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Top commander says Afghan handoff 'years away'

The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan has said it will be years before coalition troops can make a complete handoff to Afghan security forces, despite the arrival of thousands of new soldiers beginning this month and signs of diplomatic progress.

world Updated: Apr 07, 2009 08:42 IST

The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan has said it will be years before coalition troops can make a complete handoff to Afghan security forces, despite the arrival of thousands of new soldiers beginning this month and signs of diplomatic progress.

Army General David McKiernan told newspaper executives gathered at The Associated Press annual meeting that militant havens across the border in Pakistan remain a challenge. And while he said that the Afghan army is now leading 60 per cent of missions in Afghanistan, Afghan police lag in their ability to provide security.

Many of the 21,000 new troops arriving this month will be directed to the nation's southern region and will be trained to work as mentors to Afghan troops in addition to working in counterinsurgency operations.

"What we want to do is make a significant impact on the foundation of security ... And continue to move toward developing sufficient Afghan capacity and specifically, their army, their police, so at some point we can get to a tipping point where they lead the security in this country," he said yesterday.

"You're going to ask me when is that tipping point. I can't say, but I think it is a matter of years away," he said in a live satellite interview from Kabul.

In Afghanistan, two visiting US envoys were warned by a former Taliban mullah yesterday against trying to defeat the insurgents militarily.