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.


 
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Divine Cox

Kunsan AB hosts Exercise Max Thunder 14-2

Air Force photograph by SrA. Divine Cox A South Korean air force F-15 Strike Eagle lands Nov. 17, 2014, during Max Thunder 14-2 at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy personnel and aircraft...
 
 

Three bases identified as F-16 aggressor candidate bases

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford Jr. A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron lands at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 6 during RED FLAG-Alaska 15-1. RF-A is a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. and partner nation...
 
 
Air Force photograph

Arc-heated facilities at AEDC offer unique test capabilities for hypersonic programs

Air Force photograph This photo shows the arc heater H3 being test fired prior to the installation of a model injection system. The AEDC High Temperature Materials Characterization and Evaluation is unique in capability and is ...
 

 
Navy photograph

U.S. Navy commemorates C-2 Greyhound’s 50th anniversary of first flight

Navy photograph Nov. 18 marked the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the Navy’s C-2A Greyhound. The “workhorse” of the fleet took to the skies Nov. 18, 1964, from Bethpage, N.Y.   For nearly 50 years, the C-2A ...
 
 

Air Force announces criteria for KC-46A Reserve basing

After extensive internal review, the Air Force on Nov. 9, released the basing criteria that will be used to select candidate bases for the first Reserve-led KC-46A main operating base. The KC-46As will begin arriving at the first Air Force Reserve-led global mobility wing in fiscal year 2019. The basing criteria under consideration include mission...
 
 
Air Force photograph by A1C Erin R. Babis

The footprint of the Jolly Green Giant

Air Force photograph by A1C Erin R. Babis Airmen from the 56th Rescue Squadron tackle Capt. Robert Smith, 56th Rescue Squadron executive officer, after his fini-flight, or final flight, at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, N...
 




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>