Panetta promises greater combat role for ANA
WASHINGTON (PAN): The United States is trying to get the Afghan National Army (ANA), which is growing in strength, to assume more combat responsibilities, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said.
"We're trying to get the Afghan army and police to assume more of the responsibilities with regard to combat operations. But this is going to take a transition period. I would not assign a particular date or timeframe for that," Panetta told reporters.
Addressing a joint news conference with his Canadian counterpart Peter Mackay on Friday, Panetta renewed the Obama administration's commitment to implementing the Lisbon agreement.
The agreement at Lisbon was to continue working toward the ability to reduce US combat presence by the end of 2014, he said. "There's no question there is going to be, as we develop our ability to secure that country, to weaken the Taliban, to get the Afghan Army and police in place.
"As a matter of fact, we are going to complete another tranche of provinces that will go to the Afghans for security and governance," the secretary said. "So we're moving in the right direction."
Responding to questions, MacKay, who returned from Afghanistan about a week ago, said the numbers of the Afghan national security force, both police and military, had swelled to over 300,000.
The focus is on professionalising and enabling the forces to give them the firm backing they needed to start conducting independent operations, taking over control of various provinces.
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