Progress made in training Afghan forces: Panetta
During his confirmation hearing as defense secretary, Leon Panetta told US lawmakers: "In Afghanistan we must continue to degrade the Taliban. We've got to train Afghan security forces. We've got to help the government take ownership of the country…"
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Panetta shared concerns of lawmakers with regard to the militant safe havens in Pakistan, particularly groups like the Haqqani network.
"I have strongly urged those in Pakistan to take steps to do whatever they can to prevent these kinds of cross-border attacks and to prevent the safe havens that do exist on the Pakistani side of the border," he added.
He called the US relationship with Pakistan one of the most critical, and yet one of the most complicated and frustrating, relationships. "It's extremely critical in that we are conducting a war against our primary enemy in the FATA.
"It is critical because supply lines, vital supply lines, go through their country. It's critical because they are a nuclear power, and there's the danger that those nukes could end up in the wrong hands," he said.
At the same time, Panetta continued, the relationship was complicated because the ally had links to certain terrorist groups. Pakistan continued not to take aggressive action over safe havens and that their concern about sovereignty resulted in criticism of the United States.
Panetta said good progress had been made in training Afghan security forces, both police and military. "I think the area where frankly greater progress needs to be made is on the governance side to try to ensure that they improve their governance so that ultimately they can take responsibility for that country.
"We all know what the fundamental goal is here, is to try to develop a stable enough Afghanistan that it will never again become a safe haven for Al Qaeda or for other terrorist groups," he concluded.
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