Afghan forces to need combat support: US
WASHINGTON (PAN): Afghan security forces, which are in the lead throughout the country and have made remarkable progress in the war against terrorism, are challenging the Taliban narrative that they are fighting against foreign forces, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
"The conflict in Afghanistan has shifted into a fundamentally new phase," the Pentagon said in a 190-page report to the Congress on the progress made in the war against terrorism in the country.
For the past 11 years, the United States and its coalition partners had led the fight against the Taliban, it recalled. But now Afghan forces are conducting almost all combat operations.
The progress made by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)-led surge over the past three years had put the Afghan government firmly in control of all major cities and the 34 provincial capitals and had driven the insurgency into the countryside, the report added.
ISAF’s primary focus has largely transitioned from directly fighting the insurgency to training, advising and assisting the Afghan forces to build upon the gains, enabling a US force reduction by roughly 34,000 personnel by February 2014, the Pentagon said.
Most ISAF bases have been transferred to the ANSF or closed and construction of most local defence facilities is complete. Afghanistan’s populated areas are increasingly secure; the ANSF have successfully maintained security gains in areas that have transitioned to them.
"To contend with the continuing Taliban threat, particularly in rural areas, the ANSF will require training and key combat support from ISAF, including in extremis close air support, through the end of 2014," the document said.
Despite the progress made by ANSF in the last year, the situation remained challenging, mainly because Afghanistan continued to face a resilient insurgency that used sanctuaries in Pakistan to attempt to regain lost ground and influence through high-profile attacks and assassinations, it continued.
"Although ANSF capabilities have greatly increased over the past two years, it has yet to demonstrate the ability to operate independently on a nationwide scale. Therefore, the Afghan government will require continued assistance from ISAF and the international community over the next year and a half to help enable it to address these challenges..."
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