ISAF Commander sets his priorities for successful Transition in Afghanistan

General John Allen is six weeks into his command of ISAF and US troops in Afghanistan: “We will prevail in this campaign because the forces are well entrained and [we have] the right combination to do that.”

His confidence comes despite that fact August saw the highest number of American fatalities since the war began in 2001. In the past six weeks, the Taliban have downed a Chinook helicopter, attacked a couple of governor’s compounds, hit the British Council in Kabul, killed twelve police officers in Lashkar Gah and claim to have assassinated the Mayor of Kandahar.

General Allen says the enemy has been forced to resort to high profile attacks because they’ve lost so much ground on the battlefield.

“Around this country at this point, the insurgents have been ejected from the population through counter-insurgency operations, through the improvement of governance and economic opportunity, through the development of the Afghan Local Police, through the reintegration of many of the insurgent fighters that have come off the battlefield ultimately to rejoin their society. So I can understand that there could be a concern over these high profile attacks.” However, he argues that “in an insurgency that is in fact experiencing the difficulties that this one is experiencing, it is losing ground around the country.”

In his first broadcast interview, General Allen told NATO TV he wanted to reassure Afghans that despite the talk of troops withdrawing, foreign commitment to Afghanistan will be around for years to come.

“It is not about running for the exit. In any case, the United States, on a bilateral level, NATO, at a bilateral level, is in conversation with the Afghan government about the intent for a long-term strategic relationship as well. So the Afghans who worry about whether we’re leaving ought to see what’s happening in front of them today: they should take heart in that, they should be encouraged by that.”

When General Allen took up command he laid down his four priorities for the ISAF campaign.

First, he intends to “use all the combat power that we have, for as long as we have it. To maintain the momentum of the campaign and in fact to increase the pressure on the enemy as much as we possibly can. “

“The second priority is to get the Afghan National security Forces as ready as we can. Get them at an institutional level, and operationally to partner with them to get them more firmly into the lead on the battlefield in an area … at the end of 2014."

General Allen’s third priority is to use the existing ISAF forces to set the conditions for and ultimately support the process of the last priority, which is “to be flexible and agile as time passes, as our troop numbers mature and as they come down, to posture ourselves so that we’ll be relevant for the operational environment in the future.”

The Commander concluded that “in the context of those four priorities, even though our numbers are coming down, we’ll adapt the campaign plan to account for those diminishing numbers so that we’ll get the most out of our combat power based on the operational environment and the mission for as long as we can.“