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Thoughts on Transition in Afghanistan

LTG Caldwell posted some thoughts on transition from Herat at the Atlantic Council.

The Herat ceremony will be followed by one in Maser e-Sharif and Panjshir this weekend. To be sure, it is an important milestone, but there are some misperceptions on what transition means.

First, transition does not mean coalition redeployment. Instead, transition means that Afghan Army and Police are responsible for security. Coalition forces will continue to advise and assist Afghans. Additionally, there are NATO construction projects planned in areas that transitioned. Based on last fall's NATO summit in Lisbon, NATO pledged an enduring commitment beyond 2014.

Second, transition does not mean peace. Instead, transition means that violence levels are manageable by Afghan security forces. President Karzai's decision to identify areas for transition was based on violence levels and capabilities of the Afghan security forces.

Third, transition is separate from U.S. troop reductions. Troop reductions can impact Afghan military professionalization. Fewer U.S. and coalition troops means fewer opportunities to partner with Afghan forces.

Without that said, transition can positively impact events on the ground. As President Karzai's transition coordinator Dr. Ashraf Ghani told an audience in Herat, geographic transition is a message to anti-government forces that the Afghan security forces are ready to defend the nation. It also undercuts the narrative that Afghanistan is occupied.

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