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 July 30, 2014

News: Software to power F-35 running as much as 14 months late - Software needed to operate Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jet, the Pentagon’s costliest weapons system, may be as much as 14 months late for required flight testing, according to a Pentagon review.   Business: Lockheed will turn on JLTV production line In August; 6-D truck...
 
 

News Briefs July 30, 2014

U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan at 2,197 As of July 29, 2014, at least 2,197 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,819 military service members have died in Afghanistan as a result...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Tom Reynolds

F-35B successfully completes wet runway, crosswind testing

Lockheed Martin photograph by Tom Reynolds F-35B aircraft BF-4, piloted by Lockheed Martin Test Pilot Dan Levin, starts down the runway as part of wet runway and crosswind testing at Edwards AFB, Calif. In an important program ...
 

 
boeing-chinook

Boeing delivers first U.S. Army multiyear II configured Chinook

Boeing July 29 delivered the first multiyear II configured CH-47F Chinook helicopter to the U.S. Army one month ahead of schedule. The delivery was celebrated in a ceremony at the production facility in Ridley Township, Penn. ...
 
 
Army photograph by SSgt. Angela Stafford

Engineers developing safer, more accurate tracer round

Army photograph Tracer rounds enable the shooter to follow the projectile trajectory to make aiming corrections. However, the light emitted by these rounds also gives away the position of the shooter. Engineers at Picatinny Ars...
 
 
NASA photograph by Carla Thomas

Katherine Lott awarded NASA Armstrong employee scholarship

NASA photograph by Carla Thomas Katherine Lott, the recipient of the 2014 NASA Armstrong Employee Exchange Council Joseph R. Vensel Memorial Scholarship, is congratulated by NASA Armstrong center director David McBride. Flankin...
 




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>