Reversed the momentum Taliban had in Afghanistan: Petraeus

Progress will now be monitored more on smaller level, said David Petraeus.

Washington: The US-led forces have been able to reverse the momentum of the Taliban fighters in certain areas of Afghanistan, America`s new Afghan war chief Gen David Petraeus said on Thursday.

In Brussels, which is the NATO headquarters, Gen Petraeus said given that some crucial safe havens had been taken away, the Taliban would not fight back.

"There is no question but that the Taliban had the momentum -- had the initiative, coming into this year. One of the real areas of focus has been to reverse that process.”

"I think that has been reversed in certain areas of Afghanistan," Gen Petraeus, commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan told reporters in Brussels.

This was Petraeus first trip to the NATO headquarters after he was confirmed by the US Senate as the new commander for Afghanistan.

"Having said that, when you take away the enemy`s safe havens and sanctuaries, particularly ones that are as important as, say, those in central Helmand Province and in Marja, now Nad e-Ali, even Lashkar -- when you take away his safe havens, the enemy fights back," he noted.

He said there are areas in Afghanistan where the US has been successful in reversing the momentum that the Taliban enjoyed before the onset of this particular fighting season, and the forces wanted to capitalise on the surge.

"What we are going to do is capitalise on the additional forces being deployed now to continue that process," he said.

Petraeus said the final 30,000 forces are ahead of schedule in terms of their deployment of personnel and equipment.

"Success is achieving progress really at this stage of a counterinsurgency. And where we`ll be looking for progress will be in the expansion of security," he said.

The General, who replaced Gen Stanley McChrystal, in the job, said the progress will now be monitored more on a smaller level rather than on a provincial level given the size of some of the provinces and the challenges that some of the provinces face.

"We`ll be looking at the performance of the Afghan national security forces, at their growth, not just in terms of numbers but also in terms of quality in their contribution, in the fighting, and where they`re in the lead," he said.

Petraeus said one of his focus areas would be to reduce civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

"I have reaffirmed -- to President (Hamid) Karzai, to the other Afghan officials, to the (NATO) Secretary-General, to my US governmental leaders and to our forces -- that we must maintain the commitment to reducing the loss of innocent civilian life, in the course of military operations, to an absolute minimum," Petraeus said.

"That is a counterinsurgency imperative and one that I strongly supported, as General (Steanley) McChrystal pursued it with his commanders. In a counterinsurgency, the human terrain is the decisive terrain," he said.

He said the forces must do everything humanly possible, to protect the population and indeed again to reduce the loss of innocent civilian life.

At the same time, he asserted that there would be change in the rule of engagement.

PTI