A top military official said Thursday that he expects to see an increase in suicide bombers in Afghanistan.
"I would expect more suicide-type, high-profile, spectacular attacks," said Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and serves as the deputy commanding general for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. ISAF is a NATO group comprised largely of U.S. forces.
A explosion killed at least 16 people in a Kabul restaurant earlier this month. The attack comes as Taliban violence in the capital has decreased in recent months.
And those attacks, Milley believes, will likely target Afghan security forces, civilians, and ISAF and U.S. troops. Afghanistan has almost 350,000 security forces, which includes police and military officials.
But Milley said the attacks aren't undermining Afghan support for the country's military or government, which he said polling and intelligence suggest a vast majority of citizens support.
The U.S-Afghan relationship has been strained since Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States last year. Milley largely sidestepped questions about getting a BSA signed, saying it would be "inappropriate… to put out deadlines."
"I would tell you that we have a base plan, and everything that we have planned is built upon an assumption that an agreement will be reached," Milley added.
For now, forces will start to ship their focus to helping Afghan security forces with functional -- rather than combat or tactical -- advising, which he said includes helping build the institutional framework of the country's security forces.
"Tactics an army does not make," Milley said, but noted that at the tactical level NATO and U.S. officials are "pretty much satisfied."
Afghan forces "clearly held their ground" during the most-recent summer fighting season, he said, but added that "we have got to continue to build the institutions to ensure that this security force can continue to stand on their own, and then that security force provides the shield to buy the time and space for the rest of this society to develop."
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