U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force, greets U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta upon the secretary’s arrival at Camp Eggers, Kabul, Afghanistan, July 9, 2011 (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)
CAMP EGGERS, Afghanistan (July 9, 2011) — The commander of the International Security Assistance Force said here today he agrees with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta that al-Qaida can be strategically defeated.
Army Gen. David Petraeus told reporters traveling with Panetta that there has been enormous damage – well beyond the killing of Osama bin Laden – done to al-Qaida in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. The damage has disrupted their efforts in the region and it holds the prospect of a strategic defeat for the terror group, he said.
This was one of the last interviews Petraeus will give as the commander in Afghanistan. He turns over command to Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen soon.
Al-Qaida was the reason the United States came to Afghanistan after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The efforts of the past few years in Afghanistan and in Pakistan have weakened the group, the commander said. Couple that with efforts against the group in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and North Africa and there is a real possibility the group will be dismantled, Petraeus said.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan there have been numerous attacks that have taken out high-ranking members of the group. In Afghanistan, coalition forces have killed a number of people who filled the role as leader of al-Qaida.
“That was the most hazardous job in the world for quite some time,” Petraeus.
Eliminating the terror group totally is difficult because it is a “franchise,” Petraeus said, and pressure on the group has to be placed wherever it operates.
“There may be elements of al-Qaida out there for some time, the ‘brand’ so to speak, but they will not be able to plan and execute strategic attacks,” he said.
The transition plan in Afghanistan will begin next week. Seven areas – three provinces and four municipalities – will begin transferring to Afghan security control.
Petraeus said he is pleased with the trends in the fighting season.
“For what it’s worth, [this] June saw less insurgent attacks than last June and May was about the same,” Petraeus said. “You have the first two months in which the comparison with the last year is actually a reduction or about the same. July is trending the same.”
The general does not know what affect the month of Ramadan – when Muslims traditionally fast during the day – will have on the fighting season.
Typically when you have more forces, levels of violence go up. Coalition forces are on the offensive, all the surge forces are in place and the Afghan security forces have grown exponentially, Petraeus said.