U.S. general: New offensive hits Haqqanis

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Initially, the logic was to have Afghan security forces take charge in the most peaceful areas first, he said. Afghan and coalition officials and others, however, recently decided that it would be unwise to transfer the most volatile provinces in 2014, especially when the international force’s footprint will be shrinking.

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker echoed Gen. Allen’s comment on Sunday during a trip to the western city of Herat, a provincial capital in the first group of areas to start transition.

“The original logic was you go from easy to hard,” he told the AP. “But since you’re going from a lot of troops to fewer troops, there is also a pretty good case to be made for transitioning the hard areas while you’ve got the heavy, ready reserve” on the ground.

Mr. Karzai is expected to announce the second list of transition sites in coming weeks. Gen. Allen said areas being recommended are parts of Herat province, all of Nimroz and additional parts of Helmand provinces in the south, all or parts of Ghor and Daykundi provinces in central Afghanistan, and some municipalities in the east.

If Mr. Karzai approves the recommendations, Afghan forces will be in control or in the process of taking the lead in areas home to 40 percent to 50 percent of Afghanistan’s population, Gen. Allen said.

The coalition has focused on routing insurgents and securing population centers in the country. More difficult to control is Afghanistan’s long porous border with Pakistan.

Insurgents frequently stage attacks on Afghan and coalition forces from the Pakistani side of the border. The U.S., Mr. Karzai and the international coalition have accused Islamabad of giving insurgents, especially the Haqqani network, sanctuary — a claim that Pakistan has denied.

U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, who until recently was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has claimed that the Haqqani network is a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s intelligence service and accused the spy agency of helping the group carry out a recent attack against the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

That comment stoked outrage among Pakistani officials and fueled speculation that the U.S. would launch a unilateral raid against the Haqqanis in Pakistan, as it did May 2 when it killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Gen. Allen said that relations between Washington and Islamabad remain strained but that he was seeing signs of improved Pakistani cooperation. Gen. Allen said he and the Afghan army chief of staff, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, met just days ago in Pakistan with the country’s powerful army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.

Gen. Kayani pledged to have Pakistani forces take aim at militants firing at coalition troops on the Afghan side of the border.

“That’s really different than it’s been over the last several months,” Gen. Allen said. “And, in fact, this week, for the first time — the first time that we’ve detected it — the Pakistanis actually did fire at an insurgent position that was shooting at us.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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