Taliban summer attacks down on last year: Petraeus
Kabul: Insurgent attacks against foreign and Afghan forces in Afghanistan are down this summer, defying projections by intelligence analysts, General David Petraeus said.
The top commander in Afghanistan said attacks were down by "a few percent" for May and June, the beginning of the traditional annual fighting season, although he said the number of homemade bomb explosions had risen.
"June saw fewer insurgent attacks than last June and that's quite significant and May was quite the same. So you have the first two months of comparison with the previous year is actually a reduction. July is trending that way. That is very significant," he told reporters in the Afghan capital on Saturday.
Intelligence analysts had predicted a rise in insurgent attacks of 18 to 30 percent on last year, Petraeus said, while he cautioned that it was too early to declare the insurgency had been significantly hit.
Petraeus made his comments to reporters travelling with new US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who was making his first visit to the country since taking up his new post on July 1.
Petraeus is due to step down as the top commander in Afghanistan in mid-July and take over Panetta's old position of CIA director in September.
He made his comments as US and other coalition forces prepare to begin a gradual drawdown of combat troops, with all due to go home by the end of 2014.
US President Barack Obama has announced the withdrawal of the first 10,000 of nearly 100,000 US forces from Afghanistan this year, with another 23,000 to leave by the end of next summer.
The speed of the exit has been criticised by top Republican senators as "risky" and a threat to progress made against the Taliban.
Both Petraeus and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have said Obama's plan was more "aggressive" than they had recommended.