(WASHINGTON) — Maj. Gen. Robert B. Abrams, the top U.S. and NATO commander in southern Afghanistan, is confident the country won’t fall back into the grips of the Taliban and other extremists when international forces pull out in two years. He points to what he calls a “homegrown” rejection of the Taliban and the readiness of the Afghan security forces.
“No one expected it to happen in the place we’re today,” the commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division tells ABC News, standing in the same region of Afghanistan where al Qaeda trained many of the 9/11 perpetrators just over a decade ago.
“All the places in southern Afghanistan considered the heartland for the Taliban, no one expected that the people here would rise up against the Taliban in a sort of homegrown, anti-Taliban movement, and it happened here. It is real,” Abrams says.
Abrams tells the story of a village in the Panjwai region, located in the Kandahar province of southern Afghanistan, where a village elder pushed the Taliban out of the village after they threatened his sons.
“He said, ‘That is it,’” Abrams recounts. “That was, literally, the straw that broke the camel’s back. He called the chief of police, ‘We need your help, and I will help you,’ and that has, it has now blossomed now into multiple villages across western Panjwai.”
In addition to the local rejection of the Taliban, Abrams is confident that, after 11 years of international assistance, the Afghan security forces will be equipped to independently confront future insurgencies.
“We’ve been working on this problem for 11 years and we’re two more years from the end of that,” he says. “What’s different from before is today we have a very capable Afghan security force that’s properly resourced, that’s training and it’s more the right leaders.”
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