U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says after more than 11 years the
war in Afghanistan is “succeeding,” and will not be derailed by the
recent series of insider attacks or any other tactic the enemy might
At a NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, Panetta
and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen denied that allies are
being defeated on the battlefield or losing resolve. It has been a
difficult period for NATO and its partners in Afghanistan, with reports
of a resurgent Taliban and a series of deadly attacks in which Afghan
security forces turned on their NATO colleagues.
Rasmussen said NATO's strategy is working, and the alliance timeline is
on track for full Afghan security control next year and the withdrawal
of most foreign combat forces by the end of the following year. He said
troops will begin leaving in the coming months, but as part of the plan,
not in a “rush to the exits.”
Panetta served notice on the Taliban that it will not be able to derail
the NATO plan.
“As I said to my fellow ministers, we have come too far, we have fought
too many battles, we have spilled too much blood not to finish the job
that we are all about," he said. "Whatever tactics the enemy throws at
us — IEDs [improvised explosive devices], insider attacks, car bombs —
we will not allow those tactics to divide us from our Afghan partners,
and we will not allow those tactics to divert us from the mission that
we are dedicated to.”
Panetta said the allied effort is “succeeding” and “has turned an
important corner,” but is still at a “critical point.” He also said the
allies and the Afghan government must stick together.
tests the coalition is not so much the problem of insider attacks, but
rather how effectively we respond to those attacks," said Panetta.
"Partnering even closer will frustrate the enemy's designs to capitalize
on this problem.”
The defense secretary called again on his NATO colleagues to fill the
shortfall in trainers for Afghan forces. Despite years of such calls,
Panetta said the alliance is still 58 teams short of what it needs. The
training and mentoring of Afghan forces is a key element in the NATO
effort to leave a stable country behind when it withdraws most of its
NATO defense ministers also ordered a military planning effort to
determine how many coalition troops to leave behind and for what
purpose. They expect the plan to be finalized next year.