Kuala Lumpur: Afghanistan`s defence minister on Monday said that efforts to combat the Taliban in his country were moving in the right direction and could bear significant results by the end of the year, despite the recent spike in US casualties.
Gen Abdul Rahim Wardak acknowledged there was "a higher tempo of violence" in Afghanistan, but stressed that moves to bolster security in the key southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar were proceeding according to schedule.
"We are, for the first time, on the right track, with the proper strategy and also enough resources," Wardak told reporters during a visit to Malaysia. "So we hope that by the end of the year, there will be considerable improvement in the security situation."
Last month was the deadliest of the nearly nine-year-old war for American forces with 66 deaths. US commanders have warned of more losses ahead as the NATO ramps up operations in longtime Taliban strongholds in Kandahar and Helmand, where most of July`s American deaths occurred.
Wardak played down the impact of Sunday`s departure of a small force of nearly 1,900 Dutch troops, saying he was not worried it might hurt security.
He also dismissed concerns about the possible infiltration of Afghanistan`s Army by the Taliban following two shootings of Western troops by their Afghan counterparts.
Wardak said the shootings might have been caused by "personal conflict or mental disorder”. Afghanistan`s Army was becoming "a success story" that showed increasing discipline and effectiveness, he added.
The eventual goal is to turn over the responsibility for nationwide security to Afghan forces by 2014 so that foreign troops can go home.