General Petraeus: How I see The Afghan Conflict

ARLINGTON, Va. (Oct. 7, 2009_ – As the president reassembles his national security team today as part of his ongoing review of the strategy for Afghanistan, the commander of U.S. Central Command said the decision is likely to hinge on one of three approaches to reversing the insurgency’s gains.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus yesterday cited three basic ways to “change the equation in an area where insurgents have made progress,” as he conceded they have in Afghanistan.

“One, you can turn bad guys into good guys, or at least neutral guys,” an effort referred to as “reintegration of reconcilables,” he told attendees at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference here. “You can increase the number of host-nation security forces. Or you can increase the number of coalition forces.”

Petraeus resisted defining exactly how many U.S. forces he believes are needed to support the mission — an issue under intense discussion within the administration. About 68,000 U.S. forces will be on the ground there by the end of next month, and Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander on the ground, reportedly has asked for about 40,000 more.

The president will convene his national defense team again today, and later this week, to discuss this and other options for Afghanistan. Petraeus said he and his fellow uniformed participants have had “ample opportunity to provide our best professional military advice.”

McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who previously served as the ground commander in Afghanistan, are participating in the sessions by video teleconference. Anne Patterson, ambassador to Pakistan, also is participating.

“So this has been a very substantial endeavor,” Petraeus said. “It is moving quite rapidly. There is a recognition of the need to move through this.”

Although views of appropriate U.S. troop numbers vary widely, Petraeus said there’s little debate about two general principles: “Afghanistan obviously requires a sustained, substantial commitment” and more Afghan national security forces are needed.

The general resisted putting a precise timeline on when the United States will be able to declare its mission in Afghanistan completed, noting that it depends largely on how quickly Afghan national security forces can become fully developed.

That’s expected to occur by 2013 or 2014, he said, when Afghan security forces will assume the lead for security responsibility. But to be prepared for that transition, the Afghan National Army likely will need to grow to about 400,000 members, he said, more than initially projected.

Building the Afghan security forces isn’t a process that can be rushed, Petraeus told the group. “No question about the need to develop the Afghan national security forces as rapidly as possible, and likely to higher numbers,” he said. “But we have to keep in mind that there are limits to how fast you can accelerate that development,” particularly of commissioned and noncommissioned officer leaders.

Whether that happens as planned depends largely on the security situation, he said, recalling problems he encountered as commander of Multinational Force Iraq. When violence spiked there in mid-2006, “the Iraqi security force effort nosedived,” he said.

Petraeus said he’s committed to preventing a replay of that situation in Afghanistan. “It is hugely important that the security situation not undermine the Afghan security force effort,” he said.

Yet security has deteriorated in several key areas, he acknowledged. Taliban, al-Qaida and other extremist elements that had been defeated and left the country, reconstituted over time and returned to Afghanistan, putting down roots and increasing insurgent activity.

Petraeus said he shares McChrystal’s assessment that the situation is “serious,” but that turning it around is “doable.” Additional troops that have arrived in Regional Command South in recent months already have made some tactical gains, he said.

“Reversing that cycle of violence, arresting the downward spiral in some of these key areas [is] very important,” Petraeus said.

Turning yesterday’s discussion to Iraq, Petraeus cited “very substantial progress,” with violence down to about 15 to 20 attacks a day, compared to a high of 180 in mid-2007.

He attributed the progress to the surge in U.S. troops that helped quell violence and laid the foundation for other progress to take place.

Women and Girls in Afghanistan


The Taliban is not just bad because of what they did on 9/11, but also for the brutal way they treated women when they were in power.

This is a document released in 1998, when the Taliban was firmly in control in much of afghanistan, their treatment of women was deplorable, as this document shows:

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WOMEN AND GIRLS IN AFGHANISTAN

Fact sheet released by the Senior Coordinator for
International Women’s
Issues, March 10, 1998.

  • Since the Taliban became a military and political force in late 1994, women and girls in Afghanistan have become virtually invisible in Taliban controlled portions of the country. The impact of Taliban imposed restrictions are most acutely felt in the cities where women had enjoyed relatively greater freedoms. In 1996, the University of Kabul reportedly had several thousand women students while thousands of professional women worked in different capacities in the city. Since the Taliban takeover, women are not allowed to attend school and others have been forced to leave their jobs.
  • The Taliban have issued edicts forbidding women from working outside the home, except in limited circumstances in the medical field. Hardest hit have been over 30,000 widows in Kabul and others elsewhere in the country, who are the sole providers for their families.
  • The Taliban prohibit girls from attending school. There are a few home based schools and some schools in rural areas which quietly operate to educate girls. They fear closure.
  • Women and girls are not allowed to appear outside the home unless wearing a head to toe covering called the burqa. A three inch square opening covered with mesh provides the only means for vision. Although the burqa was worn in Kabul before the Taliban took control, it was not an enforced dress code and many women wore only scarves that cover the head. Women are also forbidden from appearing in public with a male who is not their relative.
  • Women’s and girls’ access to medical services has been drastically cut back. Women are treated primarily by female doctors and the number of female doctors has been greatly reduced. It is also dangerous for women to leave their homes. For example, one mother in the city of Farah reportedly was shot by the Taliban militia for appearing in public to take her toddler to a doctor. The child was acutely ill and needed immediate medical attention.
  • Taliban militia mete out punishment for violations of these rules on the spot. For example, women have been beaten on the street if an inch of ankle shows under their burqa. They have been beaten if they are found to move about without an explanation acceptable to the Taliban. They have been beaten if they make noise when they walk. According to one report, a women struggling with two small children and groceries in her arms was reportedly beaten by the Taliban with a car antenna because she had let her face covering slip a fraction.
  • Taliban edicts require that windows in houses that have female occupants be painted over.

United States Response

  • Secretary of State Albright characterized the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls as “despicable” during her recent visit to the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan. She said “We are opposed to their [the Taliban] approach to human rights, to their despicable treatment of women and children, and their lack of respect for human dignity, in a way more reminiscent of the past than the future.”

  • Promoting the observance of human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls, is one of our highest foreign policy priorities in Afghanistan. We will continue to press the Taliban in public and private, to extend equitable and humanitarian treatment to women and girls. We call upon the Taliban to lift its restrictions on the mobility and employment of women and the schooling of girls; we also call upon the Taliban and all factions to abide by internationally-accepted norms of human rights.

  • The United States is neutral toward the various Afghan factions fighting in that country, but our neutrality does not extend to violations of international norms of behavior. We condemn Taliban human rights violations, particularly against women and girls.

  • The United States does not plan to extend diplomatic recognition to the Taliban or the Northern Alliance. We do not plan to recognize any government unless it is broad-based, representative of all Afghans and respects international norms of behavior in human rights, including the human rights of women and girls.

  • The United States has taken a leadership role in the region and in the United Nations to promote peace in Afghanistan. We believe the United Nations is central to the peace process and support the efforts of the Secretary General’s Special Envoy, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, and the work of the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan. We participate in the Group of Six Plus Two (the six countries bordering Afghanistan: Pakistan, Iran Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China, plus the U.S. and Russia) in a serious attempt to see how progress can be made toward a peaceful negotiated settlement.
  • The United States has a commitment to providing humanitarian assistance to women and girls of Afghanistan. United States officials play a key role in making the issue of assistance to women in Afghanistan a major focus of the donors’ Afghanistan Support Group. In 1997 the United States government contributed $26.4 million to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Food Program to run a variety of programs that directly benefit Afghan women and girls. This was nearly a quarter of the total funding for the UNHCR and ICRC programs.
  • In 1997 the United States also provided $1.7 million for non-governmental organizations such as CARE and the International Rescue Committee for health and education programs and services. These programs directly benefit women and girls in Afghanistan and in neighboring refugee camps in Pakistan.
  • The United States recently called for an UNHCR investigation of reports of violence against women and girls in refugee camps in Pakistan. Due to United States efforts, an investigation is now underway. United States funding supports UNHCR procedures to provide protection to women and girls in refugee camps.

New Initiatives

  • The United States is committing up to $2.5 million in new funds for women’s grass roots organizations in Pakistan and for training to improve the skills of women in Afghanistan.
  • In Pakistan, this funding pays for activities such as training health workers and teachers, and training women’s groups to familiarize themselves with and advocate for their legal rights, and to communicate with other organizations, locally and internationally. This training will enable women to provide services in refugee camps, as well as prepare them with skills that they can take with them when they eventually return to Afghanistan. Some of the women have been in these camps for 20 years.
  • In Afghanistan, this training focuses primarily on health such as training local women to be community health workers; training women to be traditional birth attendants; and building the capacity of the local community to deal with basic health issues, particularly diseases that affect children. Funding also supports training women to participate in the development of rural rehabilitation projects. This will allow them to have a say, for example, in determining the location of the water well since the women are the ones who carry the water.

[end of document]

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