'Taliban likely to remain threat in parts of Afghanistan long after 2014 US withdrawal'

ANI

Washington, Apr. 8 (ANI): A top US military officer has said that the Taliban is likely to remain a military threat in some parts of Afghanistan long after American troops complete their combat mission in 2014.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he is cautiously optimistic that the Afghan army will hold its own against the insurgency as Western troops pull back and Afghans assume the lead combat role. He said that by May or June, the Afghans will be in the lead throughout the country, reports Politico.

Dempsey also suspects that some parts of the country will still remain contested by the Taliban, because the history of Afghanistan suggests that there will always be contested areas.

Dempsey and other US commanders have said that ultimately the Afghans must reach some sort of political accommodation with the insurgents, and that a reconciliation process needs to be led by Afghans, not Americans.

He said the foremost priority for the US military in its final months of combat in Afghanistan is to do all that is possible to boost the strength and confidence of Afghan forces.

There are now about 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan. That number is to drop to about 32,000 by February 2014, and the combat mission is to end in December 2014. Whether some number, perhaps 9,000 or 10,000, remain into 2015 as military trainers and counterinsurgents is yet to be decided.

Shortly after Dempsey arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday, the Taliban demonstrated its ability to strike. It claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed five Americans, three soldiers and two civilians.

A NATO airstrike Saturday, which came after a joint US-Afghan forced encountered heavy fire from militants during an operation against a Taliban leader, killed 11 Afghan civilians, including 10 children, Afghan officials said. (ANI)

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