Insurgency will be defeated, says outgoing US chief in Afghanistan
Gen John Allen: "The cost is paid blood of their finest young warriors"
The US general charged with winding down Nato’s war in Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting has taken command of all foreign forces in the country.
Gen Joseph Dunford is a Boston native who served in Iraq. He has degrees in international relations and development that could prove useful in Kabul. His first challenge will be to accelerate the final transfer responsibility for security from western troops to the Afghan police and army, putting them in control across the country this spring, ahead of the original plan to complete the handover in late summer.
“This insurgency will be defeated over time by the legitimate and well-trained Afghan forces that are emerging today, who are taking the field in full force this spring,” said outgoing commander Gen John Allen, at a ceremony yesterday to mark the change in leadership.
“Afghan forces defending Afghan people, and enabling the government of this country to serve its citizens. This is victory, this is what winning looks like. And we should not shrink from using these words.”
That shift in control will help pave the way for all Nato forces to head home by the end of 2014, leaving Afghans to fight the Taliban alone. A small number of US soldiers may stay behind to train Afghanistan’s military and to hunt down suspected al-Qaeda members along the lawless border with Pakistan. But Washington has been explicit that they would not take on the domestic insurgency.
Gen Dunford is expected to be the last in more than a dozen Nato and US commanders of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) since the Taliban were toppled in 2001. The hard-line Islamist group then launched an insurgency that has persisted ever since.
Gen Dunford has been friends for decades with Gen Allen, who has been the longest-serving Nato commander in Afghanistan, spending nearly 19 months fighting a powerful insurgency and grappling with a string of diplomatic challenges.
Gen Allen navigated an often fractious relationship with Afghan president Hamid Karzai, including disputes over detention centres and civilian casualties. He also resolved a serious dispute with Pakistan after a cross-border US air strike killed at least two dozen Pakistani soldiers.
Despite high levels of violence across much of Afghanistan, and precarious security even in areas where western nations risked soldiers’ lives and lavished hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to help prop up the central government, Gen Allen says he leaves more optimistic than he arrived, because of the growing strength of Afghan security forces.
‘We will be victorious’
“Frankly, looking back on that day. I did not have the sense of optimism that I have now as I stand here before you today . . . the optimism and the very real sense of knowing that we will be victorious,” said Gen Allen. “There can be no doubt that Afghanistan is investing in its own future. The cost is paid blood of their finest young warriors.”
The Afghan army still has limited capabilities and it is grappling with problems from corruption to drug abuse and high dropout rates. – (Guardian service)