07 Nov 14. In the final days of the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, the Afghan national security forces are winning and the long coalition effort is taking hold, the commander of ISAF Joint Command said.
In a teleconference with Pentagon reporters from his headquarters in the Afghan capital of Kabul, Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson said that despite these gains, progress remains to be made.
The Afghan national security forces include Afghanistan’s armed forces, national police, border police, local police and members of the National Directorate of Security.
Most Trusted Government Organization
“They are the most trusted government organization in Afghanistan,” Anderson said. “They are trying to provide time and space for this society to grow and reduce the insurgency.”
He called the Afghan national security forces a hugely capable fighting force that has been holding its ground against the enemy.
Afghan forces number about 352,000 — 156,000 army troops and 155,000 police. Anderson said together they secured the election process and maintained a steady operational tempo throughout the fighting season. The insurgents had minimal effect on the elections, with 761 attacks but only 174 that were damaging, he added.
“Throughout the entire election process, the ordered recount and the fighting season,” the general added, “[ISAF Joint Command has] been in the close air support business, the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance business, the quick-reaction-force business, and helping with command and control, advisors and some sustainment support.”
Agreements Were Major Setback for Insurgents
The recent signings of a bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States and a NATO status of forces agreement were a major setback for the insurgents, Anderson said. Afghan forces have been in the lead all year, the Taliban have failed to achieve tactical superiority over them, and Taliban-initiated attacks are down this year from around 24,000 to 18,000, the general told reporters.
“The ANSF has sustained about a 6.5 percent increase in casualties this year, [with] 4,634 this year versus 4,350 killed in action last year,” he said, adding that the high number of casualties, combined with attrition among army and police forces, is not sustainable in the long term.
“Their first priority right now is to get their recruiting back up and to … get their manning document filled. … The police are about 89 percent, and the army is about 81 percent filled,” Anderson said.
“They do need to decrease their casualty rate,” the general said, adding that more capable Afghan medical and casualty evacuation will help.
Full Responsibility for Medical, Casualty Evacuation
The general said the Afghans perform 88 percent of all medical and casualty evacuation through a combination of air and ground transportation. ISAF has provided very limited support, especially from summer onward, and Afghanistan now has full responsibility, he said.
In the final days of the ISAF mission, Anderson said, the coalition’s efforts over the years have not been in vain.
“Education, a free press, telecommunications — all are going very well,” he added. “We can see the benefits of this new democratically elected government taking shape. It is very optimistic here. There is more capability. There is more accountability.”
The literacy rate in Afghanistan is now 30 percent, he said, up from 12 percent during Taliban rule. And 7.9 million children attend primary and secondary schools, including more girls.
“Internet, cell phone use, all these things continue to make a difference here,” the general added.
Troop Numbers Decline as Transition Approaches
In the transition from the ISAF mission to the Resolute Support mission, which begins Jan. 1, 54,000 service members from 48 nations were in Afghanistan when Anderson took command in January. Today, there are