Afghans force can secure vote: Gen. Dunford
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): Although Afghan forces have made remarkable progress, they still need American support to build and sustain their capabilities, NATO top commander in Kabul told US lawmakers on Wednesday.
“After watching the Afghan forces respond to a variety of challenges since they took the lead in June, I don’t believe the Taliban insurgency represents an existential threat to the government or the Afghan security forces,” Gen Dunford told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He was confident that the Afghan forces could secure the upcoming presidential elections -- the nation’s first democratic transfer of power. “Yet, to make our progress enduring, work remains to build the long-term sustainability of the Afghan forces,” he said in his remarks.
Although the Afghans require less assistance in conducting security operations, they still need assistance in maturing the systems, the processes, and the institutions necessary to sustain a modern army and police force, he argued.
They also need continued support in addressing capability gaps in aviation, intelligence, and special operations, he said, adding that as a result, a smaller train, advise and assist mission will be necessary post-2014 to further develop Afghan self-sustainability.
“A continued counter-terrorism mission will also be needed post-2014 to ensure Al Qaeda remains focused on survival and not on regeneration,” he said.
Dunford warned that without continued counter-terrorism pressure, an emboldened Al Qaeda will not only begin to physically reconstitute, but they will also psychologically exploit their perceived victory to boost recruitment, fundraising, and morale.
The top American general told lawmakers that the US and its allies were winning in Afghanistan. “First and foremost, our efforts in Afghanistan have pressured the terrorist network and have prevented another 9/11,” he said.
“Second, we have built Afghan security forces that – with increasingly reduced levels of support – are capable of providing security and denying terrorist safe haven. Third, we are providing a stabilizing influence in the region that is providing the time and space for a wide range of complex issues to be addressed,” he said.
“And finally, as a result of our efforts, the Afghan people face a decade of opportunity within which they can determine their own future, free of the brutality and intolerance of the Taliban,” Dunford said.
With the US in its final year of the combat mission in Afghanistan since 9/11 attacks, Dunford said America’s vital national interests were best served by a stable, secure and unified Afghanistan, and an Afghanistan that is a capable and willing partner in the global fight against terrorism.
“We’ve accomplished much in pursuit of those ends. Since 9/11, our conventional and special operations forces have placed extraordinary pressure on Al Qaeda and extremist networks in Afghanistan. Today – as a result of those efforts – Al Qaeda terrorists are focused on survival rather than on planning attacks against the west,” he said.
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