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A year for solidifying and expanding the gains in Afghanistan

General David Petraeus explains ISAF’s approach for the year to come and the importance of a long-term commitment to Afghanistan.

Over the centuries Afghans have witnessed several foreign militaries come and go. This legacy has created a lingering public scepticism over the future of NATO’s current presence in Afghanistan.

General David Petraeus, the Commander of ISAF and US troops in Afghanistan, has a lot of sympathy for those Afghans who feel like they might end up abandoned after 2014. That’s the date that’s been agreed for Afghans to take full security of their country.

He wants to reassure the population that that won’t be the case.

‘You’ve heard a number of leaders, the leader of the United States, of many of the troop contributing nations, the German foreign minister who was just here, the Australian Prime Minister, others who have pledged and have recognised that there is a need for continued support for Afghanistan beyond 2014” said General Petraeus.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. Last year was all about the troop uplift and about entering areas where foreign troops hadn’t previously been. General Petraeus says this year will be about solidifying the gains made last year and expanding on them.

‘The surge will continue but it will be much more of an Afghan surge this year as Afghan security forces continue to grow and to develop, not just in quantity but in quality as well and as we continue to push out into areas where the Taliban still have some safe havens or might like to have some safe havens, as they come back for the usual spring offensive,’ added the General.

This year will see areas of the country being identified for transition. Decisions will be based on the stability of the area, the capability of Afghan security forces on the ground and whether or not there’s sufficient local governance.

‘We have principles that guide transition and among them the principle that it should be conditions based, in other words you don’t start transition until the conditions allow it needless to say and then you proceed at a pace that is permitted by conditions on the ground as well. We talk about thinning out, not just handing off’.

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