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Afghanistan a country worth fighting for: US commander

AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: Emphasizing on higher troop levels in Afghanistan, the commander of US Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, said that he does not want the US forces level in the country to drop “anytime soon”.

Votel lauded the US President Barack Obama for his decision in July to keep American troops levels in the war-hit country at 8,400 which has sent a strong message to Afghan people and security forces.

Addressing audience at the Foreign Policy Initiative’s 2016 forum, the US commander said, “I think Afghanistan is a country worth fighting for. As a military member who went with the first wave of forces in October 2001, I remain very hopeful about it.”

Stressing on importance of the higher troop levels in the country, he said: “The decision to stay as opposed to going down to 5,500, which is where we would generally be right now, and keeping it at a much higher level — around 8,400 — I think was a very wise move.”

Military.com quoted him as saying, “I think it sent a very strong message to the coalition; I certainly think it sent a strong message the Afghan forces and the people of Afghanistan … so I am very keen to keep that going into the future.”

Speaking about the Islamic State (IS), also known as Daesh in Afghanistan and Middle East, the US commander said that the United States was trying to present the IS “with a lot of dilemmas that they have to deal with simultaneously”.

He said that the military strategy was working according to expectations because it has exposed cracks in the Islamic State and would help the US to reduce physical size of Daesh.

“The Islamic state is fighting hard right now, but again I think you have to look at the wear and tear that they are absorbing with this – the continued strikes, the continued pressure we are putting on them, the inability to move forces … ultimately I think that will have an accelerated effect and allow us to move a little bit faster,” said Votel.

Responding to queries about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran which is commonly known as the nuclear deal, he said: “It is not necessarily my job to monitor that, but I think that it is being implemented appropriately and I think it has addressed one of the threats we need to be concerned about.”

He said that nuclear deal with Tehran has not changed Iranian behavior which is a matter of concern for the US.

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