Washington: A top American General on Tuesday
said that leaders of al Qaeda and other militant groups
continue to operate with impunity inside Pakistan, posing one
of the toughest challenges to the US-led coalition forces in
"We face long-term challenges... 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," Commander of US
and NATO forces in Afghanistan General John Allen told
lawmakers at a Congressional hearing.
Taliban, he said, remains a resilient and determined
enemy, and that many of them will try to regain their lost
ground this spring, through assassination, intimidation,
high-profile attacks and the emplacement of IEDs.
"We know that Iran continues to support the insurgency
and fuels the flames of violence. We know that corruption
still robs Afghan citizens of their faith in their government
and that poor governance itself often advances insurgent
messages," Allen said.
"This campaign has been long. It has been difficult, and
it has been costly. There have been setbacks, to be sure,
we`re experiencing them now, and there will be more setbacks
ahead," he added.
Afghan forces, he said, are gaining more and more
confidence, and they are gaining more and more capability.
Allen said, throughout history, insurgencies have
seldom been defeated by foreign forces.
Instead, they have been ultimately beaten by indigenous
forces, he argued.
"In the long run, our goals can only be achieved and then
secured by Afghan forces. Transition, then, is the linchpin of
our strategy, not merely the way out," he said.
In the last 12 months, the Afghan security forces have
expanded from 276,000 to 330,000. They will reach their full
surge strength ahead of scheduled deadline in October.
"The expansion and professionalization of Afghan security
forces allow us to recover the remaining 23,000 US surge
troops by this fall, enable us to continue to pressure the
Taliban to reconcile, and make possible security Transition to
the Afghans in accordance with our Lisbon commitments and on
time," Allen said.