Expanded NATO Role in Afghanistan to Boost Counterterrorism Fight
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2006 As NATO forces assumed security, stability and reconstruction duties across all of Afghanistan today, they also brought about “a renewed sense of commitment” in securing that country against terrorism, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe said here yesterday.
After previously taking responsibility for the northern, western and southern parts of Afghanistan, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force now manages operations in the eastern portion of the country, as well, Marine Gen. James L. Jones said at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting.
The move “essentially means that 37 sovereign nations have taken on the collective responsibility for security, stability and reconstruction in Afghanistan,” Jones said.
Jones, also the commander of U.S. European Command, recalled that NATO began its Afghanistan mission in the national capital of Kabul in 2003. ISAF operations expanded into northern Afghanistan in 2004, he continued, and then moved west in 2005. The ISAF took responsibility for Afghanistan’s southern region July 31.
The new military arrangement in Afghanistan will produce “a unity of command,” Jones said, as well as a “unity of effort and focus.”
However, Jones cautioned, the the real challenge in achieving success against terrorists and narco-traffickers operating in Afghanistan lies with the reconstruction and international aid missions.
“I think there is a requirement to do more and to bring more focus, more clarity … more purpose and more results in a shorter period of time,” the general said, noting that opium production remains Afghanistan’s “Achilles’ heel.”
“The money from this growing problem – and it is growing – fuels the insurgency,” Jones explained. “It allows the opposition to build IEDs that kill and wound innocent civilians and wound and kill soldiers of the alliance.”
Narcotics also “fuels the corruption problem in Afghanistan,” Jones added, which negatively affects reconstruction efforts in the country.
And, corruption in Afghanistan’s judicial system continues to poison efforts to administer justice in the courts, Jones said. Afghan prosecutors who earn only about $65 a month are susceptible to corruption, he pointed out, noting that UN interpreters make almost 10 times that amount.
“There’s something backwards there, and somebody needs to fix that,” the general said.
However, news on the military front has been more encouraging, Jones said, as NATO troops gave Taliban forces a good thumping during recent fighting in southern Afghanistan.
The Taliban “tried to fight NATO troops almost conventionally, and they took a pretty heavy beating for it,” Jones observed. “I don’t expect them to make that mistake again. And, they’ll probably go back to this war of attrition that they’re better at than conventional battle.”
But, “anything we do militarily is perishable if it’s not accompanied by reconstruction,” Jones emphasized.
So, he said, ultimate success in Afghanistan is predicated on not making enemies among its people and keeping focused on international reconstruction efforts.
Achieving victory in Afghanistan involves winning over the hearts and minds of its people, said Jones. “Eventually, it’ll be a success,” he predicted.