After a year marked by transitions, I Corps uncased its colors at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Though its work in Afghanistan is done, the corps remains committed to making it matter.
When Americas Corps arrived in Afghanistan last summer, Lt. Gen. Mike Scaparrotti, I Corps commanding general, took command of the International Security Assistance Forces Joint Command, in which 33 different nations were represented. Most of its energy was focused on developing Afghan security forces, but maintaining momentum and agility were equally important.
This campaign is one of change, Scaparrotti said at a press conference preceding the uncasing ceremony Tuesday.
One of the biggest changes has been in the Afghan National Security Force, watching it grow in both numbers and capabilities during the past year. There are more than 346,000 ANS Forces in the country, and ground forces are expected to reach full strength by the end of 2012.
The number of Afghan-led mid- and high-threat operations is now at about 50 percent, and the Afghan Defense ministries were entirely responsible for planning and implementing Operation Naweed, which will guide operations in Afghanistan through 2013.
The changes made a personal impression on I Corps Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell.
It was probably the most exciting, educating and best year of my military career, he said.
Scaparrotti is cautiously optimistic about the outlook for Afghanistan, though well aware that there are still challenges to be faced. According to the commanding general, the biggest problems lie in areas that are difficult to manage.
We can control the battlefield, and I believe the Afghans can as well, he said.
NATO forces are less able to regulate government corruption, which has been a consistent issue, and interdiction (of enemy supplies and personnel) along the border with Pakistan will require careful attention in the future.
Counterinsurgency is really about poor governments, Scaparrotti said.
All told, he feels that the country is moving in the right direction, and that the continued commitment of coalition forces in the country will be huge. Troxell elaborated, saying he hears U.S. and Afghan commanders talk of irreversible momentum to keep the Taliban at bay.
But that commitment comes with a price. Over the last year, 414 coalition Soldiers, 24 from I Corps, and 1,380 Afghan troops were killed in the country, and many more wounded.
These brave men and women will never be forgotten, Scaparrotti said at the ceremony.
The motto of the ISAF Joint Command was Make it matter, he concluded. We will make their sacrifices matter.