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Defense Department Report, December 8: Update on Afghanistan

08 December 2005

Coalition emphasizing quality over quantity with Afghan forces

The commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan says quality is being emphasized over quantity in the ongoing development of Afghan army and police forces.

Army Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry told reporters at a Pentagon briefing December 8 that emphasis is being applied as coalition forces work “to develop leadership and the organizations necessary for the Afghans to sustain their army and police forces.”

Eikenberry said developmental training includes teaching the Afghan National Army and National Police how to respect human rights and properly handle detainees in Afghan custody.  His answer came in response to a question about the role of U.S. military personnel if they witnessed possible abuse by Afghan custodians.

Coalition soldiers have been instructed to stop any abuse they see being conducted by Afghan national security forces and report what they saw up through their military chain of command, Eikenberry said.  At the same time, the commanding general of the Combined Forces Command in Afghanistan indicated that no cases have come to light where that type of an intercession or reporting was necessary.

The military commander said the Afghan National Army commands respect as a working institution and now has a nationwide presence.  The existence of that Army, Eikenberry said, “gives the Afghan people tremendous hope and confidence that their nation is coming back together.”

Coalition military trainers make training adjustments regularly, he said, as they try to heal what had been a very broken military infrastructure.  Eikenberry said trainers are working with Afghans who bring all different kinds of experience and training to their current assignments from years of having worked under Soviet influence, to the Taliban years, to more recently inspired Western traditions.

Eikenberry said the Afghan National Army now numbers 30,000 troops. They recently finished their first successful deployment outside of their country where they participated in Pakistan earthquake relief efforts.

Besides building up the capacity of the Afghan National Army and National Police, he said, the coalition continues to work in partnership with the Afghanis to prosecute the war against al-Qaida and its associated networks.  (See Response to Terrorism.)

Asked about NATO’s plans to take over command of the area of responsibility from the United States of the Regional Command in southern Afghanistan in 2006, Eikenberry said discussions are ongoing.  NATO has around 12,000 troops in Afghanistan with responsibility for nine Provincial Reconstruction Teams.  As the transfer of responsibility takes place, he said, the United States will still be a part of that operation as a member of the 26-member alliance.

NATO foreign ministers agreed December 8 to expand the alliance's International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan by deploying 6,000 more troops into the southern region, according to a NATO communiqué.  (See related article.)

Eikenberry also commented on the continuing problem of illegal drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan and the international community are increasing their efforts to stop narco-trafficking and to eliminate poppy cultivation,” he said.

Success will come, Eikenberry said, when Afghan farmers are given viable growing alternatives.  Not only is it a long-term effort, he said, but a complex undertaking particularly in view of “the degree of poverty and the broken infrastructure in Afghanistan.”

Eikenberry said narco-trafficking and problems associated with poppy production in Afghanistan are immense.

For information on U.S. policy, see International Security and Rebuilding Afghanistan.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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