“Our mission is to protect, not dominate the Afghan population” – Gen. Hodges

Eighty percent of Taliban militants are not ideologically motivated, believes US Brigadier-General Ben Hodges.

The Director of Operations of Regional Command South of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan) believes the Taliban do not represent a people’s movement in that they do not do anything for the Afghan people except “scare them to death.” For this reason he has no doubt that the militia organization can be defeated.

Today the Taliban “are facing a critical moment in their own existence,” Hodges said.

He believes that the key to victory is bringing the Afghan security forces to a point where they can deal with the Taliban on their own with the support of the international community.

With the additional 30,000 troops promised by the American president “the coalition is willing to continue to bring the power that is necessary to achieve its objectives,” Hodges said.

The main task for the new troops will be to train Afghan security forces and increase their capability “so that they can protect their own population.”

As for fears that once the coalition leaves Afghanistan the [by then defeated] Taliban will resurface, the General believes the “assessment is based on a false premise.”

“The whole concept is that we’re here to provide an opportunity for the Afghan security forces and the Afghan government to grow and continue to improve,” Hodges said.

The mistakes that American troops made in dealing with the militants lie “in the nature of war” because “you cannot have perfect information all the time.”

“We work very hard to make sure that innocent people are not killed,” remarked the General. “Our soldiers put their own lives at risk to avoid injuring innocent people even though the enemy will fire from a mosque or from compounds where women and children are behind the walls knowing that we will not shoot back.”

According to Hodges, in rebuilding Afghanistan the US is mainly attempting to give every family “clean water, education and health care,” which for an agrarian society like Afghanistan means much more than “Internet, giant TV screens and two cars.”

Afghanistan will never be a safe heaven where Al-Qaeda, the Taliban or other terrorist organizations can prepare militants for future acts of terror, the General said.

“The attacks on 9/11 were conducted by people who were trained right here in Afghanistan – that is a very clear connection,” said Hodges.

As for the difference between the Soviet and the American war in Afghanistan, Hodges said that the US has no intention of staying in Afghanistan and dominating its population. “Our purpose for being here is completely different from what the Soviet’s purpose for being here was.”