The commander of international forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Corps General John Allen, says the timetable for a transition from coalition to full Afghan security control has not changed.
General Allen was responding to the announcement by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta earlier this week that American troops would largely end their combat operations by 2013 — a year earlier than originally envisioned.
Allen told VOA Saturday that has been the plan all along and it has not accelerated the Lisbon-based timeline. He said “coalition forces will continued to serve alongside the Afghan army through the remainder of 2013 right to the end of 2014, which was the roadmap out of Lisbon.”
General Allen noted that even though Afghan forces are to be in the lead across the country starting in mid-2013, foreign troops should fully expect to do some fighting.
The U.S. general said he does not expect the Taliban to give up easily. But he also rejected the findings of a leaked secret U.S. military report that said members of the Taliban insurgency expressed confidence they can regain power in Afghanistan once coalition troops have departed.
Foreign help for the Afghans after 2014 will mainly involve financial support and training for its civilian government and security forces.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, meanwhile, said the United States is committed to the Lisbon timetable.
In a statement Saturday, Crocker said the timing of the expected transition and an emphasis by coalition forces on advising, assisting, and training will be based on the progress on the ground.
He added “we are committed to ensuring that Afghanistan cannot once again become a safe haven for al-Qaida or groups that threaten the interests of Afghan people, the United States, and its allies, which is in all our interests.”