By Claudette Roulo, American Forces Press ServiceAugust 15, 2013
WASHINGTON (Aug. 15, 2013) -- Afghan security forces are in the lead and continue to grow in capacity and capability in the fight against the enemies of Afghanistan, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force's Regional Command-East said yesterday.
Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), as well as the commander of Regional Commmand-East, also told Pentagon reporters via satellite that even with the progress made by Afghanistan's security forces they are likely to need U.S. support beyond 2014.
Afghan forces are winning, he said, but aren't yet dominating the enemy in a way that takes away their will to fight. It will also take time before the Afghan air force is at full capacity, McConville said.
However, when the Afghan air force reaches full capacity, he said, the enemies of Afghanistan "are not going to be willing to continue the conflict."
Meanwhile, ISAF's draw down is progressing, McConville said. Since March, he noted, the number of coalition bases has declined from 58 to 17.
"We have moved into an advise-and-assist role," said McConville. "Afghan security forces are in the lead [and] they are doing most of the fighting."
Two Afghan army corps -- the 201st and the 202nd -- operate in Regional Command-East. Those units, McConville said, are currently conducting integrated operations involving ground troops with indirect-fire and air support.
"In fact, the 201st just did the largest air assault in recent Afghan history, with six Mi-17s and two Mi-35 [helicopters]," he said.
As Afghan forces have taken a higher-profile role in securing Afghanistan, the enemy is facing a propaganda problem, the general said.
"They used to be able to say that they were fighting foreign occupiers, and they can no longer really say that anymore because they're fighting Afghan security forces and they're fighting against the Afghan people," he said.
There are only about two months left in the fighting season in Afghanistan, McConville said. And, with winter approaching and the holy month of Ramadan over, the general said he expects the enemy to come out fighting.
"We're expecting a spike in violence," he said. "We expect the enemies of the Afghan people to come out and try to achieve those objectives that they've not been able to achieve."
Now is a critical time, McConville said.
"This is the first time that the Afghan security forces have been in the lead during the entire fighting season," he said. "And they believe they're winning, and I tend to agree with them."