WASHINGTON, DC - A top American general based in Afghanistan on Wednesday exuded confidence about the troop drawdown beginning this summer. "I believe the transition is on track and we can achieve sufficient stability across Afghanistan by 2014, with the troops redeploying as scheduled," Lt. Gen David Rodriguez, Commander of International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and Deputy Commander of US forces in Afghanistan, told Pentagon correspondents through a video news conference.
Rodriguez said that the return of the surge forces will begin when two battalions redeploy this month and are not replaced. One of those battalions is based in Kabul.
He emphasized that the drawdown would be gradual and in its initial phases would involve "headquarters and combat service support troops, as well as combat support troops." He continued: "There is one other combat unit that will come back and the decision on the final drawdown of those 10,000 will be made later this fall."
He said that much of the drawdown would be achieved when troops return home and are not replaced, but that some soldiers' tours would also be shortened. "The final stages of that drawdown will be determined at a later date," he said.
"Now, later this month, we'll be transitioning the lead in seven locations: Bamyan province, Herat City, Kabul province minus Sarobi, Lashkargah down in Helmand, Mazar-e Sharif in Balkh, and Mehtar Lam in Laghman," he said.
"As we move forward with the plan, the transition will continue to be conditions-based. In the tougher areas, we will thin out forces and either shift forces to other areas or send some forces home," Rodriguez said.
"Now, our Afghan partners will rise to the occasion. We will stay the course with a plan and not chase transition. There is no faster way to dilute our efforts and undo all we have accomplished. We will execute a plan that the Afghans have developed with us, and the natural outcome will be transition. The second tranche of transition should be selected by the Afghan government later this summer," he said.
Rodriguez said that the drawdown of 33,000 US troops by the end of next summer would be accompanied by a "surge" of 70,000 Afghan National Security Forces, and that eventually there would be over 350,000 Afghan National Security Forces in place to protect the people.
"Over time, the look and feel of the international community's presence in Afghanistan will be different. The government of Afghanistan will need to balance the responsibilities of providing security, rule of law, essential services and the infrastructure capacity for sustainable economic growth," he said.
Responding to questions about Afghan security forces, he said the crisis response unit had performed quickly and ably in the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel. He said it was Afghan forces who had cleared the floors of the hotel and trapped the attackers on the roof, where they were killed by coalition forces.
"Afterwards, there was a fire after a couple of suicide bombers set themselves off, with a very small loss of civilian life, and they responded with a fire department, who came and put the fire out. And again, it was a great response. They were very, very effective, and they all put it together very, very quickly. They have done that multiple times in the past, and I believe they'll continue to do that more effectively each time," he said. (Pajhwok)