Marine Corps four-star Joe Dunford, who leads the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan, is going through the rounds of “Capitol engagements” during the budget season to talk about the present and future of the mission in Afghanistan.
Currently called Operation Enduring Freedom, it is scheduled to switch to Resolute Support next year with the Obama administration’s planned end of combat operations.
Here is a snippet of Dunford’s view of the future, from his statement to the House Armed Services Committee:
Post -2014 Mission
In anticipation of a signed BSA and NATO SOFA, ISAF continues to plan for the Resolute Support train, advise, assist mission. This mission will focus on the four capability gaps at the operational/institutional and strategic levels of the ANSF
That will remain at the end of the ISAF mission:
1) Afghan security institution capacity, 2) the aviation enterprise, 3) the intelligence enterprise, and 4) special operations.
In accordance with NATO guidance, ISAF is planning on a limited regional approach with 8,000 -12,000 coalition personnel employed in Kabul and the four corners of Afghanistan.
Advisors will address capability gaps at the Afghan security ministries, army corps, and police zones, before eventually transitioning to a Kabul –centric approach focused on the Afghan ministries and institutions.
Due to delays in the completion of the BSA, and at the recent direction of NATO, we will begin planning for various contingencies in Afghanistan while still continuing to plan for Resolute Support.
What Winning Looks Like
Despite the remaining challenges in the campaign, we remain focused on winning in Afghanistan –as defined below. Its key components include:
•The transition of security responsibility to a confident, self-reliant and sustainable ANSF capable of protecting the population and securing a legitimate Afghan government
•An operationally ineffective al Qaeda deprived of safe haven from which to plan and conduct operations outside the area
•An acceptable political transition following an election viewed as inclusive, transparent, and credible by the Afghan people and the international community; and Afghan government adherence to the Mutual Accountability Framework
•A constructive Afghanistan-Pakistan military to military relationship
On December 31, we will reach the end of the ISAF combat mission. Until then, USFOR-A and ISAF will be focused on maximizing the time left to advance the campaign.
While work remains after 2014 –such as building ANSF sustainability – the components of winning can largely be achieved by the end of the year. I am confident in our ability to effect full security transition in December.
I am certain that counter - terrorism operations by American and Afghan forces will continue to deprive al Qaeda of safe haven.
I am optimistic that political transition will successfully take place.
And I believe we are on track to develop a constructive military to military relationship between the Afghanistan and Pakistan militaries that can be a foundational element in a broader partnership between the two countries.
In the remaining months of the campaign, American and coalition personnel will work to achieve these goals.
When the men and women of USFOR - A and ISAF depart Afghanistan this December, they will depart knowing their hard work and sacrifice –and that of those who came before them – have not only built a capable Afghan security force, have not only given the Afghan people the opportunity to determine a future of their own, but have also enhanced our collective security and kept the American people safe.
That is what winning will look like.