`Taliban maintain influence over much of Afghan population`

Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess said Taliban are very much under pressure.

Last Updated: Mar 17, 2011, 15:37 PM IST

Washington: Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, has told lawmakers that while the Taliban are under more pressure than ever before in Afghanistan, the insurgent group is resilient and tenacious.

Burgess also noted that the Taliban’s influence remains pervasive throughout much of the country, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

“Although the Taliban have taken tactical losses, they continue to maintain influence over much of the local population, particularly outside urban areas,” Burgess told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“US troops have had some tactical victories in the east and removed several key leaders from the battlefield … this does not appear to have affected their operational capacity, which included conducting several high-profile attacks against (NATO) bases in 2010,” he added.

Burgess’ view comes after US commander in Afghanistan, General David H Petraeus, highlighted the “uneven progress” in Afghanistan that remains “fragile and reversible”.

“The momentum achieved by the Taliban in Afghanistan since 2005 has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in a number of important areas,” Petraeus had said

“However, while the security progress achieved over the past year is significant, it is also fragile and reversible. Moreover, it is clear that much difficult work lies ahead with our Afghan partners to solidify and expand our gains in the face of the expected Taliban spring offensive,” he added.

There are currently 97,000 US forces on the ground fighting alongside 45,000 troops from NATO countries, including 9,500 from Britain, as part of the international coalition put in place after US-led troops ousted the Taliban from power in late 2001.