(Photo by Rachel Cox)
FORT HOOD (April 4, 2013) ---Commanding General of III Corps and Fort Hood, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, cased the colors on Thursday as more than 500 troops prepared to deploy to Afghanistan.
During the 12-month deployment the troops will assist in the transition of security from American forces to Afghanistan forces, as the troop drawdown in 2014 gets closer.
Milley said the main mission would focus on training, advising and assisting with the Afghanistan security forces and maintaining the security of their country.
American troops will also help usher in a new era of voting rights during an election next year when they assist in security of the election process.
"The process of the elections is equally as important as the election itself and the outcome of the election that gets viewed as legitimate by not only the international community, but also most importantly is that it's viewed legitimately by the people of Afghanistan," Milley said.
Milley was in Afghanistan twelve years ago and said there have been some drastic changes made throughout the country.
When you go back to the beginning of it you walked into a society that was shattered, utterly shattered and there were no businesses no traffic, no one had education, access to water or healthcare," Milley said.
"Flash forward twelve years and it's a huge difference if you were to go to Kabul today you would be in traffic jams and there would be vehicles all over the place and there will be small businesses all over the street."
Numbers released by III Corps on Thursday about Afghanistan developments show that since 2001, 4,000 schools have been built, 5 million refugees have returned the country, and the average life expectancy has increased by two decades.
But Milley said this progress in the country doesn't negate the fact that his troops are entering a combat zone.
"We're still in a combat environment, we're still at war, there's still an active insurgency in Afghanistan," he said.
On Thursday Afghan officials released more details about an attack in a western province where assailants shot everyone in their path, leaving at least 46 civilians and security forces dead.
Suicide bombers disguised as Afghan soldiers entered a courthouse Wednesday in an attempt to free more than a dozen Taliban prisoners in western Afghanistan, officials said.
"What occurs in 2015 and beyond with the support the international community renders etc. is still yet to be worked out by the various decision makers in the nation so we're not at closure but for me, I would argue that it has been a tremendous level of effort," Milley said.