- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A senior general for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan said Wednesday that coalition forces have made significant gains against the insurgents in the country, boosting plans to give Afghan forces a greater role in security beginning next month.

But Australian Maj. Gen. Michael G. Krause, ISAF deputy chief of staff, cautioned that conflict remains perilous.

“All of our senior leaders have forewarned very clearly that there would be tough days ahead and that we would see spectacular attacks and, indeed, casualties,” Gen. Krause said via teleconference from Kabul.

The general provided reporters at the Pentagon with a progress report on efforts in southern and central Afghanistan.

Coalition forces, he said, are on schedule for mid-July to transfer control over various stable parts of the country to Afghan military forces.

Most of the territory slated for transfer of control are northern cities, including Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. The ISAF also plans on handing over portions of southern Helmand province, one of the more contested regions in the country. In all, Afghan forces would by next month take total control over 22 percent of the Afghan population.

The general said the transition to Afghan forces’ control was based on a growing sense of desperation among insurgent forces as a result of coalition forces’ efforts to cut off supplies to the insurgents and undermining local population support over the past winter.

Coalition forces tripled the number of seizures of insurgent arms and explosives caches, Gen. Krause said. He also said coalition forces are battling a higher number of foreign-origin insurgents compared to previous years, when most insurgents were Afghans.

However, Gen. Krause said that improving the security situation in Afghanistan is not expected to lead to less bloodshed. Instead, the general said the insurgents were likely to become more desperate and could launch lower-level attacks that would produce casualties on both sides. The primary battlefield, Gen. Krause said, will be in Kandahar province, the traditional center of Taliban support.

According to Gen. Krause, the Taliban’s desperation explains whey there have been recent devastating attacks in southern Afghanistan during the ongoing spring fighting season. The killing of Khan Mohammed Mujahid, Kandahar’s regional police chief, by insurgents, while a loss for the country, was an exception to the overall trend of the conflict, he said.

“We shouldn’t judge the [counterinsurgency] plan by a couple of incidents … we have to take a longer-term view,” Gen. Krause said.

Asked by reporters about an increase in fighting in Afghanistan after the death of Osama bin Laden, Gen. Krause rejected the idea that bin Laden or his group had a connection to the current increase.

“What became pretty obvious with [bin Laden’s] death is that he was pretty irrelevant,” Gen. Krause said.

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