Update: NATO pointed out that the TOLO News article cited by Breitbart News misquoted Gen. Philip Breedlove as saying he “believes that the Taliban is no longer able to continue the violence against the Afghan people” when talking to reporters in Kabul on Thursday.
What NATO’s Allied Commander for Europe said was that the number of Taliban attacks “are down,” but the attacks that are happening are “very spectacular” and “killing more and more” Afghans, a NATO spokesman told Breitbart News.
Gen. Breedlove conceded that the Afghan forces are “losing space around the nation,” but added that the forces “are getting better every day.”
“The main concern of combat power here [in Afghanistan] is the Taliban,” stressed the general.
He acknowledged that the casualties among Afghan civilians and security forces are up this year, noting that “the death toll is rising more drastically on Afghan citizens” than on either the U.S.-led troops or Afghan forces.
Afghanistan’s TOLO News is the nation’s first 24/7 news network and often cited by various reputable news outlets in the United States and abroad.
Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Allied Commander for Europe, reportedly indicated that the Taliban is no longer capable of inflicting harm on the people of Afghanistan.
Gen. Breedlove, echoing the Pentagon, appeared to downplay concerted attacks carried by a resurgent Taliban against Afghan forces, which are supposed to have taken over the lead of security operations since President Obama ended the U.S.-led combat mission in the country at the end of last year.
“NATO assessments show that Taliban attacks have decreased by up to 20 per cent in the past few months,” Breedlove told reporters on Thursday at the headquarters of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Kabul, TOLO News reports.
The NATO commander “believes that the Taliban is no longer able to continue the violence against the Afghan people,” adds TOLO News.
Despite the heavy fighting across Afghanistan, Breedlove reportedly said he is “very encouraged” and remains “an optimist” about the current fight for the southern province of Helmand and the overall future of Afghanistan.
“What we do know is the ANSF [Afghan National Security Force] is a capable, dedicated army,” he said. “This is an army that is doing what its nation asks of it; it is doing it quite well. They show great battlefield resilience and courage. This is an army that can, will, and is fighting for its nation and I have all the confidence in the world that they’ll prevail in Helmand over time.”
Gen. Breedlove did reiterate that the Taliban remains a serious threat to Afghanistan.
Since August 22, U.S. aircraft have conducted at least 24 airstrikes in Helmand province in an effort to root out determined Taliban militants fighting beleaguered Afghan troops, especially in the Musa Qala district.
“These are U.S. actions taken by U.S. forces-Afghanistan under the direction of the U.S. forces commander,” Gen. Breedlove, said the news conference in Kabul.
He sought to distance NATO from the recent U.S. airstrikes, stressing that the coalition is only focused on training, advising, and assisting the Afghans, not dropping bombs.
“NATO is not involved in the fighting in Musa Qala. NATO forces continue to do expeditionary train, advise, and equip, to the 215th Corps,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks obtained by Stars and Stripes. “To be very clear, NATO’s mission here is not a combat mission.”
By the end of last month, the Taliban had managed to gain effective control of northern Helmand after capturing the Musa Qala district center when Afghan forces fled from there following several days of fightings.
Helmand, which sits next to Kandahar province known as the birthplace of the Taliban, has been one of the deadliest provinces for U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan since the war began.
Being among the most fiercely contested regions of the war, an estimated 350 U.S. Marines lost their lives fighting the Taliban in Helmand, located along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, considered a safe haven for Taliban members.
Afghan forces are still fighting for control of the Musa Qala district.
Besides being involved in the training and advising effort since President Obama ended the combat mission, U.S. forces in Afghanistan are still conducting secretive counterterrorism operations that include airstrikes and special operation raids.
Breedlove told reporters that the recently announced death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who the group admitted actually died in April 2013, may create further friction among group members.
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was named as Omar’s replacement in late July as the Taliban grappled with peace negotiations-related infighting that ended up triggering defections to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) group in Afghanistan.
Recent infighting between Taliban militants resulted in the killing of at least 18 terrorists in the western province of Herat.
Gen. Breedlove said that Afghan security forces would be provided with more military equipment to take on the Taliban and ISIS.
“Clearly we are concerned about ISIL, I think the leadership of this nation is concerned about ISIL, it is an emerging capability, it is not the powerful capability that it is in other parts of the world, but we are concerned about it and its presence – what it means,” he said.