NATO vowed on Thursday to put severe military pressure on the Haqqani military network, suspected of being behind recent attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that despite the violence seen at the weekend, the NATO mission was heading in the right direction and insurgent attacks were down in the July-September period, compared with last year.
Spectacular attacks capture the headlines, but they don't capture more ground, he told a news briefing. And the bigger picture is different: overall enemy attacks are decreasing and the enemy has been weakened.
Rasmussen said NATO was determined to put a stop to attacks on its soldiers by the Haqqani network.
To that end we will keep the Haqqani network under severe military pressure, he said.
The best way to ensure the insurgents and the terrorist networks realise they need to go to the negotiating table and find a peaceful resolution... is to keep up a strong military pressure.
Officials in Afghanistan say the Haqqani network -- a powerful insurgent group which says it owes allegiance to the Afghan Taliban, but has traditionally been seen as close to Pakistan's intelligence agency -- may have been involved in a weekend bombing in Kabul that killed 13 Western troops.
It was the deadliest single ground attack on foreign troops in their 10-year Afghan war and the involvement of the Haqqanis would complicate efforts to involve Pakistan more directly in efforts to stabilise the country.
Rasmussen said NATO's plans to continue with a gradual handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces remained on track and Afghan President Hamid Karzai would soon announce the next group of provinces and districts to undergo this process.
NATO aims to phase out its combat role in Afghanistan by 2014, but Rasmussen reiterated that the alliance would continue to support Afghanistan after that date.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Rex Merrifield)