WASHINGTON – With snow starting to dust the Hindu Kush, the allied coalition is planning to put a new face on the war in Afghanistan over the coming winter, said a top strategist, Australian Army Maj. Gen. Michael Krause.
“Our intent is that if there is the traditional cyclic pattern – return of the insurgency next year – that they will face not the coalition but the Afghan security force in the lead, who will be able to demonstrate their ability to retain key centers and expand their influence,” said Krause, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Deputy Chief of Staff, who was speaking Tuesday to reporters at the Pentagon by video uplink from Afghanistan.
Afghan security forces now number 305,000, he said, and are steadily growing in capability and confidence. Still, coalition commanders admit the vast majority of Afghan units can only operate with direct U.S. support.
The coalition has winter objectives beyond the development of Afghan forces, Krause said, including preparations to secure the last major population centers in the country – particularly the important ring road through the Ghazni province.
“We don’t have fighting seasons,” he said. “We fight all year round, and over this winter we will remain on the offensive and drive home our initiative. We will continue to retain what we’ve fought so hard to hold, and we’ll expand in some places.”
Krause maintained that in recent months, violence is down sharply in Afghanistan despite a string of high-profile incidents. The apparent contradiction between coalition figures and a recent U.N. report showing growing insecurity is due to an “apples and oranges” comparison, he said: The U.N. report includes all security incidents, from attacks to reported threats to demonstrations, while the coalition tracks only reports of actual violence.
By that measure, he said, violent incidents are down 27 percent compared to this time in 2010 – the first year on year decrease in violence during the Afghan war.