FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. --
United States Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan briefed the Pentagon press corps on the condition of Afghanistan, June 18.
The message discussed the ability of the Afghan National Army to assume control of the security of their Nation and the retrograde of coalition forces.
“We are no longer conducting unilateral operations,” Dunford said. “We conduct security operations, route clearing and retrograde operations.”
The evolution of coalition troop involvement in Afghanistan has shifted the role of America’s premiere fighting force from combat operations to advising and supporting ANA troops.
“Marines are facing a unique leadership challenge,” Dunford said. “Marines are a 9-11 force, so when not training the Afghans they are preparing to answer the call, when the Afghans need it.”
Coalition forces are now moving more effort towards the process of removing a logistical mountain of war-fighting equipment and structure from Afghanistan.
One step taken was reducing the amount of civilian contractor support aboard the remaining bases in Afghanistan by decreasing hot meals served at dining facilities.
“We supplement those two hot meals with MRE’s and other sources,” Dunford said. “There has been no negative impact on troop health.
“This has allowed to decrease the number of contractors we need by a thousand and this will help support our retrograde in an orderly fashion,” Dunford said. “Honestly, I don’t think I have had threes hot meals since I been here.”
American forces are working to exit Afghanistan after providing support to region for more than a decade. Coalition assistance has decreased to providing only logistical support, medical evacuation and experience to ANA forces.
“At this point the Afghans are conducting operations, and we are trainers and advisors,” Dunford said. “The responsibility, for planning security and conducting security operations, falls under their department of interior and ministry of defense, I am just a supporting commander.”
Dunford said, the enablers for the Afghans to ensure the security of their nation is: their improving counter improvised explosive device capability, improved command and control, intelligence and the acquisition and operation of better weapons systems and vehicles.
One such vehicle garnering attention is the MI-17, a Russian made helicopter. Congress and human right activists, condemn its acquisition due to the producer also supplying equipment to Syrian forces.
According to Dunford, the aircraft was chosen based on suitability. It performs well in Afghanistan’s environment and ANA forces can easily operate and maintain them.
“Having watched them here, very closely, over the last several months,” Dunford said. “The MI-17 has done very well for the Afghans, and they are using them very successfully for casualty evacuation and for moving troops around the battlefield.
“This week we just equipped it with a weapon system, so now it is capable of providing them some limited fire support.”
The Afghan nation with new tools and training may now have the ability to build the country they want, each new milestone marking the fast approaching end of U.S. and coalition force involvement.
“The nature of our relationship is changing, but the coalition is still going to support Afghan forces throughout 2014.” Dunford said. “Our mission is one focusing on sustaining the progress we have made.”
“They are trained to fight—Allow the Afghans to fill their role.”