By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 15, 2011 – Coalition and Afghan troops have retaken the advantage, once thought lost, from the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Defense Department’s top policy official said today.
Michele Flournoy, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that following the 9/11 attacks, the United States went into Afghanistan to attack al-Qaida and take down the Taliban regime that supported the terrorists.
From 2001 to 2003, operations in Afghanistan went well. “In the years that followed, however, we lost focus on Afghanistan,” she said. “While our attention was turned away, al-Qaida, the Taliban, and associated extremist groups reconstituted their safe havens along the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
The terrorists returned; the Taliban took over wide swaths of land; and the enemy used narcotics to finance their efforts and intimidate the population.
“When President [Barack] Obama took office, he immediately undertook a thorough review of our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and reaffirmed our core goal: to disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat al-Qaida, and to prevent its return to Afghanistan,” Flournoy said.
That strategy required more American troops on the ground. Since taking office, the president has ordered about 60,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. The Afghan surge was finally all in place in September, and it is paying off, Flournoy said.
“With the troop surge, the U.S. and our [International Security Assistance Force] partners now have over 150,000 troops in Afghanistan, putting relentless pressure on the insurgents and securing more and more of the Afghan population,” she said. “That surge has been matched by a surge in the numbers, quality and capability of the Afghan national security forces.”
Afghan forces last year grew by more than 70,000 members, and the capabilities of their leaders increased. Training for rank and file – including literacy classes – is proceeding apace. Once trained, the Afghan forces partner with coalition forces, Flournoy said....
Much more here.