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July 21, 2018
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Pakistan key to peace in Afghanistan: Centcom chief

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July 21, 2018

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WASHINGTON: Senior US military official Commander Centcom General Joseph Votel has said cooperation from Pakistan remains significant in accomplishing peace in Afghanistan.

"This is a South Asia strategy," the general credited Trump administration's policy towards the region and added: "Cooperation from Pakistan remains key to accomplishing the overall objective of a durable political settlement in Afghanistan."

During a departmental press briefing at the Central Command's office in Florida, Votel stressed that Islamabad needs to step forward on its promises. "We continue to work closely with Pakistan to help them fulfill the important role that they have indicated they want to play," he said. Gen. Votel noted that there is much more to be done in Afghanistan but also hailed the ongoing peace efforts. "The progress US forces are making in the conflict-striken country shows that the strategy in the region is working."

He said the Afghan security forces are improving but needed more time to contend with the Taliban and ISIS fighters. He emphasized that the mission in Afghanistan has witnessed remarkable changes in the environment, largely driven by the new strategy.

"We and our Afghan partners are moving forward with a sense of urgency and purpose to ensure that we don't miss the opportunities being afforded by this continued support from the international community, or that have been created on the ground through activities like the recent cease-fire," he said.

Discussing the Afghan government cease-fire deal with the Taliban, the general said that it demonstrated the increased desire for peace, not only from the Afghan people, but also from the belligerents in the conflict. "We saw numerous instances of this during the cease-fire, and we have seen many since its conclusion, even in the midst of ongoing combat operations. Our campaign approach of increasing military pressure provided the time and space for diplomacy and social pressure to pursue this opportunity," he said. Other examples of ongoing military pressure include increased kinetic strikes in support of the Afghan forces, targeting Taliban revenue-generation mechanisms, and making great progress in expanding the coalition’s train, advise and assist mission, he noted. The Afghan people and many Taliban members have become more ready for peace, he added, as evidenced by peace marches, local and international religious condemnations of the insurgency, broad diplomatic support to the Afghan-owned peace process, and the cease-fire, he said.

"All six Afghan National Army corps have been frequently engaged in offensive operations simultaneously, and at one point this spring, they were conducting offensive operations in 13 of 34 provinces at the same time. This is a testament to the great work by not only our forces, but also others in the Nato-led coalition," the general said. The recent Nato summit agreed to extend funding to the Afghan security forces through 2024, to which the Centcom commander called noteworthy saying it would provide time and resources to fulfill the intent of the Trump South Aisa strategy.

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