KABUL - The war against terrorism cannot be won if the international community does not pressure Pakistan to do more to fight terrorists on its soil, the Afghan Interior Ministry said on Monday.
As foreign forces hand over the responsibility of security to Afghan security forces, the fear of Taliban and insurgent penetration into Afghan forces ranks is rising, as attacks by uniformed Afghans on foreign and Afghan security forces have spiked this year and deteriorated relations between the allies.
Adding fuel to the fears is a report that as foreign troops’ drawdown nears from Afghanistan, al-Qaeda network is trying to take over some of the eastern parts of the country to expand their presence. In Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told US special envoy Marc Grossman about his recent visit to Pakistan and talks with Pakistani officials about the Afghan peace process and moves to counter terrorism and extremism.
According to a Karzai Office statement, that meeting was also attended by Douglas Lute, US deputy national security adviser; US General John Allen, the commander of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan; and James Cunningham, the US ambassador to Afghanistan.
In overnight operations in Afghanistan, authorities said, thirty-seven militants, including a key Taliban commander, were killed. An early Monday air strike in Wardak province, 35 km from Kabul, killed Taliban commander Maulvi Naqibullah among six militants.
Abdul Wali, a spokesperson for Afghan Police, said, "A group of Taliban rebels were meeting in a house in Chak district at 1:00 am to plot attacks when the aircraft struck."
Twenty-one more militants were killed in anti-insurgency operations in Kunduz, Uruzgan, Wardak, Ghazni, Farah and Helmand provinces, according to the interior ministry. Eight militants were arrested, and weapons and ammunition were seized from them.
A 24-year-old Australian soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device during a mission against insurgents, officials said, "No other Australian or Afghanistan personnel were killed or wounded in the incident.” The 24-year-old's death brought to 39 the number of Australian lives lost in the conflict.
"The soldier was clearing a compound when an IED detonated, killing him instantly," Australian Defence chief General David Hurley said.
"The special operations mission remains ongoing so I cannot provide specific details about the location or the mission itself without risking the safety of this young man's comrades."
Australia is a close ally of the United States and its Afghan deployment began in 2001. It announced this year that it would begin withdrawing its forces in 2013, earlier than planned due to significant security gains. Most of the 1,550 Australian troops in Afgh-anistan are based in Uruzgan province, with a focus on training and mentoring Afghan National Army soldiers.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who visited troops in Afghanistan a week ago, said morale remained good and the country was committed to the timetable of handing over responsibility to Afghans forces in 2014.
"Having just been in Afghanistan, I can say that our troops there are in good spirits. Their morale remains high even though during the course of this year they have seen a great deal of loss," she said.
"They are very determined to see the mission that we have set ourselves through, a mission with a defined strategy and a defined end point."