Mullen: Taliban losing in Afghan south, violence rising in north
A top US military official said Friday that the Taliban was losing ground in their traditional stronghold of southern Afghanistan, but expressed concern about rising violence in previously peaceful northern region, DPA reported.
Admiral Mike Mullen, US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters in Kabul that the extra US military forces this year had made "significant progress" in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, and helped push the Taliban from populated areas.
"The enemy is losing and in particular the enemy is losing there (Kandahar)," he said. "I have every confidence that he will continue to lose so long as the coalition and Afghan forces increase their pressure on operations and improve their own capacity."
Mullen's comment came a day after US President Barack Obama unveiled the review of his new war strategy in Afghanistan, a year after it was outlined.
The review found that the US and NATO forces had made headway against the Taliban insurgents in the last 12 months.
Mullen, however, said that while the Taliban momentum had been checked in the south, Taliban-led violence was on the rise in the northern region
The insurgents were only present in some districts until two years ago, he said, but this year, he was "concerned" that the Taliban have been able to bring violence into large and previously peaceful areas.
Around 4,500 German soldiers are stationed in the northern region as part of 150,000 US and other NATO-led troops currently based across the country.
Although hundreds of US troops were deployed to the north this spring, the focus of the US military effort has remained on the south and east of the country, allowing the insurgents to gain strength in the north.
Mullen also cautioned that the military gains in the south were "tenuous" and "can be lost" unless the Afghan government assumed responsibility for good governance "with the alacrity and with the same courage as that shown by troops on the ground."
Echoing his concerns, the US Ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry said, "We believe that these gains are fragile and they could still be reversed" in the absence of political and economic progress.
Both top US officials said that their government was committed to train more Afghan security forces to take responsibility for overall security by end of 2014. as decided at the Lisbon NATO summit last month.
In order to achieve that goal, the US government has more than tripled the number of civilian workers in Afghanistan since late 2008, including governance experts and military trainers.
Part of Obama's new strategy was the deployment of 30,000 additional troops this summer. Thursday's review said that the United States still hopes to start handing over to the Afghan authorities in July, and possibly allowing the start of a reduction in US troops.
"The more the Afghans see their troops in the neighborhood and their troops in the lead, the more their faith in the government will be restored and the more their loyalty to that government will be secured," Mullen said.
"We are getting there slowly and evenly to be sure, but we are getting there," he added.