A top American general has said Afghanistan's security is improving, despite a resurgent Taliban and increased violence in the country. The general also cited a drop in cross-border attacks and the capture of more than 50 insurgent leaders as proof of progress. Daniel Schearf reports from Islamabad.
Brigadier General Joseph Votel told journalists late Sunday Afghanistan is heading in the right direction with improvements in security, governance, and development.
Votel, the deputy commanding general for American soldiers in Afghanistan, said he disagreed with those who say resurgent Taliban were increasing instability in the country.
He said security forces this year captured or killed more than 50 insurgent leaders. He cited improved cooperation and communication with Pakistan, and better troop placement, for reducing cross-border attacks by 43 percent this year compared to 2006.
"We are in a much better position right now than we were a year ago at this time," he said.
Pakistan's bordering tribal areas are believed by U.S. and Afghan officials to be a safe-haven for militants seeking to destabilize Afghanistan.
Votel said Afghan national security forces have increased their capabilities and are better able to handle security in the country.
In one of the biggest operations this year, thousands of Afghan and NATO troops last week re-took the southern town of Musa Qala from Taliban forces that had occupied it for months.
Afghanistan's Defense Ministry said hundreds of Taliban fighters were killed, wounded, and detained during the days-long battle, including several commanders.
Despite the progress, Votel acknowledged that violence in Afghanistan was increasing along with support for the Taliban. He said insurgents were improving their capabilities as well and becoming more sophisticated with their attacks.
"They cannot necessarily compete with us militarily, so in some cases and in some areas we have seen increase in the use of IEDs or rocket attacks against our bases or against our operations," he said. "So, we have had to adjust our approach to take that into consideration."
Afghanistan in the past two years has seen increasing attacks on Afghan and U.S.-led coalition soldiers and government targets.
An estimated 6,000 people have died in the past year alone, the bloodiest since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban from power.
On Sunday, a roadside bomb killed a family of five as they were traveling in south central Uruzgan province.
Also Sunday, Afghan and NATO-led forces killed 20 Taliban fighters in the southern city of Kandahar.
The United States has ordered a review of coalition strategy in Afghanistan to prevent violence from impeding the country's progress.