General David H. Petraeus is about to leave Afghanistan as his tenure as the supreme commander of international military troops is going to end. He will also be retired of his 37 years military career and going to join Central Investigation Agency (CIA) as the Director of the Agency. General Patraeus was called to Afghanistan in July 2010 to preside over the military expansion carried out by Obama administration with the motive to strike severely against the terrorism in the region before Americans decide to withdraw their forces. He had already been tested in Iraq and had the reputation of turning around the war in Iraq. Definitely, his tenure in Afghanistan has been very important and challenging as the terrorist acts in Afghanistan have kept on gaining pace for the last few years.
Since 2006, the dispersed and defeated Taliban and Al-Qaida have been able to regain strength in large portion of the country. And have been threatening the Afghan people, Afghan VIP's and international security forces through their policy of target killing, kidnapping, roadside bombing, aggressive assaults on important building and locations and suicide bombings. Though the Al-Qaida chief Osama has been killed by American Operation in Abbotabad, the terror networks in the country have kept on operating. General David H. Petraeus has been the main witness to everything happening in the country regarding the security and counter-insurgency policies and tactics. Before his departure he seems interested in making it certain that the successes achieved by ISAF must not be wasted in any way. He has been in the favor of presence of American troops in the country for longer period of time. The withdrawal announced by President Obama last month was not very much in accordance to the demands of General, who seemed to be favoring slower withdrawal.
General Petraeus believes that there has been much improvement made by the Americans in the overall security arrangements in Afghanistan. He believes that Taliban have been defeated and they seem to be getting weaker, especially in the ongoing month and a couple before it. "This just means that they have less capacity; they have been degraded somewhat", he has said of the insurgents. "This is the first real indicator – for the first time since 2006 – compared to the previous year, insurgent attack numbers are lower." This may be correct according to certain calculations but at the same time it must not be forgotten that the blows made by the insurgents in this year are severe, including the deaths of very important people from amongst the political figures and the Afghan security forces. Further, they have also been able to strike in the capital a couple of times, including a very recent attack on Intercontinental hotel which is perceived to be located at a very secure location in Kabul. Definitely, all the blame can not be put on the shoulder of the General but these facts are essential to be kept in mind while talking about the improving security arrangements in the country.
For the future course of action, which will involve the much debated transition of security arrangements, the General suggests for determined actions. He believes that the transitional success is achievable but not easily. He is reported to have said in his last scheduled interview before his departure this month, "It is very hard, but it is do-able. A number of different elements have to keep coming together to achieve our objectives. Again, we are talking about an objective that is Afghans able to secure and govern themselves with some continued level of support." He seems to believe in some political compromise after the success achieved by the military operations, which is no doubt a compulsory for lasting peace in the country, but not yet chalked out appropriately. He also seems to realize that there are important achievements to be made yet, as far as military strategy is concerned.
The realization that the southern Afghanistan still remains highly threatening, especially Helmand Province as one of the strongholds of Taliban is really encouraging. Inappropriate concentration towards this region can really let the militants grow stronger here and can give them an opportunity to threaten the neighboring areas and spread their insurgency afterwards. This area in particular has to be dealt appropriately by the US-led International forces before they leave the country. Apart from militancy, this area is also notorious because of the opium cultivation and organized crimes. The realization of the importance of the Kandahar Province's outlying districts by the General must also be perceived as a vital one. Kandahar Province has always been in serious security concerns. And every now and then such districts have been used as permeation routes.
Moreover, the shift of logistical and combat support to eastern Afghanistan in winter to counter the terrorist who may cross the border and enter into the country and the plans to counter the growing number of Al-Qaeda members in remote provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, all have been included as the future considerations of security forces. These all plans seem to focus the major security concerns in the country but there are many other issues apart from these ones that also stand paramount as far as security arrangements are concerned. One of the most basic one is the skill of the Afghan forces to be able to convert all these plans to reality. Further, the conduct of the security personnel has been very controversial in the recent months. There have been many occasions when they themselves have brought harm to their seniors, mostly the foreign officers.
Another important program, that General Petraeus has always been in favor of but now has to transfer to his successor, is the recruitment and training of village men as Local Police Forces so that they have the potential to guard their communities themselves and be an integral part of local government. This program is yet to be developed to a large extent as it is shaking to stand on its legs. Out of the planned number of 30,000 men only 7,000 have been recruited so far. And already there has been much controversy regarding the outcome of this program as it is widely believed that the trained and armed men of the villages may turn into an irritating force that can bring much harm to the common people by misuse of power instead of guarding them.
The security arrangements and the insurgency in Afghanistan are not as much dependent on the retirement of General Petraeus as on the overall security strategy being backed by American Government, ISAF, Afghan Forces and Afghan Government. The sincerity, devotion and acumen of all these factors are going to decide Post General Petaeus scenario, to a great extent.