ISW's Michael Gordon interviews Ambassador Richard Holbrooke (CFR)

U.S. Policy in Afghanistan: A Conversation with Richard Holbrooke (CFR)

 December 15, 2009

ISW Senior Fellow and New York Times Correspondent, Michael Gordon, interviewed the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, for the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Michael R. Gordon, a Senior Fellow at ISW, is the chief military correspondent for the New York Times, where he has worked since 1985. He is the coauthor, with LTG Bernard E. Trainor, of Cobra II and The General's War. He has covered the Iraq War, the American intervention in Afghanistan, the Kosovo conflict, the Russian war in Chechnya, the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and the American invasion of Panama.

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Lieutenant General James M. Dubik (U.S. Army, Ret.) Discusses Training an Afghan Army with NPR



Transcript Excerpt

MICHELE NORRIS, host: As we just heard, training of the Afghan security forces will be key to a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. In his speech last night, President Obama suggested the training will be informed at least in part by the U.S. military's experience in another theater of war.

President BARACK OBAMA: Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We will continue to advise and assist Afghanistan's security forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul.

NORRIS: But the training process in Afghanistan has proved itself to be a long haul. The challenges are considerable, and many of the lessons learned in Iraq simply do not translate. For help unpacking some of those challenges and some of the lessons, we are joined by the man who oversaw the training of Iraqi troops and spent the summer observing training in Afghanistan. And that man is retired Lieutenant General James Dubik. General Dubik, welcome to the program.

Lieutenant General JAMES DUBIK (U.S. Army, Retired): Michele, thank you very much for having me.

NORRIS: Our Pentagon correspondent, Tom Bowman, has been reporting that the training will be somewhat different, that the U.S. forces will literally be living with Afghan forces. They will be going out into the field with the Afghan forces. How is training in Afghanistan different than it was in Iraq?

Lt. Gen. DUBIK: Well, in fact, that is very similar to what we did in Iraq. In 2007, then-Lt. General Odierno, who was commanding multinational corps Iraq, and I came to an understanding that we had to increase not just the size, but the competence and confidence of the Iraqi security forces. So we embarked on a very extensive partnership program where I would train, and my command would train, new units. And then we would pair those units up with units from the coalition force under General Odierno's command. This allowed training to continue on the job, so to speak, and allowed Iraqis to learn leadership techniques, operational techniques, even while they were fighting. This really significantly increased their confidence in themselves and their overall competence as a military force.

NORRIS: Listening to you, it sounds like confidence is very important here, that they have confidence in themselves.

Lt. Gen. DUBIK: It is a very important thing. Numbers count, and numbers count a lot. But inherent in numbers is the potential of combat power. It's not until -that those numbers are confident in their ability to execute that a potential combat power gets translated into actual combat power. So this confidence -while it's not empirical; you can't measure it - is absolutely essential when you are building security forces during an active fight.

NORRIS: What needs to happen after the U.S. begins drawing down forces? Because I wonder, as people listen to the president talk about this drawdown that would begin in July of 2011, if many people think that that's the - really the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement.

Lt. Gen. DUBIK: Well, I would like - if I could, Michele, to talk not about what happens after, but what happens at the point of handoff. It's really critical that the Afghans are large enough, capable enough, and confident enough to receive the handoff. And the focus should not be directly on transition. It should be directly on building a large enough, capable enough and confident Afghan force. And the transition will happen by itself. What you saw in Iraq in the spring of 2008, in - beginning around March, was a government that was so confident with their own forces that they started to operate semi-independently. And the transition occurred after that.

To read the full transcript from NPR click here.

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Research Analyst Jeffrey Dressler on CNN Radio

ISW Research Analyst Jeffrey Dressler discusses President Obama's options on Afghanistan with CNN Radio.

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