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Window of Opportunity in Afghanistan Closing Fast

NATO Parliamentary Assembly
24 May 2004

Returning from a visit to Kabul, NATO Parliamentary Assembly Vice-President and Defence and Security Committee Rapporteur Pierre Lellouche warned that, "the NATO mission in Afghanistan is at a critical juncture. We need to scale up our commitment there or risk losing all that we have invested."

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegation was composed of Franco Angioni (Italy), Vahit Erdem (Turkey), Pierre Lellouche (France) and Julio Miranda-Calha (Portugal). Accompanying the group were NATO PA Secretary General Simon Lunn, and Director of the Defence and Security Committee, Zachary Selden.

The delegation met with NATO commanders and Afghan political authorities. The Members of Parliament were impressed with the progress accomplished over the past two years under challenging circumstances. But French MP Lellouche (Paris, UMP) stated that, "Every leader we met stressed that we must supply the forces and assets to increase security beyond Kabul in advance of the September elections as required by the United Nations. This will permit proper voter registration in the countryside as well as progress in disarming the numerous militias still operating in Afghanistan. Not only is it necessary to at least maintain ISAF at current levels by hopefully having Spain replace the Canadian contingent, but additional means are indispensable for the conduct of Afghanistan's first-ever elections in September. NATO needs 3,600 additional troops plus support assets from at least August to October to help instil confidence in the population. This means that the European members of the Alliance have to make the decision now to get forces there in time."

The NATO Parliamentary delegation also went on a foot patrol with French forces in Kabul. "It is clear that the Afghan people are sick of war and warlords," said Pierre Lellouche. "We can help them build a functioning peaceful state, free of warlords, private armies and massive drug trafficking, but we must act now."

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