Marja battle just 'initial salvo' of offensive that could last 12 to 18 months: Petraeus

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Kabul, Feb. 22 (ANI): US Central Command Chief General David Petraeus has said that the Marja offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan is just the "initial salvo" in a military campaign that could last 12 to 18 months.

General Petraeus said that international forces had spent recent months mapping strategy, gathering resources and preparing the leadership of a "comprehensive civil-military campaign."

He pointed out that 5,400 of the 30,000 additional troops President Obama has promised to deploy were already on the ground, and that the Special Forces were playing a major role in the intense battle.

"We have more of our Special Operations forces going in on the ground, and you've seen the results. With more Afghan shadow governors, the Taliban shadow governors being captured, more of the high-value targets being taken down," the New York Times quoted him, as saying.

However, the general who oversees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, reiterated his strong opposition to using torture to gain information from important captives like Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's top military commander, who was seized recently in Pakistan.

"We end up paying a price for it ultimately. Abu Ghraib and other situations like that are non-biodegradable. They don't go away. The enemy continues to beat you with them like a stick," he said.

Assessing the campaign against Al Qaeda in the 20 Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries, he said: "Over the course of the last year or so, Al Qaeda has been diminished in that area."

With the exception of Yemen, the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq and Pakistan "have continued to make gains," he added.

"But, having said that, Al Qaeda is a flexible, adaptable - it may be barbaric, it may believe in extremist ideology, as it does, but this is a thinking, adaptive enemy, and we must maintain pressure on it everywhere," he warned. (ANI)

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