After Pakistani soldiers were killed by US forces on Pakistani soil, Pakistan's government has closed critical NATO supply lines into Afghanistan in a swift and angry reaction. Pakistan is also boycotting an international conference that is meant to update plans for the US handover to Afghan security forces after the US withdrawal.
The latest move has increased tension and is raising a central question: Is Pakistan willing and able to help the US achieve its goals in Afghanistan?
US General William Caldwell is responsible for training Afghan forces to take over when the Americans leave in 2014.
But a recent UN report shows Afghan forces have been abusing detainees, so many are wondering will Afghanistan be ready to take responsibility for its own security? In what shape will the US hand over the country? And are the Pakistanis really helping regional security?
Talk to Al Jazeera speaks to General Caldwell and asks: In a country where 10 per cent of Afghan army soldiers have gone missing and 15 per cent are drug addicts, how ready is the country to take control of its own security?
"You can't kill your way to success in Afghanistan, it takes a negotiated settlement. I'll tell you, any solution in Afghanistan is going to take a regional approach, and Pakistan is absolutely imperative and has to be a part of that regional solution.
By December 2014, the Afghan security force, the police and the army, will be able to take the lead and be responsible for security inside of Afghanistan. Now, it means the international community remains engaged in supporting them, it also means the government of Afghanistan continues on its track too, but if both those occur, then their forces will be ready.
If you just look around the world at any army that exists in any part of the world, everybody has some level of attrition where they're, when their numbers, where they get eliminated from or depart from that service of their army. What we're finding in the Afghan army, we're growing this thing so rapidly right now, 70,000 in the last two years have been added into the army.
Because of the growth that has occurred, we've seen a real progress in how they are continuing to grow and develop; but we've also seen a real professionalisation start to take place. We're not just now growing a force, but we're actually bringing into it qualities such as values and ethics, and professionalisation, and most importantly education that was not being taught just two years ago."
We'll still be there [beyond 2014] as long as the Afghan government wants us to be. We'll be there in a role of providing trainers still, we'll still be in a role of advising, and assisting the Afghan's. You'll see support forces, you'll see intelligence support; you could very well see some counter-terrorism elements still there to do strike operations with the Afghans; you'll see some sort of airforce element there to provide close air support for the Afghan forces. So there will still be some support elements, who can advise, assist and train; but the combat forces will all be gone."
Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell
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Source: Al Jazeera