Top US General Says Afghan Violence Worsening
The top American military commander in Afghanistan says he needs more troops and economic aid as soon as possible for the battle against insurgents that is getting more violent.
General David McKiernan, the commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, told reporters at the Pentagon the security situation in the south and east of the country continues to deteriorate.
McKiernan says NATO forces are in a very tough fight against an insurgency that could get worse before it gets better.
"We see an increased number of foreign fighters, increased levels of violence. People generally do not feel secure, do not have freedom of movement and so the additional military capabilities that have been asked for are needed as quickly as possible," he said.
More than 220 coalition soldiers have been killed in 2008, making it the deadliest year for them in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 to oust the Taliban.
McKiernan says he needs at least 10,000 more troops to fight the insurgents, in addition to another U.S. combat brigade that is scheduled to arrive in January.
The general told reporters an increase in support in other areas is also needed.
"It is not just a question about more soldiers. It is a question about more governance, about more economic aid, about more political assistance for the government of Afghanistan as well as military capabilities," said McKiernan.
U.S. officials say al-Qaida and Taliban fighters use Pakistan's tribal region to launch attacks inside Afghanistan.
General McKiernan says he is encouraged by a recent Pakistani military operation that Islamabad says has killed at least 1,000 militants in the Bajaur tribal region along the Afghan border.
"I am encouraged by the military operations that the Pakistani Army and Frontier Corps have undertaken in places like Bajaur. We are watching those very closely to see if there is a cause and effect with the strength of the insurgency on the Afghan side of the border," added McKiernan. "We think that is a positive step that they are taking on those militant sanctuaries."
Recently Afghanistan's Defense Minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, proposed the creation of a joint military force to fight militants on both sides of the border with Pakistan.
General McKiernan says he supports the proposal.
"It is a very open, porous border, but the idea of a combined security effort there with Pakistani military, Frontier Corpsmen, Afghan border police with ISAF coordinated along the border I think is a very powerful idea and certainly I would like to pursue that in the future," he said.
McKiernan says among the additional troops he is asking for, he is hoping to get units that will be able to fight the insurgents and serve as trainers for the Afghan Army and police.