The infrastructure to train the Afghan security forces is in place, and surge forces have arrived and are conducting operations, according to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus.
“We have more than tripled the number of U.S. forces on the ground, NATO nations have contributed more forces as well and non-NATO nations as well,” he said.
Security forces are focusing on Central Helmand and Kandahar regions, the general said, but their jobs do not end after an area is secured. In Marja, the site of a major offensive earlier this year, they have rebuilt a district center, opened schools and clinics, and ran a voter-registration drive.
Training the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police is also priority, Petraeus said.
“There is a recruit-train-equip model for the police, and the army training generally has been pretty sound,” he said.
Afghan security forces, which now lead security in nearly all districts of Kabul, “are doing quite a good job,” he added.
A literacy program has also been added on to traditional security training for Afghan forces. Petraeus said the Afghans have taken to the program, he said, noting many formerly illiterate soldiers and police can now read and write well enough to do their jobs.
Petraeus is also intent on cooperating with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who is focusing on reducing Afghan civilian losses. Petraeus noted that while the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has increased three-fold, the number of civilian casualties caused by NATO forces has decreased. The Taliban, meanwhile, routinely target innocent Afghan civilians, he said.
From lessons learned with tribal forces in Iraq, Petraeus is emphasizing cultural understanding to his troops as a key to success in Afghanistan. U.S. and NATO service members and civilians serving in Afghanistan need to learn the local customs, tribal relationships, and leaders in their areas to be effective, Petraeus said.