By Mr Lorin Smith (IMCOM)December 1, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- I Corps Soldiers are playing a vital role in securing Afghanistan and helping the Afghan people take control of their country, I Corps Commanding General and International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Commander Lt. Gen. Mike Scaparrotti told local mayors and retired military leaders at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Nov. 22.
Scaparrotti is currently in Afghanistan leading the fight against the Taliban and Haqqani Network, and is proud of how well I Corps Soldiers are doing, he told the retirees and civic leaders during a breakfast video teleconference.
More than 450 I Corps Soldiers are deployed to Afghanistan in support of the ISAF Joint Command mission, which is part of a 33-nation NATO coalition force.
"You can be proud of the I Corps Soldiers," Scaparrotti said, "as they are making a difference here. It's a trained element that came in and we've really made a difference here in theater."
Much of that difference is visible today as a result of the coalition's 10-year efforts to improve Afghanistan's services and infrastructure.
• 85 percent of Afghans have basic health care within an hour of their homes., up from 8 percent in 2001.
• In 2003, nearly a million children went to school, predominantly boys. Today, more than 9 million boys and girls attend classes.
• There are more than 26,000 miles of paved roads in the country; 10 years ago, there were none.
• Eight years ago, few Afghans owned televisions and the country had no private TV stations. Today, there are 75 privately owned commercial TV stations.
While these successes attest to the determined counterinsurgency efforts by both coalition and Afghan forces, the fight against the Taliban will continue, Scaparrotti said.
"We are going to be relentless in our pursuit of the enemy," he said. "They like to take a break in the winter, but we aren't going to allow that."
A coalition security force captured a Haqqani Network leader Dec. during an operation in Afghanistan's Khost Province, military officials reported. No matter where the enemy hides, the coalition's strong relationship with the Afghan police and security forces will endure, even past the withdrawal date of 2014, he said.
"The Afghan people are behind us," Scaparrotti said, "and our survey shows that well over 95 percent of these people don't want the Taliban running their government. Look at what the Afghan people say, that progress has been made in this country, and I can assure you we can get this done."
Scaparrotti has traveled around the country visiting servicemembers. He recently went on patrol with a U.S. Army company in southern Afghanistan down a road that two weeks earlier had led into the Taliban's heartland. Now, it is controlled exclusively by coalition and Afghan forces.
"This is a complex fight ... but I'm confident that we have the plan to do it and I'm confident in our Afghan partners," he said.
Lorin T. Smith: email@example.com