Afghan Forces Make Slow
Afghan Forces Make Slow, Steady Gains,
Resolute Support Official Says
By Lisa Ferdinando, DoD News, Defense Media
Washington D.C. — (DoD
News) — June 01, 2016 — The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are
making slow and steady progress, giving them momentum for an expected tough
fight ahead, Army Brig. Gen. Charles H. Cleveland said today in Kabul.
"It's still obviously very early in the fighting season [with] a long way to
go," Cleveland, Resolute Support's deputy chief of staff for communications,
told Pentagon reporters via teleconference.
Air Force Capt. Tim Six, 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilot, takes
off for a combat sortie in an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Bagram Air Field,
Afghanistan, March 14, 2016. The 421st EFS, based out of Bagram, is the only
dedicated fighter squadron in the country and continuously supports Operation
Freedom’s Sentinel and the NATO Resolute Support mission.
"Frankly, there will be bad days over the coming months -- there's no doubt
about that," he said. But the Afghan forces, he added, are "slowly but surely
getting progressively better."
Gains have been achieved in Kunduz, where the Afghan National Defense and
Security Forces' early spring offensive degraded the Taliban, Cleveland said.
"Although the ANDSF did bend a little bit, they didn't break and they were
able to repel the Taliban," he said. "Once they successfully did that, they were
able to reopen lines of communication out to the surrounding provinces."
The Afghan forces have performed better this year, in comparison to last year,
"Based on that, we are cautiously optimistic about the coming months, because
overall we do believe that they have some momentum right now," he said.
He reported a "small, slow [and] gradual, but steady level of improvement."
Cleveland cited the Afghan forces' increased expertise in their newer
capabilities, including in special operations. In addition, they have switched
from a defensive mindset to an offensive one, Cleveland said.
The commander of Resolute Support and U.S. Forces - Afghanistan, Army Gen.
John W. Nicholson, who assumed command March 2, is wrapping up his 90-day
assessment of the situation in the country, Cleveland said.
The assessment is to include the overall threat situation, current operations,
resources, and projections for the future, he said.
Nicholson is expected to privately brief his chain of command in the next
days on his findings and any recommendations, Cleveland said. His assessment at
this point is expected to remain classified, to allow for frank discussions with
military leadership, according to Cleveland.
Some Taliban May Turn to Peace
Cleveland said he does not expect peace talks "anytime in the short term"
with the Taliban's new leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, who replaced
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur.
Mansur was killed in a U.S. airstrike May 21 in the Afghanistan-Pakistan
Some Taliban members, according to Cleveland, might want to abandon the fight,
after seeing the precision strike that killed Mansur, and being faced with
continued violence and improved capabilities of the Afghan forces.
"Our hope is that some of those lower-level people will begin
to engage on the peace piece," Cleveland said.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)
Related Links :
NATO Afghanistan Resolute
U.S. Central Command