Institute for the Study of War ~ For Immediate Release ~
Washington, D.C. – On November 30, 2012, the Institute for the Study of War welcomed Major General (Promotable) James Huggins and Lieutenant Colonel (Promotable) J.B. Vowell to The Army and Navy Club to discuss the effects of the surge in Afghanistan and the challenges that remain.
Huggins expressed hopes that Afghanistan is heading in the right direction saying, “I firmly believe that the Afghan security forces are on the right path, on the right azimuth. I believe that the strategy we’re executing in accordance with the surge plan from ’09 is achieving the effects that we wanted it to. It’s just that we have adjusted troop strengths, we have adjusted timelines, and we are moving as fast as we can and our soldiers are doing incredible work there.”
Huggins oversaw the retrograde of approximately eleven thousand forces from his area of responsibility, leaving two Stryker Brigade Combat Teams where originally there had been six BCTs. “[A]s we downsize[d] to two Stryker brigade combat teams when I left, I told them [my higher headquarters] that was the bare minimum I think we could use and still conduct the mission as it is prescribed today.”
He acknowledged that difficulty remains, but stressed the importance of continuing the fight. “We face some tough decisions in what’s going to happen in the future, but I would reiterate as long as we can continue to work off of conditions that we are achieving with our Afghan security partners, to continue to cement the hard-fought gains and the sacrifices we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
LTC Vowell, former commander of Task Force No Slack in Kunar, Afghanistan, discussed the difficult operating environment in that province, where al-Qaeda and its affiliates continue to operate, and stressed the importance of continuing engagement in Afghanistan.
“I’m very happy with the mission that No Slack did, and I think there’s hope for the future in Afghanistan but I’m cautious as well that it could be reversed…We could lose what we’ve gained so far if we withdraw from our gains too precipitously and we don’t continue to support the Afghan government and the region in the roads ahead.”
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.