U.S. and allied forces are winning the war in Afghanistan, the departing NATO commander, U.S. Marine General John Allen, said in Kabul today.
Afghan forces are almost completely leading operations, Allen said, adding that he’s “comfortable” with progress there. The U.S. and its allies plan to hand over security to Afghanistan’s forces by the end of 2014.
Allen said he’s concerned that the improvement in the workings of the Afghan government will lag gains in combat. Afghan rhetoric to improve governing “isn’t enough,” he told reporters today. “The rhetoric has to be accompanied by real and meaningful reform” that builds on the continued security progress, Allen said.
President Hamid Karzai “has spoken the right words. Now we must see the fulfillment,” Allen said. Reforms “must reduce the capacity of the criminal patronage networks to grip and weaken the institutions of state” and “genuinely” take care of “the rights of minorities,” particularly women, he said.
U.S. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford is replacing Allen as the top NATO commander in Afghanistan. Allen is President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and U.S. Forces in Europe.
Allen outlined Dunford’s major challenges in the remaining 23 months of the NATO and U.S. mission which includes continuing the campaign against the insurgency and building U.S. advisory capacity while simultaneously preparing for major withdrawal.
Dunford must develop “detailed plans to recover the better part of 100,000” NATO and U.S. troops and 100,000 contractors from Afghanistan while continuing the military campaign, Allen said. The new NATO commander must also “close the better part of 200 bases -- we are getting to the ones that are hard now -- the relatively big ones both in terms of scope and locations,” he said.
“It’s a daunting task,” Allen said. “What he has to balance is that the campaign remains the primary objective of our presence here” and “returning home does not become the principal goal.”
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