Gen. Milley Gives Update on Afghanistan Progress - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

Gen. Milley Gives Update on Afghanistan Progress

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FT. HOOD -

(KCEN) --  Fort Hood and III Corps Commander Lt. General Mark Milley held a video teleconference on Tuesday to give updates on the operations in Afghanistan as they get ready to hand over command to the 18th Airborne Corps.

Opening up the conference, Milley stated the soldiers of the III Corps have made tremendous and positive impacts on the lives of the Afghan people, in both security and their well being.

Looking back 13 years ago, Milley described Kabul as rubble that mirrored the devastation in Western Europe during WWII. When troops first arrived there were no Afghan security forces or police, and it was a "traumatized society" where there was no hope.  But he says that picture has changed drastically.

"In the words of so many Afghan people that have talked to me, they said today is the best situation they've had in Afghanistan in four decades. I think that's a pretty powerful statement," Milley said.

Milley says over the past decade U.S. forces have slowly built up the Afghan National Security Forces, which now stand at 350,000 men.

"One of the most significant milestones we've had in 13 years of war over here is the transition to Afghanistan Security Forces being in the lead of the fight over the last year," Milley said. "It was clear that their soldiers and policemen were in the front of the line of their own fight. They suffered significant casualties doing that, but none of their units ever broke."

In addition to the building of forces, Milley says there have been great strides in expanding education, healthcare and the overall well being of the Afghan people. "In the last decade the people of this country have developed a sense of hope, and a sense of a better future," he said.

But the challenge now is keeping those forces from falling apart, and making sure terrorist organizations don't take over. While he feels their tactics are strong and they have a confident and competent security force, they still need help in becoming self sustaining.

"We want to make sure it's solidified, that we cement the gains that have been made in order to provide a safe and secure environment," Milley said.

Milley says US forces are now 100% in an advisory role helping to teach, mentor and coach the Afghan forces on how to operate and only occasionally assisting in combat missions when needed. Their focus is now showing them how to develop the institutions that keep an army running.

The real challenge will come over the next few months with the April election. Milley says during the summer the Afghan forces fought in more than 3,000 fire fights, and anticipates the violence and attacks to grow as the election date nears.

"This will be the first time, if it happens, that the people of Afghanistan will transition political power in a free and fair election," he said. "That will be a huge blow to the enemy."

But all this progress hasn't been easy or cheap. "None of that progress has come without cost. Just on our watch we lost four great soldiers from Fort Hood. There has been a lot of blood spilled in this country since we first came here," he said. "There has been huge sacrifice, but that sacrifice has not been without cause, and it hasn't been without value."

Since the summer the 68,000 troops in Afghanistan has been cut in half to less than 34,000. Several thousand of those are Fort Hood Troops.

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