Top US leader in Afghan says mission on track

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 23:23

Washington: The top US commander in
Afghanistan says efforts to hand over security to the Afghans
and wind down the decade-plus war are on track despite anger
over a US soldier`s alleged massacre of Afghan civilians and
the burning of Qurans.

Marine Gen John Allen, in testimony prepared for the House
Armed Services Committee, gave no hint of an accelerated
timetable for withdrawing US combat troops in the face of
increasing political and public pressure to end the military

Opinion polls show a growing number of Americans say the
United States should bring home the 90,000 troops now in the
country. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said last week he was
at "the end of the rope" over civilian deaths, and demanded
that US troops leave local villages.

The current US plan calls for a withdrawal of 23,000
American troops by the end of September and a complete pullout
by December 2014, when Afghan forces are to take charge of the
country`s security.

"I wish I could tell you that this war was simple, and
that progress could easily be measured," Allen said. "But
that`s not the way of counterinsurgencies. They are fraught
with success and setbacks, which can exist in the same space
and time, but each must be seen in the larger context of the
overall campaign. And I believe that the campaign in on

Allen`s appearances before Congress he will testify before
a Senate committee Thursday are the first since a suspected
shooting spree by a US soldier killed 16 Afghan civilians,
including women and children, and the Quran burnings that
touched off riots. The Associated Press obtained a copy of his

Allen insisted that the US and its coalition forces are
moving ahead in ensuring that Afghanistan does not revert to a
terrorist haven and transferring the security lead to the
Afghans. The forces, he said, are meeting the commitments
spelled out in the overall withdrawal plan hammered out at the
conference in Lisbon in November 2010.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says today that
US policymakers must "keep our nerve" in Afghanistan.

"We just have to remember what Afghanistan was like 10
years ago," when the Taliban were in charge, she said, adding
that the United States should focus heavily on training Afghan
security forces because "we can`t afford to leave Afghanistan
to the Taliban and the terrorists."


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First Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 23:23

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