A U.S. Navy Commander in Afghanistan says the recent increase in fighting between coalition troops and Taleban insurgents will continue as Afghan security forces and soldiers from NATO expand their influence throughout the country. Commander Brad Cooper made the comments during an interview with VOA.
Commander Cooper, in an interview conducted via satellite link from Kabul, says the recent spike in violence in parts of Afghanistan was predictable and is likely to continue for at least the next several months.
"As the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police grow in their capability, and they grow in their ability to reach into areas of the country that were previously unreachable, they are better positioned now to get into those areas and root out the Taleban and other militia, that they haven't been able to do before," he said. "So as they do this along with the coalition, we naturally expect there will be more incidents of violence as the Taleban continue to fight as remnants. As that happens there are going to be more killed."
NATO is currently increasing its troop strength in Afghanistan and by the end of July is expected to have more than 17,000 soldiers in the country.
In the next several months, NATO is scheduled to expand its presence into southern Afghanistan and then into the eastern part of the country by the end of the year.
While the move has raised concerns among some Afghans that NATO may not offer as much security as U.S.-led coalition forces have provided, Commander Cooper says NATO will aggressively pursue Taleban and al-Qaida insurgents.
"Absolutely, and they are going to do that as part of an overall scheme that increasingly has the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police at the forefront of what we are doing," added Cooper. "But I do not think there is any question in anybody's mind that the combination of an aggressive commander and well-trained and well-led troops will work well in concert with the Afghans to achieve the security goals we are collectively trying to achieve."
Cooper says because of the Soviet occupation and the years of Taleban rule, many Afghans do not trust government authorities, especially police and the army.
But he predicts that as security and the economy improve, Afghans will gain confidence in their elected government and support for the Taleban and al-Qaida will largely disappear.