The US expects more high-profile attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said, emphasising that such "significant challenges" will not break America's will.
"Even as we recognise these many positive trends, that we cannot and will not ignore the significant challenges that remain. The enemy we are dealing with, as we have said before, is adaptive and resilient. Their focus has shifted to carrying out high-profile attacks in order to undermine the new sense of security that has been felt by ordinary Afghans," Panetta told reporters.
"I expect that there will be more of these high-profile attacks and that the enemy will do whatever they can to try and break our will using this kind of tactic. That will not happen," he asserted.
In response to these attacks, throughout this past year, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General John Allen has taken steps, along with Afghan leaders, the Afghan army, ISAF, to protect US forces, Afghan people and to ensure that their strategy remains on track, he said.
"Most recently, during the heightened tension over the inflammatory video on the Internet, this included making temporary adjustments on partnered operations between ISAF and Afghan forces taking place below the battalion level," he said adding that most ISAF units have returned to their normal partnered operations at all levels.
"We must and we will take whatever steps are necessary to protect our forces, but I also want to underscore that we remain fully committed to our strategy of transition to Afghan security control," he said.
In his first address to the press, after the US completed the drawdown of 33,000 surge forces, which was ordered by the US President in December of 2009, Panetta said it is clear that the surge allowed them to turn a very important corner in 2011.
"It accomplished the primary objectives of reversing the Taliban's momentum on the battlefield and dramatically increased the size and capability of the Afghan national security forces," Panetta said.
"To fully understand the impact of the surge, I think it's a good thing to remind ourselves where things stood in mid-2009. At that time the momentum was clearly on the side of the Taliban. The insurgency was steadily retaking key parts of Afghanistan. Any time that the our forces would clear an area and then leave, it was immediately taken back by the Taliban," he said.