US com­man­der shows con­fi­dence in Afghan forces

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - Local - BY LOLITA C. BALDOR AND MATTHEW PEN­NING­TON As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON

The as­sas­si­na­tion of Afghan lead­ers in Kan­da­har province won’t lessen U.S. sup­port for the war in Afghanistan or de­ter lo­cal se­cu­rity forces in the fight against the Tal­iban, the top U.S. mil­i­tary com­man­der in the Mid­dle East said Satur­day.

Gen. Joseph Vo­tel said the U.S. was “pretty con­fi­dent that the Afghans will be able to main­tain the sit­u­a­tion down” in Kanda- har.

The Tal­iban said Thurs­day’s at­tack, which killed an in­flu­en­tial po­lice chief, tar­geted the top U.S. com­man­der in Afghanistan. But U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials have said Army Gen. Scott Miller was not in the line of fire, and he es­caped un­harmed.

The at­tack just be­fore Satur­day’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions was as a stark re­minder of the for­mi­da­ble task the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion faces as it tries to ex­tri­cate Amer­ica from its long­est war.

Vo­tel ex­pressed con­fi­dence in the abil­ity of the Afghan forces to pro­vide se­cu­rity for the elec­tion and into the fu­ture.

“My as­sess­ment is the Afghans are re­silient to this,” he said. “I don’t con­sider it to be some­thing that will change the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion.”

The Kan­da­har shoot­ing, he said, won’t di­min­ish “our will or on us go­ing for­ward.”

Vo­tel’s com­ment to re­porters trav­el­ing with him at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar echoed the sen­ti­ment ex­pressed by U.S. De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis on Fri­day.

“We re­main ab­so­lutely com­mit­ted to an Afghan­led Afghan rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” Mat­tis told re­porters Fri­day at an Asian se­cu­rity con­fer­ence in Sin­ga­pore.

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