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General says Afghan pullout risks few for security
Commander confident national forces can hold on to gains against Taliban
Question of the Day
The outgoing deputy commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said Wednesday that the planned pullout of U.S. troops poses a minimal risk to gains against Taliban insurgents, as violence in the country has increased.
“We can achieve sufficient stability across Afghanistan by 2014,” Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez told reporters at the Pentagon by video link from Kabul, referring to the announced drawn down of 33,000 troops set to begin this month.
Some 70,000 new recruits will be added to Afghan national security forces by the summer of 2012, brining the total number to more than 350,000, he said.
“It’s the growing capacity of the Afghan national security forces and the strengthening of their organizations that enable us to continue the momentum without increasing the risk by a significant level,” the three-star general said. “We’ve begun the process of working ourselves out of a job.”
Despite the positive signs, Gen. Rodriguez said he remained cautious, noting that progress against the Taliban “is still fragile and reversible,” a phrase echoed by multiple ISAF commanders in the lead-up to the president’s troop decision.
“We’ve still got a little bit more way to go,” Gen. Rodriguez said. “We will stay the course with a plan and not chase transition.”
The recent insurgent attack on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel was a sign of the growing strength of Afghan security forces, Gen. Rodriguez said. The Afghans prevented the deaths of hundred of people in countering the attack, he said.
“Each day, [Afghan forces] are taking on greater responsibility and helping prevent spectacular attacks across the country,” he said.
The attack on the hotel, housing mainly wealthy Afghans and foreigners, lasted six hours, and was ended when NATO helicopters killed three insurgents on the hotel’s roof.
“In places where we focused our energy, [attacks] are down,” he said. “There is a significant increase in direct fire attacks that are very ineffective.”
The reason violence was not dying down as quickly as in Iraq, he said, was because Iraq’s insurgency was based in towns and cities, while the Afghan insurgents are in rural regions.
The general said that during the drawdown, troops will be moved across the country. Some units will be leaving while others deploy to the east near the Pakistani border, where Taliban forces have been regrouping after coalition offensives in the southern provinces for the past two years.
Pakistani forces launched an attack Wednesday on North Waziristan, hitting insurgents on their side of the border.
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