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Top US commander lauds India's role in Afghanistan

11 August 2016

Afghanistan wants more military supplies from India, including attack helicopters, a top US and NATO commander in the war-ravaged country said on Wednesday, as the country intensifies its offensive against militants.

On his second visit to India, General John Nicholson said India had been making "enormously valuable" contribution in strengthening Afghan security forces and the US favoured increased military support.

India has already provided four Mi-25 helicopters to Afghanistan. The US commander said the country needed more military aircraft for its war on terrorism.

Nicholson said terror outfits like the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad were a threat not only to Afghanistan but also to the rest of the region - India included - and that the US was increasingly pressuring Pakistan to do more to contain jihadists.         

"We consistently encourage Pakistan to take action against terrorist groups that operate from its territory and close down their safe havens," he told journalists as he appreciated India's contribution to restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Nicholson, who heads the US operations in Afghanistan, met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, foreign secretary S Jaishankar and defence secretary G Mohan Kumar and discussed Afghanistan and terrorism in the region.

The US commander said Afghan forces - with US support - had launched a major offensive against the Islamic State two weeks ago and are reported to have killed 300 Islamic State fighters.

"In the course of the operation they killed a number of top leaders of the organisation and up to 300 of their fighters. Obviously, it's difficult to get an exact count, but what this amounts to is about 25 per cent of the organisation at least, and so this represents a severe setback for them. It reduced their territory," he said.

Nicholson said military training by India to thousands of Afghan security personnel has helped that country in significantly enhancing its military capability.

"I know that they have requested more and would like more and I think there is an immediate need for more as these aircraft can immediately get into the fight," he said when asked whether Afghanistan wanted more military aid from India apart.

He said Afghanistan was struggling to get spare parts for the Russian aircraft due to Western sanctions against Moscow and that India could supply them.

Nicholson said the US was trying to build a "counter-terrorism platform" focusing on containing all terror groups emanating from the region and ensure its peace and stability.

Asked whether he will have to make an immediate visit to Islamabad to balance his trip here, Nicholson said the Pakistan Army Chief knew about his trip here "he welcomes it".

Specifically asked about Pakistan's sincerity in coming down hard on terror outfits, he referred to the American administration's inability recently to certify that Pakistanis have put adequate pressure on the Haqqani network.

Asked whether there was growing concern in Pakistan about India's role in Afghanistan, he only said, "I think it is an accurate statement".

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