Afghan army general 'optimistic'

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General Sher Mohammad Karimi said Afghan troops would be ready in three years to take control (AP)

The head of the Afghan National Army (ANA) has given a cautiously optimistic assessment of when international forces will be able to hand over security.

General Sher Mohammad Karimi said in three years Afghan troops would be well enough trained for the “gradual process” of transition to begin.

Speaking to London via videolink, Gen Karimi said: “I’m fully optimistic that in 2014 we will be ready for transition as a gradual process.

“We must say that whether we start it with a city or a province or a district, it has to be planned in such a way that it should not be reversible.

He continued: “The most important question, to me, is leadership; in many cases we don’t have the right leaders to build a patriotic mentality within the unit.”

The 70-year-old general said that although poor leaders were failing to inspire soldiers, recruitment “has not been a problem” and the ANA was on target to reach 171,600 soldiers by October.

Gen Karimi, the first Afghan to graduate from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, added that the new recruits were “well-armed and equipped and properly-trained”.

Commander of the Nato Training Mission Afghanistan Lieutenant General William Caldwell said the “untold story” of 2010 was the Afghan surge in troop numbers and “significant progress” was made in quality as well as quantity.

He said: “When we took over training command here in Afghanistan in 2009, it became very apparent that we, in fact, were failing in the task we had been set up to accomplish.”

But Lt Gen Caldwell said a “renewed focus” saw the mission get back on track, with the Afghan army and police increasing by 79,000, compared to the US surge of 30,000.

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