Sgt. Dustin Kaminiski and Staff Sgt. Johnny L. Bates stand guard in a small village in Kunar province Aug. 1.
WASHINGTON (Aug. 4, 2009) – Insurgent activity across the Afghanistan and Pakistan borders has declined as a result of complementary operations in the region, a U.S. commander said Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Army Maj. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 82, which oversees Regional Command East in Afghanistan, noted the reduction in areas of his command.
“We have seen a decrease in the cross-border activity throughout [Regional Command East] as a result of the operation [in Pakistan],” he said, referring to the Pakistani army’s offensive against militants along its border region in recent months.
The general said the most noticeable decline has occurred in Kunar province, where coalition and Afghan operations complemented Pakistani efforts across the border.
“There were not only the operations in Pakistan, but on our side as well, and it did have an impact of our enemies’ ability to move fighters across the border,” he added.
One of the key features of the so-called “Af-Pak” policy that President Barack Obama’s administration rolled out in March was to broaden the operation in Afghanistan to include Pakistan.
U.S. officials in June praised the Pakistani military’s initiative against extremists within their borders as a reflection of Pakistan’s belief that the insurgents represent a major threat to the country.
Scaparrotti said that, after his top priority of protecting Afghan civilians, his next major priority is to build the Afghan National Security Forces – another key component laid out in the president’s strategy.
The general said that partnering between coalition and Afghan forces is uneven throughout Regional Command East, with some areas boasting stronger partnerships than others. To shore up weaker bonds in some parts of the region, Scaparrotti said there will be a focus on collocating forces where feasible.
“A partnership, to me, means that we, in every case that we can, collocate, particularly at headquarters level,” he explained. ”We do that already in many areas, but not all. We obviously operate together continuously,” he said.
The general added that a greater emphasis will be placed on cooperation at the planning phase, noting that he and his Afghan counterparts just wrapped up a two-day conference that covered issues related to increasing the partnership.
“So as we develop our plans, execute our operations and consider both the threat and security of the people; we’ve got to get together in a greater way than we’re doing it today,” he said. “It’s pretty good, but I believe we can do it even better.”