By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2011 – If he becomes the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John R. Allen said he’ll seek to equal the strong leadership of his predecessor, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus.
“If confirmed, I will seek to emulate General Petraeus’ resolute leadership,” Allen said today during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Petraeus appeared before the committee last week for his confirmation hearing to become President Barack Obama’s CIA director, replacing Leon Panetta, who becomes defense secretary on July 1.
“I assure you, I will do whatever I can to provide our forces with everything they need in Afghanistan and [for them] to arrive home safely,” Allen said.
The general told the senators he did not participate in military recommendations that led to Obama’s decision this month to bring home all 33,000 U.S. surge forces from Afghanistan by September 2012, but he agrees with it. The redeployment of 10,000 of those troops this year will begin next month.
“The troops that will be redeployed in July represent the fulfillment of the president’s commitment to both resource the strategy he enunciated at West Point [in December 2009], but also to demonstrate to Afghan leadership the urgency of increased Afghan national security force strength and capability to assume its proper role in securing Afghanistan,” he said.
Allen noted that 68,000 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of NATO forces will remain in Afghanistan after the surge forces redeploy. He added under questioning that it will be enough to continue counterinsurgency operations there, and that if confirmed, he will monitor the drawdown closely.
“It is my intention, as commander, to monitor that progress,” he said. “Should I become concerned that our ability to accomplish our objectives is threatened, I will give forthright recommendations up the chain of command.”
Allen recently became a special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after serving as deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters. He was the deputy commanding general of Multinational Force Iraq – West and commanded the II Marine Expeditionary Force in Anbar province, Iraq, from 2006 to 2008.
If confirmed as commander in Afghanistan, Allen said he looks forward to serving again with Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the new ambassador in Afghanistan, and will “fully synchronize” military and civilian efforts there.
Based on his recent time in Afghanistan, Allen said, he agrees with assessments that U.S. and NATO forces have made significant progress there, but that challenges remain.
Afghan and coalition forces control much of the battle space in Afghanistan, including the capital of Kabul, which consists of one-fifth of the population, as well as other population centers in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, the general said.
Military operations increasingly are being led by Afghan forces, which are on track in a surge of their own to meet a goal of 305,000 troops later this year, Allen said.
Asked about the importance of Afghan forces taking over security, Allen said, “It’s essential to the strategy.”
The Afghans also are making much progress in getting Afghan men to leave the insurgency and reintegrate into Afghan society, the general said. About 1,900 Afghan men have been reintegrated from the insurgency and about 3,000 more are waiting reintegration, he said.
Still, “there are significant challenges” in Afghanistan, Allen said, including the need for more operational training and literacy education, and the need to get rid of government corruption in Afghanistan and insurgent safe havens in Pakistan. NATO still needs about 480 more trainers for Afghan troops, he said.
“There are significant challenges, but I believe in the current campaign, … the objectives are attainable,” he said.