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Outgoing US Commander Says 2016 Poses Risk for Afghans

Army Gen. John Campbell, outgoing commander of US Forces-Afghanistan, testifies during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 4. (Getty Images)
Army Gen. John Campbell, outgoing commander of US Forces-Afghanistan, testifies during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 4. (Getty Images)

The summer fighting season in Afghanistan is potentially "a very, very tough" one for Afghan security forces, who have been slow to give up their defensive-minded approach to fighting the Taliban, a senior US general said Friday.

Army Gen. John Campbell, who stepped down as commander of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan last week, said he has been encouraged by the Afghan forces' improvements over time.

Still, Campbell said he is concerned about shortcomings such as a general reluctance to leave checkpoints and go on the offensive against Taliban fighters, who often are outgunned.

"It will be a very, very tough year for the Afghans unless they" make changes such as taking a more offensive approach on the battlefield and improving the quality of their military leaders, Campbell said in an interview with reporters at the Pentagon.

The Afghan forces took heavy losses last year, which was their first full year of fighting without US troops in combat alongside them.

Campbell gave up command in Afghanistan on Mar. 2 and is due to retire from the Army on May 1. His successor is Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr.

Campbell, a US Military Academy graduate who has served in uniform for nearly 37 years, said he turned down an offer from Defense Secretary Ash Carter to be nominated as the next commander of US Africa Command. He called it a personal decision.

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