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Dempsey Arrives in Afghanistan to Assess Progress

By Claudette Roulo
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey arrived here today for several meetings with coalition and Afghan leaders.

The trip to Afghanistan follows on the heels of the U.S. Africa Command change of command the chairman attended yesterday, and Dempsey noted yesterday to reporters traveling with him that transitions are at the heart of both visits.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford assumed command of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force about 60 days ago, the chairman said. He added that he plans to “review the campaign” with Dunford.

“He had a good, full 30-day transition period with [Gen.] John Allen,” Dempsey said, but commanders want to get out and talk to their junior leaders to assess whether command intent is reaching them.

“One of the things I’m going to ask [Dunford], is … what have you learned. If he tells me ‘Nothing,’ I’m going to say, ‘Maybe we got the wrong guy,’” Dempsey said.

Dempsey will meet with senior military and civilian leaders, including Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command; James B. Cunningham, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and Army Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber, commander of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435.

The chairman will also meet with his counterpart, Afghan Army Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi.

As the transition to an Afghan-secured Afghanistan progresses, several provinces have developed spontaneous anti-Taliban movements, a development the chairman said he finds encouraging.

“If this becomes our program, it won’t work,” he said. The power of such movements lies in the fact that they are generated and led by Afghans, the chairman added.

Taliban efforts at reconciliation with the Afghan government are a sign of progress, he said. A post-ISAF Afghanistan can’t be the Afghanistan of 1990, Dempsey added.

There is more than one type of Taliban, Dempsey said, and while a small group may be unreconcilable, those that aren’t could become part of the political system.

“Any conflict in history, when it is resolved, is resolved through some form of reconciliation,” the chairman said. “I support the effort to try … through the Afghans to encourage them to take reconciliation as an important line of effort.”