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Conditions set for winning war in Afghanistan, Milley says

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Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 4:30 am

It is still premature to determine what support Afghanistan may need after 2014, said Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, during a media engagement last week.

First the results of this summer’s fighting season — which is not yet over — will need to be analyzed, he said.

Milley deployed with the Phantom Corps last spring to Kabul, Afghanistan, and began serving as the commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in May.

As the second in command, he oversees NATO operations across the country.

He spoke with reporters Sept. 4, about the current conditions in Afghanistan and answered questions about anticipated end-of-combat operations in 2014.

“In broad terms, some elements of support will be needed,” he said. Not tactical though.

“The kandaks (Afghan army battalions) ... are pretty damn good at shoot, move and communicate,” Milley said. “They are doing just fine relative to this enemy in this country. The parts that need additional work and we’re going to work hard over coming months ... is to shore up things like logistical supply.”

Despite the close of the 12-year Afghanistan war about 16 months away, Milley said it is by no means over.

“I would say the conditions are set for winning this war, but it is not yet won and it is not yet over,” he said.

Afghan National Security Forces took the lead in this summer’s fighting season, conducting about 90 percent of operations. Americans and their allies still provide support and guidance, said Milley, who is on his third tour to the country. About 1,000 patrols are conducted daily.

“It’s a different fight today than what I saw before,” he said. “The enemy I’ve seen this tour is quantitatively and qualitatively different.”

This year, the Taliban has been able to accomplish suicide bombings, intimidation tactics and small-arms attacks, as seen in Ghazni last month in a “complex” attack where Taliban infiltrated a NATO base, killing one American soldier.

“What they can’t do is provide an alternate form of government,” Milley said. “All they can do and all they’ve been doing this year is terrorizing people.

“Right now 68 percent of the country is under the age of 25. That population is getting educated. In a very short amount of time, they will come into positions of significant power in this country and I think the days of the Taliban will be behind them,” Milley continued. “They are clearly and unambiguously rejecting the Taliban.”

As the close of the war approaches, Milley said there is a sense of anxiety among the Afghan people of what the future holds for their country.

“The sooner various leaders define that with a degree of certainty, better will be for the future and people of Afghanistan,” he said.

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