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    Progress in Afghanistan positive: Pentagon

    WASHINGTON (PAN): As the security transition process continues apace in Afghanistan, the outgoing Pentagon chief said on Tuesday the fundamentals of progress in the war-devastated remained positive.        

    “Our assessment of the fundamentals of progress in Afghanistan remains positive. The fact that 80 percent of the violence has been taking place in areas where less than 20 percent of the population lives remains unchanged,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters.  

    The Taliban had been pushed out of population centers, and they had failed to retake any of the areas they lost during the surge, Little said, shortly after Chuck Hagel was confirmed by the Senate as the next defense secretary.

    Hagel is scheduled to be sworn in at a private ceremony at the Pentagon Wednesday morning. In his farewell message, Panetta said he is proud of the gains the US had made in weakening al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

    “I'm proud of the courage and commitment you've displayed in combat, and for your determination to defeat our enemies, prevail over significant challenges in two wars, and give the people of Iraq and Afghanistan a chance at a much brighter future,” Panetta said. 

    At his news conference, Little said Afghan forces were currently in the lead for the vast majority of partnered operations, providing security for 87 percent of the country's population. “There's a tendency sometimes to fixate on one metric, whether it's this particular database number or insider attacks or casualties,” Little said.

    “The complete picture of progress in Afghanistan is much more nuanced, and I would encourage you to look at that overall picture. We're looking to fix this database error, and we will report out further information as we have it, probably from Kabul,” Little said.