Accelerating Success in Afghanistan: Goals and Challenges for International Cooperation (Berlin, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, May 28, 2010)
Accelerating Success in Afghanistan: Goals and Challenges for International Cooperation
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy Conference: Understanding Afghanistan and Central Asia - Supporting Democracy and Stability, The Path Ahead
Berlin, May 28, 2010
Ambassador Philip D. Murphy
Herr Minister Jalali,
meine Damen und Herren,
Afghanistan verstehen - das ist ein wichtiges, ein elementares Anliegen der transatlantischen Diplomatie. Dieses komplexe Thema wird von der deutschen wie von der amerikanischen Öffentlichkeit kontrovers diskutiert. Es ist ein facettenreiches Thema, das bei Truppen, Diplomaten, Entwicklungshelfern und zivilen Ausbildern vor Ort immer wieder zu Enttäuschungen führt. Afghanistan muss es schaffen. Nach so vielen Jahren des Leids wünschen wir uns für die Menschen dieses Landes eine Zukunft in Frieden und Fortschritt. Weil das für uns alle von Interesse ist, sind wir in Afghanistan. „Afghanistan verstehen“ bedeutet zu wissen, wie diese Interessen ineinander greifen. Doch es gibt gute Nachrichten: In den vergangenen Monaten sind die Vereinigten Staaten, Deutschland und der Rest der internationalen Gemeinschaft nach jahrelangen Unstimmigkeiten grundlegend darin übereingekommen, wie es in Afghanistan weitergehen soll. Die Streitigkeiten darüber, welche Herausforderungen uns in Afghanistan erwarten oder welche Strategie zum Erfolg führen wird, gehören der Vergangenheit an.
There used to be different views about the military strategy and the proper use of force. The U.S. was criticized for being too single-mindedly focused on pursuing insurgents and not taking enough care to avoid civilian casualties. At the other end of the scale, Germany was criticized for being too hesitant in pursuing insurgents and using force.
We are now on the same page. The strategic goal is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to ensure that they never again pose a threat to us or the region. The international community has embraced the counterinsurgency strategy outlined by ISAF (spell out first time) Commander McChrystal. That strategy very clearly puts the Afghan population at the center of gravity. The chief objective of ISAF forces is not to carry out conventional warfare against the insurgents, but rather to protect the Afghan people. The focus is on winning the trust and confidence of the population, protecting the population against insurgent intimidation and violence, convincing the population that the best way to secure their future is to support the government, and building up the Afghan national security forces so that they can provide for Afghanistan’s security without international assistance. It is only in a climate of safety and security that long-term development can be possible. The United States strongly supports efforts to promote human rights – notably to curb the brutal abuses that women have suffered in past decades in Afghanistan. Creating deep-rooted “Rechstaatlichkeit”, a state based on law and respect of individual rights, is also possible only in a secure environment.
This new population-centric strategy required perhaps more adjustment in the U.S. military mindset than for Germany and other Allies. U.S. forces had to change their conventional warfare mindset : they realized that many of their previous actions – in carrying out raids and searching homes– had deeply alienated the population. They were in fact counterproductive to defeating the insurgency. The Allies have clearly learned both from each other as partners and from our Afghan partners.
Partnering is a fundamental element of the counterinsurgency strategy. As General McChrystal said during his visit to Berlin in April, experience shows that joint operations with the Afghan National Army are more successful than when ISAF forces work alone. Joint operations between the Afghan army and ISAF are less likely to fall victim to roadside bombs or to commit cultural blunders. Partnering also gives the Afghan army “on-the-job” training under ISAF mentorship and prepares the Afghan army to operate on its own, without international assistance.
There has been speculation in the German press about whether “partnering” will increase the risk to German soldiers and result in increased casualties. It seems logical, of course, to assume that more time spent outside of secure installations will lead to more attacks, injuries, and deaths. But as General McChrystal points out, we won’t be able to build walls high enough to protect ourselves if the population is not with us. We need to get off of the military bases and out of the armored vehicles and build a relationship with the Afghan people. It may seem counterintuitive, but traditional force protection measures may actually provide less and not more security for our troops. We greatly welcome Defense Minister zu Guttenberg's plans to form two training and support battalions in the north to carry out partnering with the Afghan National Army there.
We have reached a similar meeting of minds on police training as well. A few years ago, there was much debate about the differing U.S. and German approaches – perhaps best summed up by the German slogan “Klasse statt Masse” or as we might say in English, “quality over quantity.” The Germans emphasized the need for long, comprehensive training programs like those offered at the Afghan Police Academy in Kabul, which Germany helped to re-establish. The U.S., on the other hand, set up regional training centers around the country. The centers trained tens of thousands of Afghan police officers in short training courses. The problem with the German approach was it couldn’t come close to training all the police that were needed. The problem with the American approach was that the training was so short and superficial that it didn’t stick, especially when the individual policeman was sent back to a police unit that was under the supervision of an untrained and/or corrupt police chief.
Now, Germany and the U.S. are working together on a new police training concept which holds a lot more promise. Focused district development or FDD removes an entire district police force – usually consisting of 60 to 100 policemen – and trains them together as a single unit and then re-deploys them back to their district with embedded mentors. There they receive the infrastructure, uniforms, vehicles, weapons and other equipment they need to do their jobs. The mentors ensure that the police implement what they learned in their training and that they take care of the new equipment they have received. In January, Germany made a commitment to increase the number of German bilateral police trainers to 200. Many of these trainers will be directly involved in FDD initiatives. Germany also plans to carry out FDD in 20 districts in the north by the end of 2010.
One of the big challenges in FDD, however, is carrying out the mentoring phase where the security threat is high – as is the case currently in parts of Kunduz Province. German civilian police are understandably reluctant to do mentoring outside of secure installations. Looking ahead, it will be important to overcome this problem. We will not be able to drive out the insurgents in Kunduz until the Afghan police and other Afghan national security forces are in a position to “hold” the area and prevent the insurgents from returning. This might be an area where additional U.S. forces, which are now flowing into the north, might be able to help.
Let me just say that I had the opportunity to visit the north of the Afghanistan with the support of the Bundeswehr in January and I came away deeply impressed with the professionalism and dedication of the German soldiers that I had the pleasure of meeting. I know that General McChrystal shares my evaluation that the German armed forces are of the highest quality. That is why he has no qualms at all about putting the U.S. troops going to the north under the command of the German RC-North commander. Germany has had command of the north since the start of the ISAF operation and we strongly support the continuation of its outstanding leadership.
Just over half of the additional 30,000 U.S. troops that President Obama ordered to Afghanistan in December have arrived. The rest are due this summer. But in conjunction with other ISAF forces, we have already begun to partner with the Afghans to undertake operations to reverse the momentum of the insurgency. Accompanying the U.S. troop surge is a U.S. civilian staff surge to help develop the Afghan economy and build Afghan capacity to provide for the basic needs of the population: agricultural production, justice, and other public services. We already have more than 1,000 civilian specialists in Afghanistan, with some 400 working outside of Kabul in 52 different locations around the country. This is a key role in the “hold” and “build” phases of the counterinsurgency strategy. We have successfully cleared a major insurgent stronghold in Marjah in Helmand Province and are now transitioning to “hold” and “build.”
Recent media reports point out that some Taliban have infiltrated back into Marjah and committed acts of retribution against the local population. This kind of counteroffensive by the insurgents was entirely predictable. They are trying to convince the people that the coalition and government are not reliable security providers and that they will not stay. Afghan and international forces need to prove to the local population that supporting the government is indeed a safe bet. The tide will not turn until the Afghan population becomes convinced that the ISAF and Afghan forces can successfully defend them against the insurgency. After almost nine years of inconclusive struggle, it is easy to see why many Afghans continue to sit on the fence and are reluctant to commit to the government.
Nevertheless, we are confident that by July 2011, we will have reversed the momentum of the insurgents. This will allow the transition of security responsibility to the Afghan security forces and a draw-down of U.S. and Allied forces. The pace of that draw-down will – and I would like to make this very clear – will be based on an assessment of conditions on the ground and the capacity of Afghan security forces to sustain security gains. This will not be a wholesale withdrawal or the end of our relationship with Afghanistan. We will not repeat the mistakes of the past. We are committed to a long-term relationship with Afghanistan. We believe that a stable, secure and prosperous Afghanistan is the only way to ensure that military gains are not lost and that Afghanistan does not once again become a safe haven for terrorists to plot attacks against us.
Counterinsurgency is all about winning public support for the government, so it is important that we have a strong and reliable partner in President Karzai. Much has been made of the recent public disagreements between the U.S. and President Karzai, but during his visit to Washington earlier this month, we have made considerable progress in reinforcing our partnership with his government. President Karzai reaffirmed the commitments he gave during his inaugural address and at the London Conference on improving governance, fighting corruption and preparing for the handover of responsibility from the international community. The Afghan government’s plans for carrying out these commitments will be further developed at the July 20th Kabul Conference.
The United States welcomes President Karzai’s peace and reconciliation efforts, including the consultative peace jirga that will be held next week. At the end of the day, ending the insurgency will require some kind of political settlement. It will not be won in some grand, decisive military battle. I began my remarks about the new convergence of views between partners in Afghanistan regarding a forward strategy. That convergence includes a shared awareness of how hard the task is ahead. We are well aware that Afghanistan lives in a dangerous and difficult neighborhood. We are well aware that we face a determined, ruthless common enemy. We are also well aware of what true stability and security can look like in a place that has known nothing but war for three decades. The best chance of the international community to ensure that Afghanistan's territory will no longer be a safe haven for al-Qaeda and to bring our involvement to a timely conclusion is, as Ambassador Mark Sedwill, the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan says, is “to invest now, invest wisely, invest in the Afghans themselves and invest for the long term.”
President Karzai tells the story of one tribal leader who had become an insurgent. Why had he gone over to the insurgency? Because the local security forces, under the control of a rival tribe, had raided his house. He tolerated it once, but not a second time. We cannot reconstruct Afghanistan's power structure. We can, however, work alongside, help to reform and strengthen the Afghan government, and in so doing, make clear to local leaders that their future lies in becoming part of the solution. In Afghanistan, there are countless such examples of how local tribal tensions are exploited by the Taliban. Three-quarters of the insurgents fight within a few miles of where they were born and they fight with – not for – the Taliban for local reasons: tribal grievances, ethnic tensions, disenfranchisement, abuse of power. If such grievances can be addressed, men such as the one President Karzai described can also conclude that their future lies with the legitimate state rather than the Taliban.
Security is what matters to most Afghans. The standard for success is elementary – a roof over their heads, an opportunity for their children, both boys and girls, to attend school, and the ability to provide for the basic needs of their families, free from violence. Who could disagree with those most basic and fundamental needs? That is the underlying premise of the National Security Strategy that the White House released yesterday. And that is also why as President Obama said on the weekend in West Point, “America believes that we will be safer when our friends are safer; that we will be stronger when the world is more just.”
Thank you for your attention.