An update on NATO efforts in Afghanistan

Marine Colonel William Maxwell, Director of the Combined Joint Operations Center in Kabul, Afghanistan

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By Vyomika Jairam
Internet Editor

If nothing else, the situation for warfighters in Afghanistan is complicated. And, of course, dangerous. Approximately 120,000 troops are currently serving in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. 70,000 of them are American soldiers.

The NATO efforts in Afghanistan are two-fold. First, to clear insurgency; the second to help establish self-governance.

“The two complement each other very well. The Combat operations enable the space and time needed for the governments and development to improve,” Marine Colonel William Maxwell, director of the joint operation center in Kabul, said. “An operation is just not security alone, it’s development, and it’s governance. Because the whole thing about counter-insurgency is basically to clear a hold, and develop it. And i think we’re actually showing progress in that, we’re starting to be very successful.”

Along with an additional 50,000 international coalition troops, Maxwell’s office works in conjunction with the Afghan National Police, the Afghan national military, and local governors.

“So whenever there is a need from their side, or from our side we communicate that very easily. Now out in the field, 85 percent of the Afghan national forces are partnered with ISAF forces,” Maxwell said. “Part of what i’m seeing in the last four or five months is you’re talking Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defence they’re communicating, they’re coming up with a plan. An Afghan plan for an Afghan problem.”

ISAF is tackling a particularly challenging region currently.

“We’re going into areas where we haven’t been in before. We knew it was going to be a tough fight this summer, absolutely. Down in central Helmand, down in Marjeh, we knew it was going to be tough. That’s where the money hub is, that’s where the drugs are.” Maxwell said.

Maxwell’s forces have been able to move the insurgents out of central Marjeh, a town near Qandahar in south-eastern Afghanistan.

“The local national Afghan people are tired of indiscriminate IED attacks on them. Remember if you step on a landmine it doesn’t know who you are,” Maxwell said. “So we’re seeing a lot of civilian casualties. And momentum is starting to shift on our side.”

Maxwell has more troops on the way to capitalize on the shift; earlier in the year, a 30,000 troop increase was approved, but they have yet to all arrive. Maxwell estimates that by the end of August ISAF will be at full strength.

“Part of my job there is to make sure we have the right weapons systems, the right systems supporting those guys out in the field, and I’m very confident that we’re doing that right now.”