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Military Alone Will Not Secure Afghanistan, Says NATO Commander

04 October 2006

General Jones calls for more reconstruction aid, progress against drugs and corruption

Washington --NATO’s top general says that Afghanistan’s future will not be secured by military force alone.

“The real challenge in Afghanistan for success is how well the reconstruction mission and the international aid mission is focused,” Marine General James L. Jones said in an October 4 speech in Washington sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.

With 38,000 service members from the alliance’s 26 member countries, NATO is keeping the peace in Kosovo, patrolling the Mediterranean under “Operation Active Endeavor,” supporting the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s Darfur region, and training the new Iraqi military’s officer corps. 

But the alliance’s “flagship” mission, leading the 37-nation U.N.-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan since February 2004, showcases the alliance’s successes as well as the challenges that lie ahead, he said.  (See related article.)     

On October 5, he reported, the ISAF mission will take another historic step forward with its final expansion into Afghanistan’s eastern quadrant, taking over nationwide responsibility from the U.S.-led coalition for supporting the Afghan government’s efforts to stabilize and rebuild the country after the repressive Taliban rule and decades of civil war. 

NATO defense ministers approved the expansion in a September 28 meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia.  Additional troops to reinforce the ISAF mission were pledged by several alliance members, including the United States, which Jones said would transfer an additional 12,000 personnel to the 20,000-strong ISAF force.  (See related article.)  

The alliance has been making significant military progress in Afghanistan, he said, citing the recently completed “Operation Medusa,” in which 6,000 Canadian, British, Dutch, Estonian, Portuguese and U.S. troops worked with the Afghan army to establish an allied presence in the Taliban-dominated southern province of Khandahar.  (See related article.) 

But Jones stressed that military force can only buy time and space for international aid and reconstruction efforts led by joint military-civilian provincial reconstruction teams and international nongovernmental organizations.  (See related article.)

“Anything we do militarily is perishable if not followed by reconstruction,” Jones said, calling upon the international community to “bring more focus, more clarity, and more purpose, and more results in a shorter period of time.”

NARCOTICS ARE THE “ACHILLES’ HEEL” OF AFGHANISTAN

Jones said that more than 50 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is linked to drug trafficking, making it “the Achilles’ heel of Afghanistan.”  With a 60 percent increase in the 2006 crop, according to U.N. estimates, more progress urgently is needed.  (See related article.)

Today, Jones said, more than 90 percent of the heroin on Europe’s streets is originating in Afghanistan’s poppy fields.  From the farmers who cultivate the crop to support their families, to the violent criminal cartels who bribe corrupt officials and bankroll local militant groups, drug trafficking “touches every aspect of Afghanistan’s reconstruction.”

The general expressed concern that a U.K.-led effort campaign to support Afghan authorities’ poppy eradication efforts is “losing ground,” and needs a comprehensive new strategy, perhaps including incentives for alternate crops, new roads to transport goods, and better security to protect farmers from the drug cartels.   

“[T]he answer is to find some international consensus on what is the overall campaign strategy for a successful war on narcotics in Afghanistan,” Jones said.

JUDICIAL REFORM URGENTLY NEEDED

Jones said that reform of the Afghan justice system, although not NATO’s responsibility, is another pillar of Afghanistan’s reconstruction that urgently needs international attention.

Corruption is a big problem, the general said, and results to promote transparency have been, he said, “singularly unimpressive.” 

Jones said that in a recent meeting with the Afghan attorney general, he learned that an interpreter working for the United Nations in Afghanistan earns $630 per month, but the average income among the country’s 1,000 prosecutors is $65 per month, which makes them vulnerable to bribery.      

“There’s something backwards there, and somebody needs to fix that,” Jones said.

“The [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai government and those countries that are helping in this reconstruction aspect of Afghanistan need to show quicker and better success in as short a period of time as possible,” the general said.   

A similar challenge, Jones said, is discouraging corruption among Afghanistan’s police officers, and providing them the training and support to build strong and effective law enforcement agencies. Many police officers have been recruited but they need continuing education and better pay to reduce the temptation to accept bribes, according to the general.

The alliance still has a long way to go, Jones said, but “where we're able to make those changes -- good governance, good police, good military leadership -- the Taliban and the opposition drift off.”

“I think if we can fix the focus of the international reconstruction, keep the military doing what it's doing, celebrate the primacy of the provincial reconstruction teams which are symbolically and actually very, very important in the difference they're making in the Afghani lives, then I think we could be on a very good track in a relatively short period of time.

For more information, see Rebuilding Afghanistan.    

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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