Defense

December 12, 2012

Panetta arrives in Kabul to thank troops, meet with commanders

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta talks with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham and Marine Corps Gen. John. R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance in Afghanistan, upon his arrival in Kabul Dec. 12

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 12, 2012 – After spending time with U.S. troops and officials in Kuwait, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta landed in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 12 to thank troops for their exceptional service, especially during the holidays when it’s harder to be far from family and friends.

This is Panetta’s fifth trip to Afghanistan as defense secretary and his eighth trip to the war-torn nation in the last four years.

“My main goal is to thank the troops,” Panetta said, “but beyond that it’s to consult with military commanders, to consult with leadership in Afghanistan, talk to President [Hamid] Karzai and be able to get a better sense of just exactly what’s happening in Afghanistan.”

The secretary said the campaign is on a better path than it was four years ago despite real challenges that remain in the region.

“We’ve got a strong campaign plan in place supported by the United States and [the International Security Assistance Force], confirmed by the NATO nations [during the NATO summit this summer in] Chicago,” Panetta said, adding that a strategic partnership agreement signed June 1 by President Barack Obama and Karzai “pretty much affirms our enduring presence in Afghanistan in the long run.”

Violence levels have trended downward in the last two years after five years of steady increases beginning in 2006, the secretary noted, and the Taliban have been unable to regain territory they’ve lost over the past few years.

“On insider attacks, an area that remains a concern, we have a downward trend, … and populated areas have grown more secure,” Panetta said. “In 2012, violence dropped significantly in Kabul, [by] 22 percent, and in Kandahar by almost 62 percent.”

The Afghan national security force is becoming more capable, the secretary said. They have reached the 352,000 end-strength goal on schedule and now are in the lead in about 85 percent of the operations. They’re also leading some large-scale operations, he added.

Seventy-five percent of the Afghan population now lives in areas that are undergoing transition to Afghan security, Panetta said, and 100 percent of the population should be in transition by mid-2013.

Progress in other areas includes health care and education, he added.

“Eighty-five percent of the population in Afghanistan now has ready access to health care, compared to 9 percent in 2002,” the secretary said. “[And] more than 8 million students are enrolled in schools, compared to 1 million in 2002, and 35 percent of the kids in school are girls.”

Significant challenges remain, he said, “involving governance, continuing corruption, the problem with insurgent safe havens in Pakistan, economic challenges and a resilient Taliban that continues to challenge our security in Afghanistan.”

On the problem of enemy safe havens in Pakistan, the secretary said, the Pakistani government understands. “I think as a result of recent meetings with Pakistan that we are more encouraged with the fact that they want to take steps to try to limit the terrorist threat within their own country and the threat that goes across the border.”

Panetta said his sense is that the Pakistanis are in a better place.

“They understand their responsibility,” he added. “They certainly have cooperated with us in a better fashion with regards to opening up the [ground lines of communication between Pakistan and Afghanistan].”

The Pakistanis also have expressed a greater interest in helping with reconciliation of Taliban soldiers into Afghan society, and Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the Pakistani army, has indicated a willingness to try to put more pressure on the terrorist safe havens, the secretary added.

“As always, actions have to speak louder than words,” he said. “But I do believe that they’re in a better place in the sense that they understand the kind of threat that they should deal with.”

As security improves and the Afghan national security force steps into the lead, “the opportunity to focus on these challenges and hopefully strengthen governance and the rule of law and the Afghan economy is a goal we’re after,” Panetta said.

The secretary said he looks forward to getting a firsthand view of Afghanistan’s status by speaking with ISAF Commander Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen and other commanders, and with the Afghan leadership.

“This will help me as we set the groundwork for the decisions that have to be made by President Obama with regard to the enduring presence [in Afghanistan],” Panetta added.

The secretary said he and others will present options to Obama for the nature of the enduring presence in Afghanistan, , “and hopefully he’ll make a decision within these next few weeks.”

Afterward, Panetta added, the president’s decision will allow Allen to figure out what the drawdown in Afghanistan ought to be and over what period of time.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines August 18, 2014

News: U.S. mission in Iraq could expand, Pentagon official says - The mission for U.S. troops in Iraq to help Kurdish and Iraqi security forces in their fight against Islamic militants remains limited for now, but may expand after Iraqi leaders form a new government, a Pentagon spokesman said Aug. 19.   Business: Fuel deals top...
 
 

News Briefs August 20, 2014

Trials complete on fourth Coast Guard cutter Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., has completed acceptance sea trials for the company’s fourth U.S. Coast Guard national security cutter, Hamilton. Jim French, Ingalls’ NSC program manager, tells The Mississippi Press) the Hamilton is scheduled to be delivered next month and commissioned on Dec. 6 in Charleston, South...
 
 
Army photograph by Sgt. Thomas Duval

Air Force, Army Aviation come together to complete vital mission in Egypt

Army photograph by Sgt. Thomas Duval Soldiers and airmen load a UH-60 Black Hawk into an Air Force C17 Globemaster III Aug. 19, 2104, at an old Israeli airstrip in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. The airstrip is now used by the M...
 

 
Air Force photograph by TSgt. Terri Praden

Joint effort validates ability to move Stryker vehicles via air

Air Force photograph by TSgt. Terri Praden An Army Stryker combat vehicle is guided into a C-17 Globemaster III during a 25th Infantry Division training exercise Aug. 13, 2014, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The Str...
 
 
NASA image

Ozone-depleting compound persists, NASA research shows

NASA image Satellites observed the largest ozone hole over Antarctica in 2006. Purple and blue represent areas of low ozone concentrations in the atmosphere; yellow and red are areas of higher concentrations. NASA research show...
 
 

F-16V completes major capability milestone

The newest configuration of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the F-16V, has reached a major capability milestone with the integration of a new Active Electronically Scanned Array radar. Completing this milestone on schedule demonstrates our ability to meet program commitments, said Roderick McLean, vice president and general manager of the F-16/F-22 Integrated Fighter Group at Lockheed...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>