Saturday, 6 October 2012

Afghans Put Insurgents Under Increasing Pressure, Ops Chief Says

The Afghan national security forces are growing increasingly capable and the insurgency is under increasing pressure, Brigadier Roger Noble of the Australian army, deputy deputy chief of staff for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, said OCt. 4.

During a monthly media roundtable in the Afghan capital Kabul, Noble said operational trends show Afghan forces are able to defend their country.

“It’s very clear the insurgency is under tremendous pressure,” Noble said, and he cited indicators to illustrate the assertion.

First, he said, fighting in Afghanistan is taking place away from population centers. “We see plenty of signs of stress and fractures within the multiple elements that make up the insurgency, especially at the leadership level,” he said.

In their desperation, Noble said, the insurgents also are targeting civilians.

In addition, he told reporters, Afghans are improving their command and control and are able to perform at the corps level. “The likelihood of a Taliban military victory is less likely than ever before, and they understand that,” he said.

Surveys of the Afghan people indicate a growing confidence in the security forces, he added.

Afghans still are concerned about civilian casualties, Noble acknowledged, and Afghan forces and the ISAF are working to eliminate civilian casualties. “The insurgents are deliberately targeting civilians,” he said. “This is illegal, immoral, unethical and a sign of weakness. ISAF never targets civilians.”

Insurgents are the principal cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, Noble said. An example happened yesterday, when an insurgent suicide bomber killed 14 civilians in Khost.

“Over 85 percent of all civilian casualties are caused by insurgent action,” Noble said. “It’s ISAF and Afghan operations that reduce civilian casualties.” The brigadier pointed to operations to combat improvised explosive devices – a leading killer of civilians in the country.

“An Afghan is 62 times more likely to be a casualty from an IED than a coalition airstrike,” he said. “Coalition and Afghan operations are conducted 24 hours a day to particularly target IED networks, IED production facilities, IED makers and IED emplacers.”

This year, Afghan forces have vastly improved their ability to find and disarm these weapons, Noble said.

“So even though the insurgents continue to use IEDs, the found-and-cleared rate by the [Afghan forces] and ISAF has gone up this year,” he added. This, he said, has helped to reduce the number and lethality of attacks against civilians.

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