WASHINGTON, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Afghan insurgent claims of fighting foreign occupation are invalid now that Afghan forces are in the lead, a U.S. military commander said.
International forces operating in Afghanistan are wrapping up their combat operations as national forces take on more security responsibilities. NATO forces are set to end their combat operations next year.
U.S. Maj. Gen. James McConville, commander of the Army's 101st Airborne division, told reporters the Afghan military lead means insurgents can no longer stand by anti-American claims.
"They used to be able to say that they were fighting foreign occupiers," he told reporters Wednesday. "They can no longer really say that anymore because they're fighting Afghan security forces and they're fighting against the Afghan people."
A July report from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said 74 percent of the casualties reported during the first six months of 2013 were attributed to insurgents. Civilian casualties in the first six months of 2013 were 23 percent higher than the same time last year.
McConville, however, said Afghan forces have improved their capabilities to the extent U.S. forces have moved into an advise-and-assist role.
"The Afghan security forces are in the lead," he said. "They are doing most of the fighting."