Petraeus: COIN Has 'Borne Fruit' In A-stan

Eureka! COIN has “borne fruit” in Afghanistan!

Who cares what it means. So says Petraeus Maximus in yet another exit interview, this one with American Forces Press Services and posted at the Pentagon website:

During his last full week commanding coalition and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus discussed his tenure there with NATO TV yesterday.

“What we have done is implement the so-called NATO comprehensive approach, a civil-military campaign … that does indeed embody many of the principles of the counterinsurgency field manual that we developed back in 2006, and which we employed in Iraq in the surge of 2007-2008,” he said.

Oh, I remember the surge — such an enduring success, a monument to American national security, worth every drop of blood and each penny. Why, only today, Time.com reports “veteran Pentagon analyst John McCreary, now out of government, said … `Any U.S. soldiers in Iraq on 1 January 2012,’ he summed it up bluntly for readers of his NightWatch blog, `will be potential targets.’ ” Marvelous, the way that worked out.

And I remember the COIN manual — the same manual that Ralph Peters once told me “is a snake that needs to be killed dead.”

Au contraire, quoth Petraeus:

“I think generally, it has borne fruit.”

Borne fruit? What kind of fruit? What is he talking about? No deeper characterization from him in the story.

Petraeus and Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, who succeeded him in August as commander of U.S. Central Command, jointly oversaw the manual’s development and publication.

Great. COINdinistas still rule.

Petraeus has issued further counterinsurgency guidance on troop operations (e.g., “Patrol on foot whenever possible …. take over your [ballistic] sunglasses…[for] interacting face to face…”) and contracting since assuming the ISAF command in July 2010. …

“We always say it gets harder before it gets easier, and we have definitely been in the ‘getting harder’ phase of this overall endeavor,” the general noted.

The number of enemy attacks between last May and this May was about the same, he said, and levels in June decreased by 3 to 5 percent from last year.

At that rate, we’ll be out of there in 20-33 years … but maybe not so “fast”:

That trend may not continue, but is still noteworthy for those two months, Petraeus said, particularly since the increase in violent incidents from 2009 to 2010 was “very, very significant.”

“But this is hard,” he said. “There is a resilient enemy, and there is no question … that enemy is willing to cause civilian casualties. It’s an enemy willing to blow himself up, in some cases, to achieve objectives.”

What objectives — Islamic rule? Is that a problem because of the civilians follow the same religion? Hello?

Enemy activity within Afghanistan’s border area with Pakistan is a very serious challenge, the general said.

Petraeus said ISAF and Afghan forces have worked together to establish a layered border defense in key locations such as the area between Khost province and North Waziristan. The protection force there “is quite effective and well supported,” he added.

Quite effective and well supported”: Make a note of that.

Coalition troops plan to expand that force and establish similar defenses in Paktia province and other “rugged, mountainous tribal areas in which the insurgents have been able to establish safe havens over the years,” he said.

“Many of these areas, frankly, are just not those in which you will ever see sizeable Afghan or ISAF forces,” he acknowledged.

With mountains reaching to 14,000 feet and sparse population, he said, the border area requires sustainable security solutions that will deny insurgents access to the Afghan side of the border. The challenge then, he said, will be to “work with our Pakistani partners so that they can do the same on the other side.”

“Sustainable security solutions. Our Pakistani partners”: Make a note of that, too.

“Keep in mind, many of these insurgents are posing what we believe is the most existential threat to Pakistan,” Petraeus said. “[They] pose the most urgent threat to the very existence of the Pakistani state, as its citizens know it, … killing dozens of Pakistani civilians in an average week.”

In contrast, and in keeping with the coalition’s emphasis on minimizing civilian casualties, he said, coalition special operations activities generally result in no shots fired.

“They have been very effective, indeed, in getting those individuals we’re seeking,” he said. “Typically capturing them, because we want to interrogate them and … learn more about their networks.”

The hierarchy of Afghan security forces is capable “with some caveats,” the general said.

“The Afghan special operations forces, over 12,000 of them now, [are] really quite capable and indeed leading nearly a quarter of the so-called night raids at this point,” he said. “We certainly provide enablers for them … but they are the ones going through the door, they’re the ones doing the apprehensions, the searches, and all the rest of that.”

The Afghan regular army forces are “generally doing well,” he said. “Certainly there’s a range of them,” he added, “all the way from still being established … to an actual independent infantry battalion.”

The Afghan police forces, he said, “run the gamut from quite good to some that are suspect in the eyes of the local population.”

No mention of this or this kind of thing.

Petraeus said that during the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on June 28, Afghan forces responded capably and relatively quickly in a situation involving a massive structure with hundreds of rooms, two huge wings and multiple floors. …

NATO forces assisted during the attack, Petraeus said. “But it was the Afghan forces that died in this operation,” he added. “There’s no better example … that they were the ones confronting these would-be suicide bombers, and ultimately forcing the remaining handful that remained up on to the roof, where they were killed by … other forces.”

That’s funny: ABC News reported that the Afghan police admitted they couldn’t repel the assault without NATO.

Petraeus will turn over command July 18. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John R. Allen has been nominated for promotion to general and appointment as Petraeus’ successor.

Petraeus will retire from the Army on Aug. 31 and assume his new duties as CIA director Sept. 6. …

Watch out for more fruit.

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