Delayed BSA has no impact on exit plan: Campbell
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): The delay in signing of the bilateral security agreement (BSA) has no impact on the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan, a top American military general based in Kabul said on Thursday.
“We are absolutely on glide path right now,” General John F. Campbell, the new US and NATO forces commander in Kabul told Pentagon correspondents through a video conference.
“We've been on a glide path to get to the resolute support set, probably by the 1st of November, and we're on that glide path. Actually in some places, we're ahead of schedule, so I really have no concerns on the retrograde piece. There's been a lot of very hard work done by all the units here,” Campbell said in response to a question.
“We're currently with about 40,000 troops on the ground, just less than 40,000. We're moving to 12,500 by the end of this year. That's NATO forces and the United States. The number for the United States, you know, was 9,800. We continue to go there,” he added.
“We're on a very good glide path to make that by the end of December, and I think that the BSA and the SOFA really has boosted the confidence of the Afghan people and also our coalition partners provide the necessary forces for the Resolute Support Mission,” Campbell said adding that he has seen huge difference just in the attitude since the last week since the BSA and the SOFA and the inauguration came this week.
Praising the President, Ashraf Ghani, General Campbell said the President has embraced the Afghan security forces, the police and the army, that made an immediate impact on them and their morale. “I think that's going to be a great window of opportunity for Afghanistan as we move forward,” he said.
Responding to questions, Campbell said Afghanistan is fundamentally different than Iraq. “We now have a great window of opportunity after signing the BSA and the SOFA where the entire country of Afghanistan wants the coalition, not just the United States, but over probably 38, 39 countries, once we hit resolute support,” he said.
“So this is fundamentally different where we're at. President Ghani, by signing the BSA, by signing the SOFA, has said they are a sovereign country but they do continue to want the assistance that the coalition provides. We are in a different place than we were with Iraq,” Campbell said.
“The military here, the Afghan security forces, completely different than when I left Iraq, and they're completely different than when I was here just a couple of years ago. They've taken on the security mission from last June of '13. They had it mostly entirely by themselves for the summer of '14. I think they've done very well, supporting both the elections and through some of the major events,” he asserted.
Campbell said in the last couple of weeks, there has been an uptick with the Taliban trying to make a statement as they close out the fighting season. “What you may be getting in the media, probably in Western part of Ghazni in a place called Ajristan, where you heard about potential beheadings, 250 houses burning, 150 people killed, that's absolutely false,” he said.
“We have worked very hard with the Afghans to make sure they get that message out to show that the Afghan security forces can hold the terrain. There's nowhere that we have Afghan security forces that the Taliban can get the terrain and hold the terrain,” he said.
The Taliban may take over a district center or something, but only temporarily. Once the ANSF understand that piece of it, they go after that, they get the terrain back. “So I'm very confident in their abilities,” he said.
“They do have some shortfalls that we'll continue to work on, and that's what part of resolute support is. We'll work very hard on their aviation, on their intelligence, on their sustainment, those things that are very, very hard for any army, especially hard here in Afghanistan. We'll continue to work with them on that,” Campbell said.
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