By Carlo Muñoz - 07/12/12 09:15 PM EDT
Moderate factions of the Afghan Taliban along with local leaders of the country's various ethnic tribes indicating a willingness to cooperate with the central government in Kabul has put the war-torn nation on increasingly stable footing, departing Ambassador Ryan Crocker said on Thursday.
"You don't see many signs of the people saying 'Well, it's time to start digging the trenches again,' " he said in an interview with The Associated Press, referring to the civil war that engulfed the country in the late 1990s after the departure of Soviet forces.
While large pockets of violence concentrated in the northern and eastern regions of the country continue to bog down American and NATO forces stationed there, that resistance did not represent a larger movement that could destabilize Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government.
"I think their primary interest has been criminal activity, rather than preparing for the next civil war, which I really don't see coming," he said of those contentious areas within the country.
To that end, U.S. forces in southern Afghanistan are preparing to shift another key security mission to the control of the Afghan National Security Forces.
U.S. commanders in Regional Command-Southwest are preparing for a complete handover of Afghan training operations to Kabul. It will be the third major mission handed over to Afghan security forces in the run-up to the complete U.S. military withdrawal from the country scheduled for 2014.
In April, DOD handed oversight of night raids launched by American and Afghan special forces over to the Afghan government. That same month, American commanders officially transitioned control of all terror detainee operations in the country to local forces.
"We're at that point in the campaign where it's time to put the Afghans in the lead," Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, head of Regional Command-Southwest, said Tuesday. "So training the trainers is really becoming a large part of our focus now."