WASHINGTON: A top US general said Wednesday his forces were gaining momentum in beating back Taliban fighters and other militants in eastern Afghanistan ahead of the start of a US withdrawal in July. Major General John Campbell acknowledged his forces had fought through a “very, very tough” summer in the regional command’s 14 provinces since taking responsibility for the region in June.
“My feeling right now, after about 120 days on the ground, is that we have stopped that momentum and we’ve turned the tide a little bit,” said Campbell, who heads the NATO International Security Assistance Force Regional Command East in Afghanistan.
Regional Command East shares a 450-mile (720-kilometer) mountainous border with Pakistan, an area rife with militants, including the Haqqani network in North Waziristan and the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan.
French Brigadier General Pierre Chavancy, who heads a brigade of 2,500 soldiers under Campbell’s command fighting in rough terrain northeast of Kabul, said he saw “tremendous improvement” in the performance of Afghan soldiers.
“We conduct many heavy operations and we have significant results on the insurgents without casualties on our side,” he said, speaking in English alongside Campbell.
“The population is more and more confident with its army, its police, and more and more fed up by the misconduct of the insurgents and especially the foreigners (foreign fighters).”
The United States and NATO have around 150,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban-led insurgency now in its 10th year.
Campbell said he expected that some areas and districts can “potentially” be turned over to full Afghan control by next July.
“It’ll be a process: We’ll start full combined action and, as they get better and better and better, then we’ll go more into a support role,” he added. June and July marked the deadliest months ever for coalition forces in Afghanistan, though casualties dropped off markedly in August and September.