ISIL a competitor to Taliban in Afghanistan: Dunford
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): The Islamic State is posing a threat and competition to the Taliban in Afghanistan, a top American general told lawmakers Thursday adding that there has been significant improvement in relationship between Kabul and Islamabad under President Ashraf Ghani.
“The current relationship appears to have improved since the election of President Ghani. It is clear that security in Afghanistan and Pakistan are linked,” General Joseph Dunford, nominee for Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told members of Senate Armed Service Committee during his confirmation hearing.
Both Afghanistan and Pakistan are working to ensure that concrete steps are taken to enhance their bilateral relationship and cooperation, he said in written response to questions for the confirmation hearing.
Dunford said ISIL is “a competitor” with other groups that have traditionally operated in Afghanistan, which may result in increased violence between the various extremist groups.
“The Taliban has declared that it will not allow ISIL in Afghanistan. The coalition and the Afghan government are closely watching ISIL’s attempt to expand its reach to Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.
The ANDSF, National Directorate of Security (NDS), and Afghan political leadership are also collaborating closely to prevent this threat from expanding, he added.
In the assessment of General Dunford, ANDSF are strong at the tactical level and still needs assistance at the corps and institutional levels. They still need help in developing the systems and processes necessary to run a modern, professional army and police force.
They also need sustained support in addressing capability gaps in aviation, intelligence, sustainment, and special operations, Dunford said. “To address these gaps, our advisory mission and mentorship will continue to be vital. Our advisors are at the security ministries, at the army corps level, and in the police zones – those remain our main efforts,” he added.
The United States, he said, should continue to support a political process that enables Afghans to sit down with other Afghans to determine the future of their country.
“We remain strongly supportive of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process whereby the Taliban and the Afghan government engage in talks toward a settlement to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan,” he said.
In response to a question, Gen Dunford said the initial forward momentum of the Resolute Support mission has been stymied by delays in forming the full new 25-member Afghan cabinet.
In general, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are better trained and equipped than insurgent forces, and continue to demonstrate tactical proficiency as they work together across the security pillars, he said.
“The ANDSF’s most critical gaps remain in aviation, intelligence, and special operations, all linked to the ANDSF’s targeting capability. These gaps will endure for some time, even with the addition of key enablers. RS advisors are also working to address developmental shortfalls in the areas of logistics, medical support, and counter-IED exploitation,” Dunford said.
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