Kamiya: Afghanistan mission far from over
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — Just past the halfway mark of his stint as operational commander of American troops in Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya doesn’t appear to be in the mood for celebrating.
Never mind that his troops have killed hundreds of fighters that took up arms against coalition and Afghan government forces in a series of offensives prior to the country’s first parliamentary elections. Never mind that those elections were largely violence-free, with only a handful of reported attacks at more than 3,000 polling stations. And never mind that Afghan police and army units are now working closely with their American counterparts on dozens of missions each day.
“It’s not time to high-five, pack up and go home,” he said in an interview Saturday.
In fact, the election isn’t really over. Results might not be announced until Oct. 22. And there’s a feeling among U.S. forces that “there may be some signs of civil unrest for a variety of reasons when winners are announced.”
So, Kamiya says, despite its historic significance, the election “was just a mile marker. We haven’t crossed the finish line.”
The fighting, he says, is far from over.
“We are at war,” he said. “Contrary to what some people think, there is still fighting in Afghanistan. There are areas where peace just hasn’t broken out.”
In fact, he said he expects there will still be plenty of work to do on the battlefield for the 10th Mountain Division when it replaces his Southern European Task Force (Airborne) in late February.
“We have not broken the back of the enemy,” he said. Fighting continues and winter — when forces in-country traditionally go into hibernation — is still months away. “Do I expect him to come out again in the spring and fight? Yes, I do.”
But Kamiya said he hopes the environment will be different by then. He said coalition forces won’t let the winter weather stop their offensives. Troops will search out enemy locations and capture or kill those who aren’t supporting the government. Kamiya said he expects support for the government to grow as well, thanks to a “pretty aggressive construction campaign.”
Better roads, improved police protection, more schools and expanding infrastructure will show the people that a strong democratic government is worth fighting for, he said.
Afghanistan’s problems, Kamiya says, “won’t be solved by a military solution. It is a political solution and the military serves as a temporary shield.”
He said he is proud of “a remarkable job across the full spectrum” that the task force has achieved thus far.
But he says there is so much left to accomplish.
“There are some days where you just wish you had more hours in the day.”
Kamiya also emphasized the sacrifices that family members of deployed servicemembers are making every day. The adult family member that’s not deployed often has to take care of their partner’s normal duties and “none of us serving here fails to recognize the importance that has on our ability to do what we have to do here,” he said.
He challenged rear detachments and family support groups in Italy, Germany and across the States “to continue to play an important role” in supporting families and maintaining the unit’s ties back home.
And he said families should be proud of their deployed servicemembers.
“I’d like them to know how proud I am of what their uniformed servicemembers — spouses, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters — are doing on a daily basis, not only for CJTF-76, but for the people of Afghanistan. Hopefully, 10 years from now we can look back at what we’ve accomplished with pride and say we were a part of that historic effort.”