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AP Interview: Months ahead key to Afghan fight

 Brig. Gen. Daniel Menard, commander of Canada's Task Force Afghanistan, stands by a Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) in Kandahar Province, southern Afghan...


Brig. Gen. Daniel Menard, commander of Canada's Task Force Afghanistan, stands by a Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) in Kandahar Province, southern Afghan...

Bolstered by the U.S. troop surge, the commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan said Saturday he believes the allied coalition can cripple the Taliban in the country's volatile south by summer but not before hard fighting.
Brig. Gen. Daniel Menard, who also commands NATO's Task Force Kandahar which includes U.S. forces, told The Associated Press in an interview that the next four months will be crucial in the battle against the Taliban, which was born in Kandahar in the 1990s. Kandahar remains the Taliban's spiritual home and a center of Afghanistan's insurgency.
"I think that everything is going to happen in 2010," Menard said. "With the number of troops and resources right now that have been given to me, I believe I can break their back this summer. But more importantly, I can also ensure that the population understands that there is something else for them."
"I'm not after killing every single insurgent," he said. "I don't really care about the insurgents. What I do care about is to make sure the population understands they don't need to be threatened by them, and this is not the way that they should be living."
Canada has about 2,800 troops in Afghanistan, primarily in and around Kandahar, a city of about 800,000 and Afghanistan's second-largest urban center.
Task Force Kandahar is the command with overall responsibility for NATO operations in the province. It includes combat units, provincial reconstruction teams and liaison teams. It used to be overwhelmingly Canadian but there's now a substantial American component.
With the surge, the number of troops under Menard's command are likely to increase significantly. He already commands more U.S. than Canadian soldiers.
Menard said his forces are establishing a ring of stability around Kandahar, which is still subject to insurgent attacks, so the people of the city can return to normal life, a key factor in isolating and alienating the Taliban.
"The ring of stability will be in position before the fighting season," he said. Taliban leaders often retreat during the winter and return to step up their offensives in the spring.
Menard said he believes the upcoming surge of 37,000 U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan will be a huge factor in turning the fight around.
"This summer, I think it can happen," Menard said. "It's certainly not going to be over this summer. But we can set the stage for the next round. ... Now I think we are at the stage where it is very clear we have the resources. I am extremely grateful to have those four American battalions under command."
But Menard added that establishing stability in the areas of Panjwayi and Arghandab, to the south and north of Kandahar city, will be challenging.
"This is where I plan to fight the insurgents in the coming fighting season. And I plan to fight them very hard," he said.
Canada, which has been dug in here for four years, is to end its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2011. But Menard said he is concentrating on the fight ahead to set the best conditions for the transition beyond that.
"For me, the focus is 100 percent on the fight," he said.

Updated : 2021-07-24 03:09 GMT+08:00