News: Petraeus: Most 'Surge' Forces to Arrive by September
Story by Gerry Gilmore
WASHINGTON - Nearly all of the U.S. combat troops slated to deploy to Afghanistan to take part in the military buildup there should arrive by the end of August, the commander of U.S. Central Command said here, Jan. 21.
"Everybody engaged in this [Afghanistan deployment], from the president all the way down to the lowest-ranking member of the deploying forces, is making an effort to getting there as rapidly as possible," Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said at a military strategy forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
On Dec. 1, President Barack Obama announced a shift in the counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan. The change, in part, called for 30,000 additional U.S. troops to assist the Afghan government and its security forces in suppressing resurgent Taliban militants and other insurgents.
"I think that it is possible to demonstrate progress, and that's what you're going to do in Afghanistan," Petraeus said.
Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is leading the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan. Some major elements of McChrystal's strategy include the securing of the Afghan people against insurgent violence and reprisals and improving citizens' quality of life through reconstruction and infrastructure projects.
These Afghanistan strategy elements "are essential, if again, you are truly going to be seen not only just to secure the people, but to serve the people and not play into the insurgents' hands," Petraeus said. Another key part of McChrystal's counterinsurgency plan, he added, involves reducing Afghan civilian casualties during anti-insurgent operations.
The training and fielding of increased numbers of capable Afghan soldiers and police also plays a big role in McChrystal's counterinsurgency plan, as U.S. forces are slated to begin transferring security responsibilities to Afghan security forces in July 2011, dependent upon conditions on the ground.
Meanwhile, "virtually all" of the U.S. combat forces involved in the surge, other than a division headquarters unit that will deploy later, should arrive in Afghanistan by the end of August, Petraeus said.
About 70,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan. The surge will bring that number to around 100,000 servicemembers. NATO and other partners agreed to contribute 7,000 to 8,000 additional forces, bringing the total coalition force level in Afghanistan to about 150,000 troops.
Meanwhile, Petraeus said, Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan and NATO Training Mission Afghanistan continue to train new Afghan soldiers and national police.
The training effort in Afghanistan is led by Army Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, an officer whom Petraeus praised as "highly competent, extremely thoughtful, visionary, and energetic." Resources for Caldwell's mission, he said, have been boosted.
"We are substantially increasing the numbers of trainers, and then partner elements for the Afghan forces when they're going through training," Petraeus said.
Also, the approved end strength for Afghan security forces was increased recently, and now is projected to more than 300,000 soldiers and police by October 2011, Petraeus said. That, he said, represents a plus-up of about 100,000 Afghan soldiers and police as compared to the prior approved end-strength ceiling.
Afghanistan now is experiencing a building boom as part of efforts to support the incoming troops, Petraeus said.
"There is a huge amount of construction," he said, "to develop additional airfields, additional ramp space, additional forward operating bases, combat outposts" and more.
The objective in Afghanistan, Petraeus said, is "one of demonstrating that progress can be achieved with the appropriate approach, enabled by the additional forces and the kinds of directives that General McChrystal has issued" in his counterinsurgency guidance and directives.