VILNIUS: A top NATO general on Friday said he was cautiously optimistic on progress in Afghanistan despite attacks like the deadly Taliban storming of a lakeside Kabul hotel.
General Knud Bartels, chairman of the NATO military committee, downplayed the military value of such strikes when asked about the Kabul assault in which Taliban militants seized dozens of hostages and killed 16 people.
"The type of operations the insurgents are conducting at this stage are very visible operations, but I would question the real military value of them apart from the psychological value, which of course is important itself," Bartels told journalists in Lithuania's capital Vilnius.
"From the military perspective, I am a cautious optimist as to the evolution of the situation in Afghanistan," the Danish general said.
Bartels said the handover of security from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to local forces is on track.
"Seventy-five percent of the Afghan population is now secured by the Afghan national security forces. We still have 2.5 years left before the Afghan national security force are entirely responsible for their security," the general said.
"NATO will also be present after the 1st of January 2015 in a completely different configuration. It will not be ISAF, it will not be ISAF Number Two. It will be a training, mentoring, assisting role which has to be defined in detail," Bartels said.
The brazen assault on the Spozhmai Hotel exacerbated fears that insecurity is spiralling as NATO combat troops prepare to exit in 2014.
Western-backed President Hamid Karzai warned Thursday that attacks on Afghan police and soldiers were increasing, saying that 20 to 25 personnel were being killed every day.
The 28-member Western defence alliance intends to withdraw its 130,000 combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, exiting the costly, decade-long war that has killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and more than 3,050 foreign soldiers.