Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, has arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise visit. His mission: to speed up the training of Afghan soldiers as Washington starts drawing down troops.

"It is essential to stability in that region that we not only achieve a peaceful resolution with regards to Afghanistan, but that we are able to develop a more stable relationship with Pakistan as well."

- Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary

As the US prepares to withdraw 33,000 troops from the country by the end of next year, Panetta was keen to point out that the US is winning the war there.

But Afghanistan remains unstable. And while the hope is that American-trained Afghan forces will take over, US military leaders remain concerned that a hasty withdrawal will be disastrous, leaving the country to fall back into the hands of the Taliban.

In June, Barack Obama, the US president, announced a plan to get all US troops out of Afghanistan by 2014. It was the first step toward ending a decade-long war.

At present the US has more than 100,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. Five thousand were pulled out following Obama's speech and a further 5,000 are set to leave before the end of this year. Another 33,000 are scheduled to leave by the end of next year; leaving around 70,000 troops. The plan is to get everyone out by 2014, and to hand power back to an American-trained Afghan fighting force.

So, is the US really winning its war in Afghanistan? Is training Afghan forces enough to secure the war-torn country? And what role will Pakistan play when the US leaves?

Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, discusses with guests: Waliullah Rahmani, the executive director of the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies; Simbal Khan, the director of the Afghanistan and Central Asia Institute of Strategic Studies; and Richard Weitz, a Hudson senior fellow and director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis. 

"There should be a strategic shift in the US strategy and in international community strategy; it should be towards granting support for another decade, until 2024 ... in order to have strong national Afghan security forces to guarantee the survival of our past 10 years' achievement and to guarantee the survival of a stable Afghanistan which should not be a safe haven for terrorists."

Waliullah Rahmani, the executive director of the Kabul Center for Strategic studies


Source: Al Jazeera