Violence in Afghanistan to escalate: Gates
WASHINGTON (PAN): The current is going to be critical for Afghanistan, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said, suggesting the militant-linked violence in the country will spiral over the next few weeks.
"I think that we are all expecting an increase in the level of violence and activity beginning in a few weeks," Gates told a Pentagon news briefing on Thursday. He said the Taliban would try to retake the areas they lost in recent months.
"If we can prevent them this year from retaking the areas, and we can continue to expand the security bubble, I think it's possible that by the end of this year we will have turned a corner just because of the Taliban being driven out, and, more importantly, kept out," he remarked.
General James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the poppy harvest season was in full swing. "So the character of the fighting right now is probably more along the lines of the individual spectacular attacks rather than groups of people."
Meanwhile, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy said once there was a negotiated solution on terms acceptable to the Afghan government and the US, the requirement for American presence would diminish over time.
In an interview, she said: "I mean we are there to try to secure this core goal of disrupting, dismantling, defeating Al Qaeda, denying Afghanistan as a safe haven. Once the insurgency is degraded, the need for our presence will also go down."
About the reconciliation drive, she said the Taliban fighters who were ready to renounce violence and abide by the Afghan constitution could be reintegrated into Afghan society.
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