March 26th, 2012
03:40 PM ET

O'Hanlon: My interview with General John Allen

Editor's Note: Michael O’Hanlon is coauthor with Martin Indyk and Kenneth Lieberthal of the new book, Bending History: Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy. You can read more from him on the Global Public Square.

Michael E. O'Hanlon

By Michael O'Hanlon – Special to CNN

Today I had the honor of interviewing General John Allen, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan at the Brookings Institution in Washington. We had a half hour of direct discussion before taking questions from the audience. The general was, as usual, impressive and inspiring. Of course, the mission he leads in Afghanistan remains challenging.

After a week of testimony and media appearances, much of what General Allen now believes about the current state and future trajectory of the Afghanistan effort had already surfaced. Today’s conversation focused largely on the campaign as it is unfolding in Afghanistan, in somewhat greater depth than many of his other recent appearances have permitted. It highlighted several key realities about the war effort.

A major theme of General Allen’s public discussions this month in Washington have focused on improvements in the Afghan security forces. Last week in Congressional testimony he called them “better than we thought.” Today he went a bit further - not breaking huge news, perhaps - but explaining a few key things:

- The 201st and 203rd Corps of the Afghan Army, focused on the country’s east, are fighting impressively and being substantially augmented. This will compensate to some degree for the fact that ISAF troops available for operations in the east are somewhat fewer in number than originally planned, a year or two ago.

- Where Afghan unit leadership is competent and not corrupt, there is a general sense that Afghans are very good fighters and very good partners.

- Improving the quality of that military and police leadership, in cooperation with the Afghan national political leadership that must discipline and/or reassign problematic individuals, is “mixed.” But there is a trend towards slow and steady progress - which is part of why 137 of the Afghan Army’s 168 “kandaks” are now rated in one of the three top tiers of readiness, a major if somewhat subjective improvement from a year ago.

- Ethnic balance in the Afghan forces is reasonably good; the population shows confidence across ethnic and confessional lines especially in the nation’s army, and there remains considerable hope that the Afghan security forces can be the symbol and further catalyst of national unity in general

- Despite the tragic cases of “green on blue” violence with Afghan soldiers or police killing NATO troops, including another in the last 24 hours, and despite the reduction in trust this has engendered, the relationship between the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and ISAF is still good and is manifested in tens of thousands of positive interactions and collaborations per day

-  About half of these "green on blue" incidents are due to Taliban infiltration or indoctrination and the other half roughly to “self radicalization” or emotional instability or personal motives. They also lead to high numbers of “green on green” attacks in which ANSF personnel kill other Afghan soldiers and police.

There were a few other points of particular note:

- Reintegration efforts have stepped up, with almost 4,000 former insurgents having chosen to give up their arms and rejoin society, particularly in the country’s north and east.

- Reintegration has occurred in the east, but on balance insurgent forces there are likely hoping to make progress this year themselves, and ISAF is expecting a tough year of fighting ahead.

- The north and east, and Kabul, are reasonably secure despite the occasional spectacular attack.

- The east can be improved, through a layered defense and substantial work this year and next, even in the face of Pakistani/ISI support for the insurgents.

- Border cooperation at the tactical level among ISAF, Afghan, and Pakistani units is beginning to resume after the tragedies and other challenges of 2011.

A final point: While there is no guarantee of a strategic partnership accord being reached by the NATO summit in May, the two countries’ leaderships favor such a long-term arrangement and it seems likely to be worked out over time - though of course, the sooner the better in psychological and political terms.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Michael O'Hanlon.

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Topics: Afghanistan • Military

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. George Patton

    What should one expect Gen. John Allen to say? Of course, we've been "making progress" in Afghanistan for over ten years. Now we need to get the Karzai regime and the Taliban together for peace talks and just ignore all these right-wing punks who want to keep this war going on indefinately so that they can continue making money!!!

    March 26, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Reply
    • Old Man Clark

      Why is it George, that your post is the only pertainant one here? You seem to be the only one here who ever says anything worthwhile or sensible.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:05 am | Reply
      • patrick

        You and George err abdul must spend quite a bit of time on the phone organizing what you are going to say. Or, do you live together.
        Every discussion, you two are caressing each other.
        So funny!

        March 27, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  2. Sir William

    What are the pros and cons of a "strategic partnership accord", and how will that idea advance US policy and objectives?

    March 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Reply
  3. Rz

    Well, Mr. O, since you're in the mood to interview true blooded Americans, how about doing one with Dr. Paul Craig Roberts ?

    March 26, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    The government in Kabul hasn't been able to tackle Taliban infiltration, the problem of rogue soldiers and drug addiction in the Afghan National Army and police. On the one hand it bans private security firms to operate in Afgahnistan. On the other hand it isn't capable of providing security to international aid groups active in the country, Afghanistan would lose billions of dollars' worth of development projects if aid agencies left the country because of the lack of security.

    March 27, 2012 at 7:11 am | Reply
  5. SYRIA SENDING CHEMICAL WEAPONS TO HIZBOALLAH

    50 TRUCKS A DAY CROSSING FROM SYRIA TO HIZBOALLAH ECEVRY DAY SINCE MARCH 1 , ALL THE WEAPONS . CASH COME FROM IRAN AND SHIIA IRAQI GOVERNEMENT, AND THE HEAVY WEAPONS FROM RUSSIA SALE TO SYRIA , SYRIAN SENDING THE WEAPONS TO HIZBOALLAH AS A BACK UP PLAN TO BASHAR AL ASAD RUN, WHERE IS USA , UN AND NATO FROM THIS, THOSE WAR CRIMINALS KILLED MORE THAN 14,000 CIVILIANS TO DATE, WHY IS THE SILENT ....SYRIANS ARE STILL KILLING CIVILIANS DAILY, WHY THEY SEND WEAPONS TO HIZBOALLAH ALONG WITH CHEMICAL WEPAONS WE SEE IT ON THE GROUND EYES WITNESS SEE THAT THE TRUCKS GO AL BEQAA VALY AND SOUTH LEBANON , AND ANY BODY STOP THOSE TRUCKS WILL BE SHOT DEAD....SOME OF THE WEAPONS INCLUDE KATIOSHA ROCKETS, K47, HEAVY GUNS. ANTIAIRCRAFT WEAPONS, ANTI TANKS, MINES, LAND MINES , POISON GAS, AND SMALL UNMAN AIRCRAFTS. SCUDS ETC.....SYRIA MUST BE STOPED AND HIZBOALLAH MUST BE DEALT WITH , IRAN PREPARING THEM JUST INCASE THEY GET ATTACKED.

    March 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
  6. SHIIAZIM = EVIL

    الدكتور أحمد الياسري

    الحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على سيدنا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين وبعد :

    قال تعالى :

    ( وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ وَحَمَلْنَاهُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَرَزَقْنَاهُم مِّنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَفَضَّلْنَاهُمْ عَلَى كَثِيرٍ مِّمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا تَفْضِيلاً ) .

    وعن سيدتنا عائشة رضي الله عنها أن رسول – صلى الله عليه وسلم – قال : (( إن كسر عظم المؤمن ميتاً مثل كسره حياً )) , قال السيوطي في بيان سبب الحديث عن جابر قال : خرجنا مع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم في جنازة ، فجلس النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم على شفير القبر وجلسنا معه ، فأخرج الحفار عظماً ساقاً أو عضداً ، فذهب ليكسره، فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم : ( لا تكسرها ، فإن كسرك إياه ميتاً ككسرك إياه حياً ) .

    وعن أبي هريرة – رضي الله عنه – قال : قال رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : (( لأن يجلس أحدكم على جمرة فتحرق ثيابه ، فتخلص إلى جلده ، خير له من أن يجلس على قبر مسلم )) .

    هذا هو الحكم الشرعي لمن يتجاوز على قبر المسلم ، فكيف بالذي يعمد على نبش قبره ؟. لذلك إن ما قررته الشريعة الاسلامية أن الإنسان مخلوق مكرم حيا وميتا , وثبت الإجماع على عدم جواز نبش قبور المسلمين وإخراج الموتى منها إذا بقي من أثرهم شيء حفاظا على كرامة الميّت وحرمته.

    يا علماء الشريعة الاسلامية

    يا شيوخ العشائر العربية

    أيها المجاهدون الأبطال

    هذا هو يومكم الذي يجب أن تعلنوا فيه عن موقفكم الشرعي والوطني والأخلاقي .

    علماء الشريعة الاسلامية عليهم واجب أمام الله أولاً ، ثم بعد ذلك أمام المسلمين الذين يعملون بما تقرره الشريعة الاسلامية ، وينطق به العلماء .

    شيوخ العشائر هم من يسمع منهم أبناء عشائرهم كلمة الحق ، والتي تمثل شيم الرجال ، وموروث العشائر العربية ، لذلك عليهم واجب أخلاقي ينتظر أبناء عشائرهم أن يسمعوا ما يمثل ذلك .

    أما رجال المقاومة الوطنية والقومية والاسلامية الأبطال فهم من يضع الحق بمكانه للتعبير عن موقفهم الشرعي والوطني من خلال العمل العسكري المباشر ضد كل من يساهم في التجاوز على قبر الشهيد صدام حسين .

    اصدروا فتاواكم يا علماء الشريعة الاسلامية في العراق بتحريم نبش القبور ، وإذا لم نسمع منكم ذلك فسوف يحاسبكم الله في قبوركم ، ويسلط عليها من ينبشها لأنكم رضيتم بما يريد أن يفعله السفهاء وسكتم عليه على الرغم من أنكم تعلمون ما هو الحق ، ومن يسكت على باطل فإنه ينتظر ذلك الباطل يسلط عليه .

    قولوا كلمة الرجال يا شيوخ القبائل العربية ، لأن من اختاركم لهذه المكانة كان يتأمل بكم موقف شجاع عندما يريد الباطل أن يسود ، فإن لم تقولوا كلمة تردع هؤلاء الرعاء ، وتفعلوا ما يردهم في مواجهة هذه الجريمة التي لم ترضى بها العرب ، وهي من أساليب الفرس الذين تربوا على الغدر والحقد ، فلن تجدوا من يحترمكم بعد ذلك حتى من أبناء عشائركم .

    أما أنتم يا رجال المقاومة الأبطال فاعلموا أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : "من حرق حرقناه ومن غرق غرقناه ومن نبش قطعناه" . فمن واجبكم الشرعي والوطني قطع يد من يريد أن يعبث بقبر الشهيد صدام حسين ، وقبور غيره من الشهداء ... اعلنوا هذا القرار من الآن وقولوا ( لقد أعذر من أنذر )، وفي حالة تورط أي من منتسبي الجيش والشرطة بمثل هذه الجريمة فسوف يكون ذلك حل لكم من التزامكم من عدم استهداف منتسبي الجيش والشرطة لأنهم تجاوزوا حتى على الأموات بعد أن كانوا قد تجاوزوا على الأحياء ، وأعلنوا بعد ذلك أن مراكز الشرطة ، وتجمعات الجيش ستكون أهداف لكم بسبب قيامهم بالمشاركة بهذه الجريمة ، من أجل ردع من يحاول أن يتورط بمثل هذا العمل الجبناء .

    يا علماء الشريعة الاسلامية

    نحن نخاطبكم وننتظر فتاواكم للمسلمين

    يا شيوخ العشائر العربية

    نحن نخاطبكم وننتظر توجيهاتكم لأبناء عشائركم

    أيها المجاهدون الأبطال

    نحن نخاطبكم وننتظر أفعالكم التي تفرح الصديق وتغيظ وترهب العدو والله ناصركم .

    April 2, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Reply
  7. bul sh it

    SYRIA WILL NEVER AGREE TO SUCH THINGS THIS IS ALL BULS HIT, SYRIAN ARE KILLERS IN BREED, SHIIA THUGS EVIL CULT 8% OF POPULATION CONTROLING THE REST WITH IRON FIST, THE KILLED 14,000 CEVILIANS ALREADY, THEY GOT HELP FROM IRAN CASH MONEY AND RUSSIAN WEAPONS AND THE KILLERS HIZBOALLAH DO THE JOB FOR THEM......

    April 3, 2012 at 9:53 am | Reply
  8. ..................shiazim is evil liers

    syrian thugs will not give up the killing of cevilians, syria are sending 50 trucks a day to south leabnon hizboallah full with arms, weapons, chemical weapons, rockets and cash daily for the last month while USA, UK, FRANCE, NATO AND UN SLEEPING ...syria preparing to arm hizboallah and transfer the war to lebanon those evil my face their match and must be destroyed along with evil iran and the iraqi shiia thug stupid govrnment, unelected irawi shiia are sending weapons and cash to syria to hel the shiia killers to kill more....evil helping evil

    April 4, 2012 at 10:09 am | Reply

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