A senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan says Pakistan-based al-Qaida is having a growing impact on the Afghan insurgency even though Pakistan's military offensive along the border has reduced the number of insurgent attacks on the Afghan side this month. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
Speaking via satellite from Afghanistan, Major General David Rodriguez said cross-border attacks from Pakistan into Afghanistan in June were double their level of the same month last year. But he says that has changed this month with a reduction in the number of attacks, which he attributes largely to Pakistan's offensive in its tribal areas along the Afghan border.
At the same time, General Rodriguez says al-Qaida has managed to increase the number of foreign fighters it has smuggled into Afghanistan during the last year by 50 to 60 percent. He would not provide specific figures. The general says foreign fighters are still less than five per cent of the total number of insurgents in Afghanistan, but he says they have an impact beyond what their numbers would suggest.
"They also help facilitate and move resources, to include money," he noted. "And they have had several contacts where they've been like a cadre-type organization where they've got some recruits and brought them in where they have a couple of foreign fighters that lead a larger force in a cadre-type operation."
General Rodriguez also says the United States has no plans to send forces into Pakistan to help with the offensive in the border area. He says there is good coordination between the forces on the two sides of the border, but U.S. assistance to Pakistan is at the central government level in the form of $750 million of security aid.
Meanwhile, General Rodriguez says, Taleban insurgents have been weakened in recent months, particularly in southern Afghanistan, after starting the spring stronger than they were in the past. He says 20 key Taleban leaders have been captured or killed, some of them in Pakistan.
"They've been severely disrupted," he added. "So right now, it's probably not much different between what they were in the past years."
General Rodriguez predicted it will take another two to three years to finish building Afghanistan's new security forces, and he said real security will also require progress on developing governance and the economy, and good cooperation with Pakistan.