(Last Updated On: February 8, 2016)

Afghanistan.JPEG-08dd0_c0-463-4796-3259_s885x516The dreaded Haqqani network remains the most capable threat to U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, planning and executing high-profile attacks, the top American General in the war-torn nation has said.

Commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan General John F. Campbell, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, said the al-Qaeda has been significantly weakened, but as evidenced by the recent discovery of its camp on the southern border, the group is certainly not extinct.

“The Haqqani network remains the most capable threat to U.S. and coalition forces, planning and executing the most violent high profile attacks in Kabul,” he said.

Haqqani network, which is linked to the al-Qaeda, has been blamed for several deadly attacks against Western and Indian interests in Afghanistan, including the 2008 bombing of the Indian mission in Kabul.

Taliban controls 2 p.c. of territory

General Campbell has said 70 per cent of Afghan territory is under government control, while Taliban controls only two per cent.

“Of the 407 district centres, eight [or two per cent] are under insurgent control. We assess that another 18 [or 4 per cent] are under what we call insurgent influence,” he said.

“Often, these district centres are in remote and sparsely populated areas that security forces are not able to access very often in force,” he noted.

94 “at risk” district centres

“Additionally, at any given time there may be up to 94 district centres [around 23 per cent] that we view as at risk,” he said. “While over the last eight years, the Afghan security forces have made advancements, beginning as an unorganised collection of militia and developing into a modern security force with many of the systems and processes of an advanced military, a lot needs to be done,” he said.

“Capability gaps still exist in fixed and rotary-wing aviation, combined arms operations, intelligence collection and dissemination, and maintenance,” he said.

Afghan Air Force’s capability limited

One of the greatest tactical challenges for the Afghan security forces has been overcoming the Afghan Air Force’s extremely limited organic close air support capability.

“Admittedly, we began building the Afghan Air Force late and are constrained by the time it takes to build human capital,” he underscored.

Reconciliation the way

Of the view that reconciliation is the path needed to obtain a negotiated settlement and end the conflict in Afghanistan, General Campbell said current reconciliation efforts were an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned initiative.

Noting that it has been over a year since the formation of the National Unity Government, General Campbell has said it has faced institutional and political difficulties, yet it can lay claim to some meaningful reform and progress during its first year.

“The unity government may be fragile, but it is holding despite being challenged, it is making continued progress, and building momentum to create an increasingly viable future,” he said.

Read full article: The Hindu

By Anupama

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