General: Bin Laden's death hasn't altered pace of the fight in Afghanistan
May 10, 2011
WASHINGTON — The death of Osama bin Laden hasn’t taken the fight out of Afghan insurgents, but there’s also no sign it’s spurring them to new heights of violence as the fighting season commences, the U.S. commander for Afghanistan’s eastern region said Tuesday.
“Bin Laden was certainly the leader of al-Qaida, [and] certainly an important man to that organization, but one man does not make this war on terrorism,” said Army Maj. Gen. John Campbell, commander of Regional Command-East.
Coalition and Afghan forces face a complex threat in the region, he said, ranging from homegrown Taliban to the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, a group targeting Afghan civilians that has a great ability to regenerate after large numbers of fighters are killed.
About 4,000 insurgents of all stripes have been killed or captured in the eastern region since summer 2010, and several hundred more have stopped fighting and reintegrated into Afghan society, he said.
With a troop drawdown set to begin this year, Campbell said that in the mountainous east, where insurgents slip in and out of the country from Pakistan’s tribal region, time is needed for the troop surge to take effect, adding that the final decision on any reduction in troop numbers would be made by his superiors.
“We’re just now being able to see the effect of having the coalition surge over the last several months,” he said. “We’ve got to let this counterinsurgency — our operations here — take effect, and it’s going to take some time.”
When he sent 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan last year to stabilize the country, President Barack Obama said he would begin a pullout in July.
The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday published a story detailing preliminary plans for 5,000 troops to be withdrawn in July and another 5,000 to leave by year’s end. The Pentagon, however, dismissed the story.
“General [David] Petraeus is the four-star action officer on this. Any speculation about what General Petraeus is working on is just that: speculation,” said Col. David Lapan, Defense Department spokesman. “It’s not as if staff officers are involved in the process.”
Lapan said Petraeus is working directly with Central Command chief Gen. James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who then will pass the recommendation to the president.
Campbell said the Tuesday press briefing was to be his last as head of RC-East. The Army 1st Cavalry Division, led by Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, is scheduled to take over command next week, he said.
Stars and Stripes reporter Kevin Baron contributed to this report.