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Rodriguez says Afghan transition on track

May 18, 2011

By Master Sgt. Michael O'Connor, ISAF Headquarters Public Affairs

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 17, 2011 -- The International Security Assistance Force commander said the combined team approach has paid off, and while this progress is fragile and reversible, they look forward to building on those successes and supporting the Afghans as they build sustainable stability.

"ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force) is on track in completing the transition to full Afghan responsibility for security by the end of 2014," said Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander, ISAF Joint Command, during a May 16, 2011, press conference at ISAF Headquarters.

Rodriguez said in his opening statement that ISAF has accomplished a great deal and continues to expand its gains, maintain its momentum and look at the future challenges it will face.

Since late 2009, the combined effort of Afghan and coalition forces have destroyed much of the insurgents' support bases, weakened the enemies' effectiveness, grown the Afghan security forces by 94,000 and helped build the Afghan security forces confidence and competence to lead operations and protect their own population.

In a recent ISAF senior noncommissioned officer visit to a NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan location in the greater Kabul area, Roshan Safi, sergeant major of the Afghan National Army, expressed deep gratitude for all that ISAF and NATO has done thus far for his country and preparing his soldiers to carry the torch for the Afghan government and its people.

Rodriguez and Maj. Gen. Michael G. Krause, deputy chief of staff plans at International Joint Command; and Alisa Stack, senior government and development Advisor to International Joint Command, who also spoke during the press conference, said some of the transition has already occurred.

While there have been many successes thus far, it's important to assess the ongoing progress of programs for lessons learned in order to keep the 2014 transition on track, said Rodriguez, Krause and Stack.

"We've learned many lessons from doing this transition over the years, and one of the most important ones is the fact that we will just thin out slowly based on their capability built," said Rodriguez. "So the things that take them longer to develop are the things we'll continue to help them with."

"We think we have a good plan for that and while it will require a lot of judgment on those junior leaders at every level, we believe we have a plan to transition slowly and maintain the same level of security for the Afghan people," he said.

The improvements in security over the past year and particularly over the last few months will enable ISAF and Afghan National Security Forces, or ANSF, to consolidate those gains and continue taking the fight to the enemy in the coming months, said Krause.

"We know and understand more security will enable more Afghans to return to normality and we will continue to work with them and the ANSF to deliver it," Krause said. "In a recent poll, 59 percent said they thought the country was moving in the right direction."

Over the next year, ISAF officials said they will turn their attention to training engineers, medical professionals, logisticians, intel analysts and other specialists in the Army and police, as well as continuing to develop strong Afghan leaders.

"Good Afghan leadership is key to this process," said Stack. "The Afghan government is taking steps to improve leadership throughout the country."

Two years ago, the Afghans took the strategic decision to put the infantry units out there first to get the number of boots on the ground so they could get better ratios with coalition forces out there, said Rodriguez. The surge is about 40,000 coalition forces to 90,000 Afghan National Security Forces.

"Right now we're catching up with building the support structures and logistics support to be able to handle that," Rodriguez said. "And based on the plans and where they need to be, we believe we'll be able to get the majority of the logistics support structure working as well as their ability to logistically sustain themselves by 2014."

"We have found terrific partners in the Afghan people," he said. "Each and every day, Afghan and coalition security forces work, learn and fight shoulder-to-shoulder to protect their people and help create a stable Afghanistan."

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