of view, we've got enough coalition force down there. But from a conceptual point of view, I think there should not be a Dutch flag or a U.S. flag in Zabul or Oruzgan during the hold phase. I think the Afghan National Army should be in the lead during the hold phase. It should be a(n) Afghan flag on the map.

So what we need first in Oruzgan, based on the situation as it is now, is more Afghan national security forces, more ANA to secure the area; more Afghan National Police, and better Afghan National Police, to do community policing within these secure areas; and the civilian capability that is needed to support that with effective governance and R&D.

That is key. So it just shows you that if you show progress across all the lines of operations, from a security point of view, you will move towards a situation in which coalition force efforts will move more from a position in which they have the lead in the planning and conducting of operations towards a more supportive, mentoring and, over the horizon, support role. And I think that's where we are now, especially in Oruzgan now.

Q And how long do you think it'll -- do you envision for that process taking place where you get additional ANSF in there who can actually carry out those missions?

GEN. DE KRUIF: Well, the first issue is, I think we need an over-arching security concept, in which we clearly define what the role and mission are of ANA and ANP. Secondly, we'll need to step up and increase our mentoring effort. Mentoring is extremely successful, and it is key, and we need to implement it. And I think we also need to look into the current organization of, especially, the Afghan National Police. I think the Afghan National Police should focus on a(n) Afghan National Police that is partly recruited, selected and trained at a local level, in combination with a type of gendarmerie type of force that is recruited on the nationwide system. Because if you recruit the ANP solely on the local level, they are very vulnerable for tribal influences and corruption.

But if we are able to do that, if we've got the over-arching Afghan security concept right, if we are able to bring in that mentoring capability, then it will take a couple of years before they are able to take over all the areas. But especially there where you have success -- look at Nawa, look at Garmsir where the U.S. Marines are, or look at parts of Zabul where the Stryker Brigade is deployed -- at a local level, you could see a significant result in a very short period of time.

Q You had mentioned Marjah. In press, it's been referred to as Fallujah, or like Fallujah. Would you agree with that analogy?

GEN. DE KRUIF: Well, I would say from an operational point of view, Marjah is important, because it offers the insurgents the internal lines towards all the important regions in central Helmand.

That is why Marjah is important.

But Marjah is not Fallujah in a way that it has that symbolic meaning that Fallujah had. That's one. And secondly, the whole infrastructure is different than Fallujah. It is -- it is -- it is not as densely populated. And I think, knowing the insurgency and the way they operate over the last couple of years, I think you will see some heavy kinetic fighting there. But by the end of the day you'll see a tendency that most of the insurgents realize that we're going to stay and that we are -- once we have success in Marjah they will probably blend in with the local population or move somewhere else.

So I'm not saying that we won't see deaths. It will be a very difficult fight, especially the couple of days and weeks -- but from a geographical point of view and from a perception point of view, from a symbolic point of view, I wouldn't call it a Fallujah. But it is important from a military point of view.

Q General, Bill McMichael, Military Times paper. (Off mike.) The -- tell me, if you -- what you can, if you would, about the counter-IED effort, given the vastness of the area, but the limited number of actual roads, the -- and what shortcomings ISAF might have in terms of troops and ISR assets.

GEN. DE KRUIF: Okay. We need to get better in our counter-IED efforts. And if we are not -- if we will not have success on that level, on the tactical level, it will have operational and strategic implications. So counter-IED is key. And you can only be successful in counter-IED if you just do not focus on one approach but use all the lines of operations which are important for counter-IED training. The Afghans have a better system in place for detection, better training and so on.

But let me focus on how we looked at counter-IED in R South and what we did to improve the situation. First, we shifted the focus from the use of the assets I had at the regional level -- special forces and the regional battle group south from finding and destroying the leadership of the insurgency towards focusing on finding and detecting and destroying the IED networks. That's one.

What we also did is make progress on the use of biometrics in that IED campaign.

Every IED use is exploited by us. And every find, we take the biometric data and store them in a database.

What we did in RC South was, sign an MOU between the six nations involved -- Denmark, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States -- on how to share these biometric data in a common database. That's what we did. This MOU was signed within two months, which I think is a Guinness World Book of Records. So that's one.

The second sub-breed of biometrics is, move forward with a more proactive approach, to get a biometric data on a consensual base from the Afghan people. So if we move into a village, we find the local mullah and the local elders. We ask people, can we take your biometric data? We do that and we compare that with the database we have. This is not going to have a very short-term effect. It has a middle-and-long-term effect but it's important.

And the third set we took is -- actually we didn't take it, but the Afghans took it. But we took the initiative that ammonium nitrate is banned as a fertilizer throughout Afghanistan. And 98 percent of the IEDs used, in southern Afghanistan, are made up of ammonium nitrate. Again, there are huge stocks out there - this will not have a short-term effect. But in the middle and long term, that is key.

And a fourth one is more from a conceptual point of view. If people feel secure, if people know that we are able to deliver security, they will definitely come forward with more information on the IED networks and cells than they do now.

I'll give you one example. In Kandahar city itself, more than 70 percent of finds of IEDs is turned in by the Afghans themselves. We do not find it but we do receive a phone call, anonymous or via other assets, we got informed there is IED somewhere out there.

If people feel safe and not intimidated or threatened by the insurgency, the amount of IEDs that are reported to us will definitely go up. And why? Because we should not forget that 70 percent of the victims of IEDs are Afghans and not coalition forces but are Afghans.

Q I want to follow up on the comments you made earlier on about -- you seemed to suggest that the momentum has shifted against the Taliban --

GEN. DE KRUIF: Yes, it has.

Q …in Kandahar.

When -- can you talk a little bit more about when that started to happen and what you think triggered that?

GEN. DE KRUIF: Well, I think it really changed when we deployed the additional 20,000 U.S. forces and the additional civilian capability that came with it in southern Afghanistan in July. That significantly expanded our footprint around Kandahar, in Zabul province and in southern Afghanistan, and especially when the insurgents realized that these forces were not just there to secure the elections, but they were going to stay there. We just saw that it had a huge impact on the insurgents because, as this expanded footprint, it put much more pressure on their leadership, their chain of command, their logistics, their safe havens, which made it very difficult for them to concentrate and project their power.

They are more in a surviving mode now than they are able to gain the initiative. And I think that's one reason that we didn't see well-synchronized, coordinated, conventional attacks happening in southern Afghanistan in the last 12 to 16 months.

Q If I could follow up on the momentum shift that you're talking about here, General McChrystal is talking about changing momentum over the next 18 months. If it's already beginning in RC South, I mean, what's the disconnect there?

GEN. DE KRUIF: Well, there is no disconnect. I had a long discussion with General McChrystal, a great discussion about issue, but of course he is taking a regional approach, including Pakistan and whole of Afghanistan -- so RC North, RC West, RC Central, RC East and RC South -- while I am in the position that I took a regional approach focusing on southern Afghanistan.

And I think actually that what we did in southern Afghanistan is that we proved that the concept is right; if you deploy more forces in July and August, then you will see the effect that you expect to see. And that actually led, I think, to the input to the initial assessment that, yes, we need more forces to complete the process of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, with the main focus on the South. So I don't see a disconnect. It's just a different scale and a different perception.

Q You were talking earlier about the Afghan police in the area, and I wasn't -- I'm not quite clear on what you were saying about recruiting them at the local level. You were saying that if you recruit them at the local level, there's an increased chance of corruption? Is that --

GEN. DE KRUIF: Yes, because they're so well-known to local power brokers and local tribal issues. And what we saw -- that once we deployed, for instance, the Afghan National Civil Order Police, who is a type of gendarmerie force who are recruited on a national type of level -- when we brought them in during the FDD process, so the process where we take the Afghan National Police out of a district, train them for eight weeks, replace them by ANCOP, the people were very satisfied with the way the ANCOP behaved, because they saw what a police can do once they are properly trained and they're seen as independent.

So I think that's fueled our thoughts about how to combine a locally recruit system of ANP with a kind of gendarmerie type force that is able to act on a nationwide level and reinforce where needed in order to be able to create a main effort.

Q How would you characterize how the -- specifically in Kandahar and then in Kandahar's police, how the locals see the -- their Afghan police and Afghan army and is -- do you have any sense of --

GEN. DE KRUIF: Oh, yes, we have. It's clear to all of us that the ANA is seen as quite independent, quite a capable force. It's respected by the people, and the ANP is not. That's a fact.

But then the real question is, what is the analysis? Why is that? To go back to the lack of a overarching security concept, I think that's one of the reasons.

For instance, look at southern Afghanistan. Because we have only so few Afghan National Army, we use the Afghan National Police as light infantry. They are not trained for it. They are not equipped for it. And the casualty rate is five times as high than the casualty rate of the Afghan National Army. So that just shows you how important it is that we define what the role and task and the missions are of Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. That is one of the issues that plays a role there.

Secondly, salary is one of the issues. Well, that issue is addressed now. And third, it takes time to develop that leadership there. I think in Iraq and other countries, like in Bosnia, where I've been, you all -- you've had that existing structure of police that you could use and generate. Well, in Afghanistan we are building a plane while we are flying, and that's especially true for the ANP. So it actually takes time to build that leadership and the institutions to support that leadership in order for the ANP to sustain itself over time, but always in a context that we should realize in what kind of difficult position we'll put the ANP in, because they have to fight every day for their lives.

Q Can I ask, so far as in Kandahar City specifically, considering they have the lead there, do you consider that city to be secure?

GEN. DE KRUIF: Absolutely not. It's not secure. And as -- and Kandahar City itself is -- it's quite a(n) interesting city because across all the lines of operations, in the perception of the Pashtun, the situation in Kandahar City will define their perception of security and their future. So Kandahar City is absolutely vital ground.

But if you really focus on Kandahar City itself, you will find that within Kandahar City there is a kind of equilibrium, a kind of balance of powers between criminals, tribes, economic power brokers. And just pouring in huge amount of coalition forces, which a counterinsurgency doctrine would actually force you to do, will not have a positive effect. I think we've passed that stage. We handed over most of the security towards the ANSF, and we should focus on mentoring.

How to get better security in Kandahar City itself, I think the key therefore is, secure the approaches towards Kandahar City: It's Oruzgan up in the north, it's Zari-Panjwayi in the west, and it's Dand in the south -- where the insurgents have the safe havens. And that's from there that they project their power and intimidate the people within Kandahar City. So what we should do from a military point of view is try to secure the approaches towards Kandahar City: go to Arghandab, go to Zari-Panjwayi, go to Dand; secure these places. And by doing that, in a(n) indirect way, you will significantly increase the security situation within Kandahar City itself, especially if you also go to Marjah because there's a clear link between Marjah and Kandahar City. But in the insurgency, that access -- Marjah, central Helmand, Kandahar City -- is key and vital for them, and if you are able to break that access, you will also have a significant effect on Kandahar City itself.

Q General, I think you're right in the area of what I wanted to ask about, because you talked about ink spots, and as you know, the president's revised strategy is supposed to be focused on population centers, which I think is the same idea.


Q So how much are you worried, then, about the more rural areas where you're not focusing, and whether those could be used -- not only safe haven for the Taliban, but also for al Qaeda, where the whole goal of at least the American approach is to prevent Afghanistan from being a safe haven for al Qaeda? So if you focus on the cities, are you not possibly creating such safe havens in the other areas?

GEN. DE KRUIF: That is -- and that's the reason why we should not exclusively focus on the cities itself. I don't think -- actually, if you look at the current force -- (inaudible) -- of ISAF, we didn't do so. This is a rural insurgency, and I think sometimes people tend to forget it. This is a rural insurgency. So that means that he who is able to project his power and protect the people in these rural areas eventually will be a -- will play a key role in securing all southern Afghanistan.

So yes, I do agree with you that it's not just focusing on the places where most of the people live in, in Kandahar City itself, that might need a more indirect approach by securing the approaches, but also maintaining the current footprint of our forces, which is actually quite rural-based.

STAFF: Last question.

Q I mean, just to follow up on that, you say you're still maintaining a footprint, but some of the outposts are being closed down. How are you maintaining your footprint in the rural areas? How do you maintain a footprint in the rural areas while also maintaining -- (inaudible)?

GEN. DE KRUIF: Well, we were constantly in a process where we closed down outposts while establishing other outposts as soon as an area is quite secure. And the security is led by the Afghans themselves. It is no use of having coalition forces permanently deployed there. What we should use is reinforce the ANA and ANP down there to be able to deliver security.

So every time we deployed forces in in forward operating base and things like that, this is not a fixed approach. We are constantly trying to adapt the deployment of the coalition forces towards the security situation on the ground. And that's why -- the reason, for instance, why you will see less coalition forces present in parts of Oruzgan, in Deh Rawood, in Tarin Kowt, because it's relatively stable there. And we could actually transfer the lead of security towards the Afghan there.

And you will see probably more forward operating bases established in the Arghandab area, around Kandahar city.

So there's a constant adaptation. But I would say overall the tendency is the other way around. I would say the tendency is, you won't find ISAF sheltering in huge FOBs.

Most of the ISAF force, the coalition force in the south, will live together 24/7, together with the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police, amongst the people. And that is key for a counterinsurgency.

You have to live, to train, to operate together with the Afghans amongst the Afghan people. And I think that's the tendency that you will see in RC South over the next 12 months.

(Cross talk.)

Q The other question is the question about Musa Qala. I mean, where does that fall into what you just described, given that the British were overextended there?

GEN. DE KRUIF: I mentioned two areas or three areas that are key where we need to project the shape-hold-build. First is Marjah, second is (inaudible), and the third region is the upper Sangin valley.

We've got a footprint now in Kajaki. We've got a footprint in Sangin. There's a footprint in Nawzad with Marines. And there's a footprint in Musa Qala. But there's no coherent footprint.

These are four isolated inkspots. And what we need to do is start a shape-hold-build that on a more regional level links these inkspots together. But we can only do so if you've got the coalition forces and the ANSF any sort of capability to be able to do so.


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