Washington: The level of violence in Afghanistan would increase this year with more bloodshed and a greater number of casualties, a top US military official has said.
"As difficult as it may be to accept, we must prepare ourselves for more violence and more casualties in coming months.
"The violence will be worse in 2011 than it was in 2010 in many parts of Afghanistan," Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told foreign journalists at a news conference here.
"There is much, much yet to do. Over the long term we must work to support an Afghan political process that includes reconciliation with Taliban who break with al Qaeda, renounce violence and accept the Afghan constitution," Mullen said.
He said US must continue building a strategic partnership with Afghanistan, one based not on military footprints but on mutual friendship.
"The US forces remain committed to beginning a conditions-based withdrawal of American forces in July of 2011, with a goal endorsed by NATO in the Lisbon summit of being able to fully transition security responsibilities to Afghan forces by 2014.
"Our military presence will diminish, as it should, but the partnership between our two nations will endure," he said.
Mullen said the implementation of the Afghan strategy announced by US President Barack Obama, early this year was on track.
"All the troops the President ordered in are on the ground. More civilians from our State Department and other agencies are spreading out across the country. And our allies continue to send more trainers and more combat forces," he said.
There`s no question that the Taliban have lost momentum in parts of the south and in the east, and that the growth and development of Afghan national security forces is progressing in a much more organised way at a quicker pace than US had expected, the official said.
Mullen, who visited Kandahar, a couple of weeks ago, said the enemy is being pushed out of population centers.
"He`s being denied sanctuary, and he`s losing leaders by the score. And his scare tactics are being rejected by local citizens," he said.
At the same time he said now is not the time to rest on the laurels.
"Now is time to press home our advantages and to redouble our efforts....We know the enemy is resilient. And we know that things are likely to get harder before they get any easier. A relatively mild winter, through which the enemy has
continued fighting, will give way to spring.
"Poor governance will, where it persists, encourage Taliban intimidation. And now, with a hundred thousand more coalition and Afghan forces on the ground than last year, we will expand our presence into areas the enemy still wishes to
control," Mullen added.