Menendez praises ANSF fighting prowess
“I walked away from a pretty good sense that while there's still work to do, they are in a good position to defend their country,” Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters here.
Menendez, who recently replaced John Kerry, just returned from his maiden trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan in this new capacity. At meeting with American generals and top Afghan leaders, he was informed the forces were fighting for their country.
“Our military gains in the south and the east in Afghanistan have squeezed the Taliban and pushed them out of major population centers and denied them critical space to operate. Now we just need to ensure that the ANSF can preserve that,” Menendez added.
Having trained more than 300,000 ANSF, US troops and civilians had done a terrific job in creating an enabling environment for them to take over responsibility for their country, he said, adding about 66,000 American men and women were still fighting in Afghanistan.
Believing Afghanistan would never again return to the nightmare of the 1990s, when the Taliban ruled the country, Menendez said the transition process was creating opportunities for Afghans to take the lead and stirring anxiety about what the future held in store for them.
“On the one hand, you know, as I've heard from all of our military leadership, Afghan security forces are now responsible for securing about 87 percent of the country, and they are the ones who at this point are beginning to suffer the brunt of the casualties,” he said.
“While there are still some significant challenges in continuing to build the ANSF, I was impressed with the strides they've made in securing key population centers. And certainly, I walked away with the view that this is not a force that is going to fall apart when coalition forces draw down at the end of the day,” the legislator concluded.
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