KABUL, Afghanistan – Tony White, spokesman, NATO Senior Civilian Representative, and German Army Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, spokesman, International Security Assistance Force, provided an update June 12 on recent partnering operations in Central Helmand River Valley and Kandahar.
Blotz concentrated on operations in Kandahar.
“In terms of the insurgency, the rural area of Zhari is at the moment contested space,” he said. “In much the same way as Marja was, you’ll find in Zhari, insurgents have freedom of movement and the ability to control, suppress and oppress the population. The same applies to the southwestern part of Panjawa’i.”
“It is estimated that there are between 500 and 1,000 insurgents who regularly operate in the Arghandab and in the areas of Zhari and Panjwa’I,” Blotz added. “The cities have a thriving commercial environment, with bazaars and businesses, but little investment, electricity, sanitation or health care.”
“It’s pretty challenging in terms of productivity and in terms of quality of life,” said Blotz. “But for the average Afghan who lives in the city, what bothers him most is the level of criminality. And it’s a problem more of criminality and disorder than it is a problem of Taliban and insurgency.”
Blotz also spoke of the need to improve the governance to help bring order and administration to the city.
“We will do this using the resources that begin to come online with the second force package of U.S. Army reinforcements that arrive in and around Kandahar, because that provides us with the capacity to train additional policemen and to partner with them,” he said.
After Blotz spoke, White commented on the non-military aspects of the joint effort in Kandahar.
“This effort is more about the people of Kandahar province than it is about the insurgents,” he said.
The effort started several weeks ago, with the political phase, together with a gradually increasing security presence, which will continue to the point where the Government can start delivering basic services and better governance and eventually development.
“There is no planned military offensive and to report only on the anticipation of major fighting is missing the bigger picture and alarming an already fearful public,” said White.
The main effort in the Province of Kandahar continues to be the longer-term governance and development strategy to enhance the public’s confidence in its Government, White added.
“The Government, led by President Karzai, is determined to strengthen governance and ultimately deliver civil assistance and sustainable development to the people of Kandahar and the rest of the country,” said White. “NATO is supporting this transition to Afghan responsibility. The Government is already focusing development and reconstruction resources at the district level to establish or enhance district centers, where the community can engage the government and the government can better serve the community.”
White also talked about plans after the security situation improves.
“Plans are in place to enhance the presence of Kandahar government’s key line ministries including agriculture, education, health and justice with the resources necessary to operate at the district level,” he said. “This effort will repair roads, open schools, and improve healthcare services and more.”
White concluded by saying, “Progress in Afghanistan will not be measured by the level of the insurgency or their ability to intimidate progress, which is their goal. It will be measured by the Afghan people and the way they view their Government and how it deals with poverty, justice and security, but more importantly, their ability to understand how they want to live.”
Blotz provided a general update on operations in Central Helmand.
Operation Moshtarak, where approximately 600,000 people live in central Helmand including the districts of Nahr e Saraj, Nad e Ali, the municipality of Lashkar Gar, and the districts of Marja and Nawa, is now about three months into the operation.
“Operations focused principally on the district of Nad e Ali, where around 100,000 people live,” said Blotz. “In Marja, we have conducted a relief in place with the original Afghan National Army troops that did the operation, and replaced them with new Afghan National Army Kandaks in full partnerships with the U.S. Marine Corps.”
Afghan National Civil Order Police are stationed in Marja to provide protection for the population.
“What is also striking is that we now have freedom of movement throughout central Helmand,” Blotz said. “Before the 12th of February, it wasn’t possible for (Provincial Governor) Mangal to travel from Lashkar Gar to Nad e Ali or to Marja or to Nawa. He can now do that on his own, with his own security detail. So we’re making progress. We’re going in the right direction.”
Blotz added some comments on events that took place earlier in the week: an attack on a wedding party in Arghandab and a roadside mine blast in Kandahar that killed eight civilians and wounded eight others.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of those who were lost in this horrible attack against a wedding party in Arghandab,” said Blotz. “The recent casualties are a result of confrontations as Afghanistan and ISAF forces clear the Taliban from areas that were previously under their control. Over time, Afghanistan and ISAF forces will establish the security Afghanistan wants, and there will be a reduction in the frequency of violent incidents as the Taliban are defeated or forced to retreat. These cowardly attacks against innocent civilians reflect the Taliban’s lack of vision for a peaceful, prosperous Afghanistan. All this will not deter the overall campaign or process to secure the Afghan people – we will continue with our mission.”