WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (FRC) returned from his New Year’s Congressional Delegation trip to Afghanistan describing the progress that he witnessed while spending time with troops on the ground.
“It was an honor to spend New Year’s day with the troops of the 2-45th Agribusiness Development Team (ADT) of Oklahoma,” Inhofe said. “They have been there in Gardez since October when they took over for the 1-45th ADT. I am so proud of the work that is being accomplished by the fine members of the Oklahoma Army National Guard. They have gained the trust of the local Afghanis and the village elders by using their expertise and hard work to improve the area’s agriculture. Their mission is vital to the people of the region as well as the future economic vitality of the province and Afghanistan as a whole.”
ADTs provide expertise, advice, and training in soil sciences, irrigation agronomy, horticulture, marketing, storage, pest control and animal husbandry to Afghan universities, provincial-level ministries, local farmers, and agribusinesses. Their objective is to change the agricultural environment from one of dependence to self sustainment and a future in which Afghani farmers can once again export goods such as dried fruits, honey and nuts.
In early October 2010, a 65 Soldier ADT from 2 – 45th Oklahoma Army National Guard Battalion deployed to Afghanistan to train and educate Afghans on modern farming and cattle techniques to sustain the local economy. They are located at Forward Operating Base Gardez in the Paktya Province. Under the direction of their Commander, Altus native Col. Robert Roshell, the 2-45th took over for the 1-45th ADT – the first time one Oklahoma National Guard unit was replaced by another one of its own units.
Agriculture accounts for 45 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP and employs over 70 percent of the population. With an area of operation approximately the size of New Jersey, the efforts of the 45th are helping to develop growing economy that is both sustainable and legal. Their joint effort with the International Security Assistance Force, the State Department, the Defense Department, the Department of Agriculture, USAID, and Provincial Reconstruction Teams is strengthening the connection between the Afghan government and the people of Paktya.
Progress and Problems
Our efforts in Afghanistan continue to be plagued by a host of issues including an ineffectual and corrupt government, a determined insurgency, the difficulties associated with growing a capable Afghan National Army and Police Force, and our ability to sustain an Alliance with a long-term commitment to Afghanistan and its people.
“My assessment of our progress in Afghanistan is positive but results are mixed,” Inhofe said. “I remain concerned about President Karzai’s ability to form a central government that is trusted by the Afghan people and that can provide adequate governance and security throughout Afghanistan. To assist the Afghan government, the State Department has increased its presence from approximate 300 to over 1100 personnel. While these personnel are providing assistance across the spectrum of the government and ministries, they cannot focus their efforts on Kabul. They must continue to expand and engage throughout Afghanistan in order to link provinces and villages back to the central government.”
Inhofe continued, “On the military front, the surge has shown progress in locations where we have focused our forces. However, the Taliban continues to operate in other locations throughout the country with operatives able to freely cross the border into and out of Pakistan. I met with Brigadier General Aminullah Patyani, commander of the Kabul Military Training Center, observed the training of Afghan soldiers, and spoke with several of the new recruits and new leaders of the Afghan Army. They are great warriors and their numbers have grown to over 171,000, but numbers alone do not tell the whole story. In order to transition security to Afghan control, these soldiers and their police counterparts in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) must be fully trained and equipped to ensure they can fight as a cohesive force. Forcing an early transition to ANSF control to meet an arbitrary timeline will be disastrous to the ANSF, the Coalition, and long term security of Afghanistan and the region.
“After numerous discussions with Afghan and coalition personnel during my visit, it was unanimous that setting the July 2011 timeline to begin withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan had a devastating effect on operations. It sends the wrong signal to the Afghan people, our Coalition partners and the Taliban. I continue to have the utmost confidence in General Petraeus, his ability to execute his counter-insurgency plan, and his ability to successfully lead our nation’s troops in Afghanistan. It must be conditions on the ground, not arbitrary political dates, that dictate any withdrawal or transition if we are to succeed in Afghanistan. Failure in Afghanistan will directly impact our national security in the long term.”