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Top US Commanders Discuss Strategy with Afghan and Pakistani Leaders

Ayaz Gul | Islamabad 14 December 2009

The top U.S. military commander met with Afghan leaders in Kabul to discuss the upcoming U.S troop buildup and training of local security forces. Meanwhile, the regional commander met with civilian and military leaders in neighboring Pakistan to urge them to step up pressure on Afghan Taliban hiding on the Pakistani side of the border.

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen arrived in Kabul just hours after suspected Taliban militants killed at least 16 Afghan policemen, underscoring the security crisis in the country. Foreign troops under command of General Stanley McChrystal also have suffered record numbers of casualties this year in Afghanistan.

Speaking to reporters after talks with Afghan leaders, Admiral Mullen painted a grim picture of the security situation in the country..

"The insurgency has grown more violent, more pervasive and more sophisticated," said Admiral Mullen. "By General McChrystal's own estimate insurgents now have a dominant influence in 11 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, and they are becoming much more effective in the use of improvised explosive devices and small unit tactics."

The first of 30,000 U.S reinforcements are preparing to arrive in the country later this week as part of President Obama's new war strategy for Afghanistan.

Admiral Mullen also said in Kabul he is concerned about militant bases across the border in Pakistan.

"I remain deeply concerned by the growing level of collusion between the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida, and other extremist groups taking refuge across the border in Pakistan," he said. "Getting at this network, which is now more entrenched, will be a far more difficult task than it was just one year ago."

U.S civilian and military leaders have praised Pakistan's efforts to uproot local Taliban bases, particularly in its border region, but Washington has also stepped up pressure on the country to move against extremists believed to be using Pakistani territory for attacks on American forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, U.S regional commander General David Petraeus met with leaders in neighboring Pakistan to explain the Obama administration's new Afghan strategy. Pakistani officials have expressed concerns the deployment of American forces in eastern and southern of Afghanistan could push Taliban fighters to cross into Pakistan.

Speaking to a local television station after his meetings in Islamabad, General Petraeus said his visit is aimed at emphasizing the need for close coordination and cooperation with the Pakistani army.

"The additional forces will obviously enable us to do more operations particularly in the south and in the east," said General Petraeus. "And before we conduct them we want to sit down with the Pakistani military to talk about what it is that we are going to do to ensure that they are aware of that. In some cases perhaps they need to be ready for a flow that will go one way just as when there are further Pakistani operations conducted we need to be ready as well. So we need to coordinate, we need to cooperate."

General Petraeus also said the United States has not seen any evidence within the past two years suggesting Pakistan's prime spy agency, the ISI, is helping al-Qaida or Afghan militants blamed for attacks on American and allied forces in Afghanistan.

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