WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2014 – Despite an uptick in casualties among Afghan security forces, the drawdown of U.S. and NATO forces remains on course, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan said today.
Troop levels will decrease from current levels of just under 40,000 to about 12,000 by the end of this year when the NATO mission transitions to one of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces, said Army Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.
“I’m very confident the Afghan forces have the capability to withstand the fight internally. They’re very confident as well,” the general said.
Still expects challenges
Speaking to Pentagon reporters by satellite from Kabul, Campbell said he still expects challenges going forward, but that “there’s nowhere that we have Afghan security forces that the Taliban can get the terrain and hold the terrain.”
Campbell acknowledged that Afghanistan continues to be “a very tough environment” in which to operate. He put the overall number of casualties among Afghan security forces this year between 7,000 and 9,000.
“But that’s because they’ve been in the lead almost completely this summer, more so than they were last year,” the general said.
Newly elected Afghan president
Campbell spoke just three days after the swearing-in of newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. One of the first actions of Ghani's unity government was to sign agreements providing the legal framework for NATO and U.S. forces to remain in the country into 2015 under what will become Operation Resolute Support.
Already, Campbell said, a new tone has been set by the Ghani administration, which has put relations with Afghan and international forces on a new footing.
“President Ghani has embraced the Afghan security forces, the police and the army. That made an immediate impact on them and their morale,” the general said. “And again, I think that's going to be a great window of opportunity for Afghanistan as we move forward.”