BSA impasse encourages Taliban, says Dempsey
KABUL (Pajhwok): The top US military officer on Wednesday depicted a grim future for Afghanistan without US help, saying Kabul’s refusal to sign the security agreement could make the summer fight more difficult this year.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who spent the day with his commanders and troops in Afghanistan, urged them to focus on the considerable military work they have to do and not worry about next year.
In an interview, Gen. Dempsey said the possible exit of all US troops was making Afghan military leaders anxious and eating away at their troops' confidence.
He said he spoke with some Afghan leaders, who asked him to stay committed to an enduring US presence and assured him they were doing all they could to get the pact signed.
President Barack Obama spoke Tuesday with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, their first direct conversation since last June.
Karzai has refused to sign the pact. Frustrated with his response, Obama ordered the Pentagon to accelerate planning for a full US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by year's end.
But Obama is also holding out hope that Afghanistan's next president, to be elected this spring, may eventually sign the stalled security accord.
Obama has threatened to pull all troops out, and NATO forces would follow suit.
The impasse has an impact, Gen. Dempsey said. "It is having an effect on the enemy and, in some ways, I think, encourages them, and intelligence supports that," he told reporters.
The uncertainty of a continued US presence in Afghanistan, he said, may encourage some Afghan security forces to "hedge their bets."
"There are parts of the country where it seems to be, there will -- with some likelihood ... be some accommodations between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban," Gen. Dempsey said.
"I think a delay in the [pact] might accelerate those kind of accommodations. I don't think it will be widespread, by the way, but we do have to be alert to that possibility."
He also said he expects the Taliban to become more aggressive during the coming summer fighting season.
He said the Afghan forces did well last year when they were in the combat lead last year for the first time. "So I think the Taliban has always calculated that they need to up their game this year to confront what they now realise is a pretty credible opponent."
He added that while the United States can wait until after the spring elections before deciding whether to completely withdraw all forces, that decision must be made sometime in the summer.
While Gen. Dempsey visited commanders, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met his NATO counterparts in Brussels this week. And NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the 19,000 troops from other nations would also pull out of Afghanistan after year's end without a security agreement.
"Let me stress, this is not our preferred option," he said. "But these are the facts."
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