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Allen: Afghan troops expected to take over this fighting season

Last modified: 30 Jan 2013 08:55

John Allen, commander of US-led forces in Afghanistan, says the Afghan National Security Forces, which have reached nearly 352,000, can take the lead for the security of their country in the spring.

Speaking to the Associated Press news agency on Wednesday, Allen said the primary task of the International Assistance Force over the next two years will be to advise, train and build the capabilities needed for Afghan security forces to operate entirely on their own.

This is an acknowledgment of their capabilities ... I am confident that in this coming fighting season, where technically they will be in the lead across the country operationally, that they are ready and we will be in support of them ... I think they are going to do fine this year and we will stay with them. There is much work still to be done.

Allen, who has led international forces in Afghanistan for 19 months, would not comment on how quickly the remaining 66,000 US troops would return home, or how many US soldiers will remain after the end of 2014, when all foreign combat troops are expected to leave the Central Asian nation.

Those decisions, said Allen, will be for Barack Obama, US president, to make.

We are advising now, and for the foreseeable future and until the latter part of the spring we will be advising at the battalion level ... This is in conjunction with the drawdown of our own forces and in a very measured way, in a way that the Afghans are familiar with and we are able to predict we will eventually move up to the corps level.

Allen's comments come as US investigators say a $7.3m base camp for 175 Afghan Border Police was left almost abandoned in the northern province of Kunduz two months after being handed over to the ANSF.