US headed in right direction in Afghan: Panetta

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta believes the US is headed in the right direction in Afghanistan.

Last Updated: Jan 13, 2012, 23:42 PM IST

Washington: US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta
believes the US is headed in the right direction in
Afghanistan where 2011 was a "pivotal" year that witnessed
weakening of the Taliban.

Panetta told US soldiers at a town hall meeting at Fort
Bliss in Texas that for the first time in five years the level
of violence was down in Afghanistan and this shows the US and
Afghanistan had made progress in improving security.

"We are headed in the right direction. And we`ve got to
stick to it. And if we do that we too can give the Afghans the
opportunity to be able to take control of their country and
provide the control and security that they need to provide to
their people," Panetta said.

He said Afghan Army units became operational and got
involved in the battlefiled last year and the transition to
Afghan control had finally begun.

"In Afghanistan, 2011 was a pivotal year. We`ve seen the
weakening of the Taliban. Taliban was not able throughout 2011
to conduct an organised attack to regain territory that they
lost. For the first time in five years the level of violence
was down," he said.

"We just completed under General Allen`s tremendous
leadership the second tranche really of areas that we are
transitioning. And when we complete that over 50 per cent of
the population in Afghanistan will be under Afghan control and
security," he told his soldiers.

PTI