A top commander from the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan warned against a precipitous withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, after recent news reports suggested that an accelerated pullout could take place.
“The plan is in place, and it relies … on building capability and confidence, and not pulling back too soon and undermining that confidence. If we do that, we could have serious consequences,” said British Army Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The transition of security responsibility from NATO to Afghan troops is on track, with 75 percent of Afghans living under Afghan security forces, the general said during a video-conference briefing from Kabul. Insurgent attacks are down 10 percent from last year, and coalition deaths are down by 40 percent, he added.
Gen. Bradshaw acknowledged the seriousness of attacks by Afghan soldiers on NATO troops, which have killed 45 percent more coalition troops than last year, but he said they amounted to only 4 percent of overall deaths since the war began in 2001. However, the so-called insider attacks have caused nearly 20 percent of all hostile coalition casualties this year.
“I don’t seek to minimize that aspect of it at all,” he said in response to whether he was downplaying the attacks.
“Everybody appreciates that the threat that this represents to the mission is more of a morale threat than a physical threat, and that’s why we take it very seriously.”
The general said Afghans have also begun to take the threat more seriously. A few weeks ago, Afghan president Hamid Karzai urged his forces to bear down on insider attacks and has directed Afghan National Army religious and cultural affairs officers to help coalition forces train Afghan soldiers.
“They have a top-class officer in the Afghan National Army working to head up the effort, and he has been extremely energetic,” he said.
More Afghan officials are involved in counterintelligence within the Afghan army, and there is closer cooperation between the Afghan’s intelligence organization and NATO partners, he added.
Gen. Bradshaw echoed Pentagon officials’ comments that the 35,000-man strong Taliban insurgency was suffering.
“This year, we’ve seen the enemy pushed further into the margins, away from the population centers. We’ve seen signs of pressure in our intelligence reporting, of shortages of finance and equipment,” he said.
“We’ve seen their leadership now showing divisions at the middle levels and at the high levels, concluding that they’re not going to achieve their aims by military means alone,” he said.
“Now, the enemy will continue to throw challenges at us; of course, he will. But he knows he cannot achieve his political aims now through military means. So this is the time to hold our resolve.”