Panetta expects big Taliban attacks
29 September, 2012
WASHINGTON: Driven out of their safe havens and on the verge of defeat, a desperate Taliban are expected to carry out more high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, the US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, said on Thursday.
However, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, links the silver lining to the strength and capabilities of Afghan security forces.
"The Afghan forces are not only gaining capability, but they're also, importantly, gaining confidence. They are fighters.
With our continued assistance, I see them getting stronger while the Taliban gets weaker," Dempsey told reporters at a joint Pentagon news conference with Panetta.
"Even as we recognize these many positive trends, that we cannot and will not ignore the significant challenges that remain. The enemy we are dealing with, as we have said before, is adaptive and resilient.
Their focus has shifted to carrying out high-profile attacks in order to undermine the new sense of security that has been felt by ordinary Afghans," Panetta said.
He expected that there could be more high-profile attacks and that the enemy would do whatever they could to try and break their will. "That will not happen," he said.
Panetta said partnered operations between US and Afghan forces had resumed after they were halted in the wake of protests against a blasphemous video.
He said partnered operations were taking place below the battalion level and that most ISAF units had returned to their normal partnered operations at all levels.
"We must and we will take whatever steps necessary to protect our forces, but I also want to underscore that we remain fully committed to our strategy of security transition to Afghan control," Panetta said.
Dempsey, who just returned from Afghanistan, said the Afghan forces were gaining confidence.
"As one Afghan army commander told me, insider attacks are an affront to their honour, at odds with their culture and their faith. As for us, we are adapting to changes in that threat as well.