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Afghanistan

ISAF spokesman: Taliban are considerably 'weakened'

In an interview with the German public broadcaster ARD in Kabul, ISAF Spokesman Brigadier General Günter Katz claimed the Taliban have been considerably "weakened" but admitted that many problems remain.

"By comparison with last year, in the past three months we have had 15 percent fewer attacks," Katz said optimistically. "And if we just look at October, there were 20 percent fewer than last year."

These statistics only encompass attacks that affected foreign troops and Afghan security forces, not civilian victims, yet these remain extremely high - some 1,100 Afghan civilians have been injured or killed in the past three months.

Moreover, there is still doubt as to whether the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will be in a position to cope when they take over full responsibility for the country after the withdrawal of NATO troops.

US soldier (L) and Afghan police patrol in Kabul (Photo: EPA/SYED JAN SABAWOON)

Afghan soldiers will be working alongside international troops for a while longer

"First of all, we have to recognize that the Taliban will still be here," said Katz. "And the ANSF will have to continue fighting. But, we will still be here - the international community - and we'll provide support. The Afghans won't have to carry out the fight on their own."

Infiltration of army by insurgents

Over the next two years, however, there are many challenges and problems that need to be overcome. One major issue is the infiltration of the Afghan police and army by insurgents, who attack foreign soldiers.

"Almost every time there is an attack from within the army, the Taliban say it was them and that they've once again managed to infiltrate the army. But the weaker they become - and they are becoming weaker - the more involved and extensive their propaganda becomes," said Katz.

Nonetheless, Katz insisted that the situation was being taken very seriously and that several measures had been put in place to fight surprise attacks from within. He gave a stark example.

Afghan police arrive at the scene of a suicide attack in Kabul (Photo: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani)

There have been fewer attacks than last year, Katz said

"I've got a loaded gun on me right now and that goes for all ISAF soldiers, not only in the camp but across the country," said Katz.

He added that foreign and Afghan troops had both started receiving a crash course in intercultural relations, so they could learn about each other's sensitivities and know when their colleagues might overreact. Critics say these courses are 10 years too late, although better late than never. Afghan and NATO-led troops will still be working together for some time.

What is certain, according to Katz, is that international troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014.

DW.DE