US general warns of tough fight ahead in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (PAN): A top Pentagon general has warned of a tough fight in the days ahead in Afghanistan as the Taliban and affiliated groups try to regain the initiative with US troops beginning to draw down later this year.
However, Gen. James Mattis, commander of the US Central Command, told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing that the insurgents were unlikely to gain the upper hand given the strength of the Afghan security forces.
“The transition process will start with a limited conditions-based withdrawal this year. Our overall campaign is on track in Afghanistan. Our successes, as General Petraeus has stated, entailed hard fighting and tough losses. And I am sure that there will be tough fighting ahead as the enemy tries to regain the initiative,” he said.
“We must also redouble our efforts to address challenges in the areas of governance and development in Afghanistan,” he said.
Mattis said Afghanistan and its coalition partners were making progress in defeating the insurgents, though some of the gains remained fragile and yet reversible.
“Al Qaeda in the border region between Afghanistanand Pakistan is under the most pressure they've experienced since 2001. Over the past year our enemies have lost leaders, battle space, maneuver room and the initiative,” he said.
Mattis also backed a further growth in the number of Afghan security forces, saying that expanding the capability of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police was once of the “greatest success of our last year”.
“The range of growth being considered is from 45,000 to 70,000. With the improving quality in combat performance by the Afghan national security forces, we are seeing the enemy's worst nightmare coming of age,” he said
Mattis said a measured withdrawal from July 2011 would also undercut the Taliban’s claim that the international community wanted to occupy Afghanistan. “I am comfortable with it militarily,” he said.
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