Panetta: US set to achieve goals in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (PAN): The United States is on track to achieve its goals in Afghanistan both in denying a safe haven to terrorists and successful security transition to local forces by 2014, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday.
As the strength of Afghan security forces increased from 100,000 in mid-2011 to 352,000 now, they are currently leading nearly 90 percent of operations across the country.
Panetta told Pentagon reporters: “They are in the lead for security for more than three-quarters of the Afghan population, and they have retained security gains, even as the United States has drawn down the surge forces, the 33,000.”
Welcoming the decision of President Barack Obama to withdraw some 34,000 of the US troops from the country in the next 12 months, Panetta said it had put the US firmly on a path to fulfill its mission in Afghanistan.
“The US, NATO and the Afghan government agreed in Lisbon in 2010 and affirmed in Chicago last year that Afghanistan will assume full responsibility for its security by the end of 2014,” the secretary recalled.
He said the US would maintain a long-term commitment to Afghanistan, including through the continued training and equipment of Afghan forces and counterterrorism operations against Al-Qaida and their affiliates.
“With the continued dedication and sacrifice of our troops, I am fully confident, as I prepare to hand over my responsibilities as secretary of defense, that we will prevail in denying Al-Qaida a safe haven from which to attack our homeland,” he remarked.
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