By Karen Parrish, AFPS, AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Sept. 21, 2012 - The drawdown of U.S. surge forces in Afghanistan is complete as scheduled, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced here today during a news conference with New Zealand Defense Minister Dr. Jonathan Coleman. [WOTN editor comments in bold and brackets. Graphic by ISAF, with annotations by WOTN.]
Panetta said the return of 33,000 troops President Barack Obama committed to the war in Afghanistan in 2009 is "an important milestone." [These aren't the same Troops, except in those cases where they completed their 2nd tour in the timeframe.]
"As we reflect on this moment, it is an opportunity to recognize that the surge accomplished its objectives of reversing Taliban momentum on the battlefield and dramatically increased the size and capability of the Afghan national security forces," he said. [Enemy Initiated Attacks, shown above, as well as other measures of violence remain higher than 2009. The dramatic increase in the size of the ANSF is the reason we now have record numbers of "green on blue" attacks from those swollen, Taliban infested forces.]
The surge of forces allowed the United States and its coalition partners in NATO's International Security Assistance Force to begin transitioning to Afghan security lead, he said, noting that Afghan forces soon will be responsible for leading their country's defense in areas of every province, and for more than 75 percent of the Afghan population. [The Administration's plan also includes plans to slash the numbers of those swollen, Taliban infested forces, while many that are familiar with the situation have stated the ANSF are not currently capable of "leading" or controlling operations on their own.]
"At the same time, we have struck enormous blows against al-Qaida's leadership, consistent with our core goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al-Qaida and denying it a safe haven," the secretary said. [Al-Qaeda is stronger now than it has been in 12 years. The black flag of Al-Qaeda was raised over the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt on 9/11/12, and Al-Qaeda members previously held in GITMO and Libyan prisons attacked the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya two hours later, killing 4 US diplomats, including the Ambassador. The recent attack on a joint Marine/British base was the worst loss of American aircraft since Viet Nam, and has the fingerprints of Al-Qaeda all over it.]
The 68,000 U.S. service members who remain in Afghanistan combine with other nation's forces to make ISAF around 100,000 troops strong, Panetta said. Those forces will keep working to reduce the level of violence in Afghanistan, ensure the Taliban do not regain any of their previously held areas, and strengthen the Afghan army, he added. [The Taliban are already gaining ground in Afghanistan.]
Panetta said Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan, is confident he can accomplish his campaign with the current force level.
"I have always had tremendous confidence in General Allen's ability to say to me, 'This is what I need in order to accomplish the mission,'" the secretary said. "Right now, he is saying the force he has in place is sufficient to accomplish that mission."
Panetta is in New Zealand for the final stop on his third Asian tour, which also included visits to Japan and China.
[The bottom line is that violence in Afghanistan remains higher than every year from 2001-2009, that 75% of all violence there, has occured since January 2009. The "surge has ended," but it was the timeline of retreat that emboldened the enemy, along with the Administration's attempt to beg the enemy to negotiate.]