The new top commander in Afghanistan on Thursday expressed his confidence in the Afghan National Security Forces’ ability to defend their country against the Taliban, endorsed the planned drawdown of coalition forces, and repeatedly stressed the difference in support for the international effort coming from the new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, after the hostile relations with former President Hamid Karzai. The ANSF “have taken over the security fight,” and despite an “uptick” in Taliban attacks as the summer fighting season wanes, “there is no place where the Taliban can take and hold terrain,” Army Gen. John Campbell, commander of International Security Assistance Force and US Forces Afghanistan, told Pentagon reporters via a satellite connection. Campbell said the recent stories of a major Taliban victory in Ghazni Province are “absolutely false” and predicted ANSF soon would retake land lost in Helmand. Campbell rejected any comparison with current conditions in Iraq, noting that under the newly signed security agreement at least 12,500 coalition forces will remain in country beyond the end of combat operations, including 9,800 US troops. And unlike Iraq, “they want us here.” He endorsed the drawdown plan, while noting he has the authority to “assess the risk to the force” and recommend any changes if needed.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.