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Stavridis expresses optimism on Afghanistan

While expressing confidence for Afghanistan’s future, U.S. Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis also emphasized that the road ahead still poses challenges.

Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, met here Jan. 18 with coalition leaders from Regional Command Southwest.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of Afghanistan,” Stavridis said. “2011 is going to be a tough year. There’s going to be combat, we’re going to take losses, but it will be a year in which we start a transition process that will conclude in 2014 with Afghan-led operations all over Afghanistan. I’m confident we’re going to succeed here.”

The admiral cited various challenges the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force must face in Afghanistan.

“I think it’s a combination of a resilient enemy [and] a combination of working with the civilian population that faces corruption and governance challenges,” he said. “But I don’t see any challenge here in Afghanistan that we can’t overcome by training the Afghan security forces, protecting the people of Afghanistan, working closely with our friends and allies, taking an interagency approach and doing exactly what I’m doing right now -- strategic communications [and] telling the story -- because it will be a story of success over time in Afghanistan.”

Stavridis’ visit here was part of a three-day trip to Afghanistan that included meetings in the Afghan capital of Kabul with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of ISAF and U.S. forces, and Army Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, who leads ISAF Joint Command. Adm. Giampaolo DiPaola of the Italian navy, NATO chief of military missions, and ambassadors from Denmark, Italy, Romania and Poland accompanied him on the trip.

Stavridis received updates on operations in Helmand and Nimroz provinces, progress in Marja and the continuing fight against the Taliban in Sangin.

He also was briefed on the status of the Afghan army’s 215th Corps and received an overview of the work done by the provincial reconstruction team in Helmand province. The admiral also toured the Joint Security Academy Southwest, an Afghan security forces training facility here.

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