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Top NATO Commander Addresses Recent Taliban Gains, Vows Commitment To Security


U.S. General Stanley McChrystal speaks with RFE/RL today in Kabul.
In an exclusive interview, NATO's top military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, spoke in Kabul today with RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Mujahed Jawad about the current situation in Nuristan Province, near the border with Pakistan, and in the southern province of Kandahar.

RFE/RL: As you well know, the Barg-e Matal district in the eastern part of Nuristan Province has fallen under the control of the Taliban. Why do you think this has happened?

General Stanley McChrystal:
Insurgent forces in that area massed a number of fighters. And I think that it's very important that the government of Afghanistan, supported by coalition forces, work to secure every Afghan around the country. And I know we're working to do that.

RFE/RL: What were the reasons behind the district of Barg-e Matal falling into the hands of the Taliban?

When the insurgents mass in areas, they can put together a certain amount of combat power. But, of course, as you know, we are securing other areas. And I'm confident that that will not remain in insurgent hands, as well.

RFE/RL: Local officials have said that hundreds of Pakistani Taliban were supporting the Afghan Taliban in the Barg-e Matal district. Are NATO forces not trying to prevent the infiltration of Taliban from Pakistan?

We are working with our Afghan partners and with the government of Pakistan -- and we have a close partnership -- to limit any movement of insurgents either way across the border.

RFE/RL: Afghan officials have also said that neither the Afghan government nor NATO forces helped local security troops to defend against the Taliban. I mean, there were no reinforcements on time from either side. So why didn't NATO help?

We are partnered with Afghan forces around the country. There were air strikes and there were resupply activities there. And we will remain partnered with our Afghan partners -- both MOI [Ministry of the Interior] and MOD [Ministry of Defense] -- in the days ahead.

RFE/RL: Is there any joint plan to recapture that district from the Taliban? If so, when? And what can NATO forces do in this regard?

Well, of course, we would never discuss future military plans because they are too sensitive. But I would say that our partnership to secure Afghans is absolute.

RFE/RL: As you know, the Taliban have launched a county-wide operation in Afghanistan. Since then, we have seen many terrorist attacks. Do you think they will create a big threat for you and the Afghan government this summer?

I think they will create a big threat for Afghan people, and I think Afghans everywhere need to unite to stop things like suicide bombings. They need to stop things like improvised explosive devices that actually kill so many innocent Afghans. It's that unity of the Afghan people that ultimately will be the strength.

RFE/RL: For many months, there have been reports about upcoming military operations in Kandahar, but nothing specific on the ground is under way. What is new about that? When exactly will it start?

In fact, a number of things have begun. Because people are looking for conventional military operations, they don't sometimes see what is happening. We are increasing our partnership inside Kandahar city with the Afghan National Police. We are developing a ring of security around the city with Afghan National Civil Order Police. And then we are increasing Afghan National Army and coalition force activities in the environs or districts around the city.

This will be a very gradual process, not an event. So it will take months to happen. But that security will continue to improve with each passing day.

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