Defense Department Regular Briefing

GEN. MYERS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And good afternoon.

As the secretary mentioned, we have seen successful elections in Afghanistan, demonstrating that perseverance and determination of the coalition and the Afghan government will indeed prevail. Afghan security forces have grown to more than 76,000 and continue to progress. And as you know, there are about 17,000 U.S. troops, more than 3,000 coalition forces, and more than 11,000 International Security and Assistance Forces, or the ISAF forces, presently providing security in Afghanistan.

Sunday I was at home and got a call from General Eikenberry. And he said, ā€œIā€™m sorry to bother you on Sunday, but I know you get a lot of bad news from time to time; let me give you some good news.ā€ And of course it was late in the evening there in Afghanistan when he called, and he said from sunset the day before elections to the current time, sunset after elections in Afghanistan, he said there have been 40 security incidents, none of them having a major impact ā€“ although we did have one French soldier killed in one of those incidents. But he said, more importantly, at the 6,000 polling places, things went smoothly.

And he says, let me give you one anecdote, one tiny anecdote. He said there was a small village in the northeast of Afghanistan over the Hindu Kush, and we sent a team in there, Afghan-U.S. team in there to provide the ballots so they could vote. They got to a point where they could go no longer in the mountains and they had to hike the last 20 kilometers. When they got to the village, this small village, the villagers already had heard about the fact they were coming and were lined up to vote. And in addition, they had thrown flowers in their path as they came forward to present the ballots so they could vote. It says a lot about the Afghan people. It also says a lot about the coalition and Afghan security forces who made the effort to hike over the Hindu Kush 20 kilometers to make sure Afghan people could vote.

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