Washington, Feb 5: The three Mi-35 multi-role helicopters India donated to Afghanistan would help counter the Taliban which is taking advantage of the reduction in the coalition aircrafts deployed in the war-torn country, a top US commander has said.
"The close-air support has been the one resource and the capability that the Afghans have asked me for every single day," General John Campbell, outgoing commander of the US forces in Afghanistan said yesterday.
"A couple years ago (there were), 150 attack helicopters, two squadrons of Air Force, and (when) we started resolute support, they were down to five Mi-35s. They have zero at the end of the fighting season," the general said.
"They just picked up three, because India passed those on. That'll really help. They desire that," Campbell said. Responding to a question, the general said the Taliban has taken advantage of reduction of the number of coalition aircraft.
"I think the Taliban know that we've downsized and they have taken advantage of the reduction of the number of coalition aircraft, absolutely," Gen Campbell said. "Again, the network in Afghanistan where you get Haqqani, Al Qaida, LeT, it's all intermingled.
We know for sure that ISIL, we know for sure that AQ and some of its remnants, have already attacked the US, and want to continue to have vision on doing that. So the Taliban support that in other ways," the outgoing general said. General Campbell expressed concern about cross border terrorism in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"I am concerned about what is going across both from Pakistan into Afghanistan, and quite frankly, as (Pak Army Chief) General Raheel (Sharif) has talked to me about -- potential stuff going from Afghanistan into Pakistan, as they believe happened a couple of weeks ago on a school attack there," he said.
Campbell, however, exuded confidence that the Taliban can be beaten, saying, "They are not 10 feet tall. But in many areas of propaganda, their information ops have convinced many of the security forces that they can beat them,".
Campbell indicated that if the situation in Afghanistan does not improve, the US would stay there for "longer term". "I want to keep 9,800 as long as I can in 2016 before I have to drop to 5,500. To do that, after the fighting season between October-November- December time frame, it's going very, very difficult," he said.