US to keep pressure on Al Qaeda: US commander

The US commander of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Wednesday said the war on terror and pressure against Al Qaeda network will continue.

IANS| Last Updated: May 28, 2014, 21:16 PM IST

Kabul: The US commander of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Wednesday said the war on terror and pressure against Al Qaeda network will continue.

"We also continue the key pressure on Al Qaida with sustained counter-terrorism efforts," Dunford told a press conference here.

He made the remarks in the wake of President Barack Obama`s conditional commitment to keep nearly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, if the controversial Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is inked between the two countries.

However, he said President Obama`s decisions were to support, train, advice and assist Afghan army and police forces.

Outgoing Afghan president Hamid Karzai has refused to ink the controversial security pact, although, it was endorsed by 2,500 delegates from across the country gathered in a traditional Loya Jirga or grand assembly held in Kabul in November 2013.

President Karzai said he would not sign the BSA unless the US-led forces halt searching Afghan houses during military operation, support meaningful peace process with the Taliban and not to intervene in the elections.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Abdullah and his rival Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who are going to contest the Afghan presidential runoff June 14, have already announced their intention to sign the BSA with the US if elected to replace Karzai.

Both candidates this weekend reaffirmed their commitment to sign the BSA as soon as any of them takes office, and "so president Obama`s decisions were certainly conditional based on the signing of BSA but again based on the role of Afghan people, based on the affirmation of both candidates and based on the commitment of the United States", Dunford said,

President Obama Tuesday announced a plan for keeping 9,800 troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, but virtually withdrawing all by the end of 2016 and thus bring an end to America`s longest war.

However, Dunford said that "it is not zero option in 2016, our diplomatic presence will continue, the support with the Afghan forces with the right resources necessary to sustain army will continue."

More than 52,000 NATO-ISAF forces with some 33,000 of them Americans are presently stationed in Afghanistan, but around half of them are supposed to return home by the end of current year.

"The current ISAF mission ends in December, and the decision by the US eliminates uncertainty as NATO Allies and partners finalise planning for the Resolute Support mission to train, advice and assist Afghan security forces from the beginning of 2015 to cement coalition gains made during the previous 13 years," the NATO-led ISAF commander said.