- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2012

The top allied commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that the two biggest obstacles to success in Afghanistan are corruption in the Afghan government and militant safe havens in Pakistan.

“We know that al Qaeda and other extremist networks — the very same networks that kill Afghan and coalition troops every day — still operate with impunity across the border in Pakistan,” Marine Corps Gen. John Allen said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“We know that corruption still robs Afghan citizens of their faith in the government and that poor governance itself often advances insurgent messages,” Gen. Allen said.

James Miller, acting undersecretary of defense for policy, testified with Gen. Allen. “There is much work to do. We will continue to work on institution-building,” Mr. Miller told the committee.

All international combat troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Instilling responsible, accountable governance is one of the key components to the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, as well as training the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

Citing reports saying the number of ANSF would be reduced after meeting its October goal of 352,000, senators urged Gen. Allen not to make a decision to reduce ANSF numbers solely based on financial costs to the U.S.

“The number [352,000] is a surge force. It was always intended to be a temporary number,” Gen. Allen said, adding that the reduction would be conditions-based.

The general said 11 Afghan battalions are rated as “independent” by NATO advisors.