Reconstruction, Reform Key to Afghanistan’s Future, General Says
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2006 NATO will not be defeated militarily in Afghanistan, but the key to long-term stability in that country rests on reconstruction and reform, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe said here today.
“Afghanistan’s long-term solution is not only a military problem; it’s not just a military problem,” Marine Gen. James L. Jones told reporters at the Foreign Press Center. “The focus has to be on the right amount of reconstruction at the right place at the right time.”
NATO and the Afghan government specifically need to do better in counternarcotics efforts, judicial reform, training local police, and fighting government corruption, Jones said. It’s important for the people of Afghanistan to view the government as being tough on drugs and corruption, so they can have confidence in their leaders and believe they will change the country for the better, he said.
NATO has kept its commitments in Afghanistan, and its International Security Assistance Force has proved its mettle in tough fighting against the Taliban in the south recently, Jones said. The successful execution of Operation Medusa proved once and for all that NATO forces have the capacity to stand and fight if challenged, he said.
“I think the Taliban and other forces – criminal elements, narcotics traffickers and whoever else was involved – had a very strong answer to that particular question,” he said.
Now that the military problem in Afghanistan is being handled, the next crucial step is making real progress in reconstruction, Jones said. Creating the conditions for prosperity will prevent the Taliban from taking hold and influencing the people, he said.
“We find in Afghanistan that where you have a good governor, a good police chief, the presence of the Afghan National Army, and reconstruction, that generally the Taliban and the forces that are opposing the expansion of the Karzai government generally cannot sustain themselves, and this is obviously what we want to do throughout the country,” he said.
The battle now in Afghanistan is for the hearts and minds of the people, Jones said, adding that he is confident the people want to turn away from violence and embrace democracy.
“My confidence is rooted in how the people of Afghanistan have expressed themselves in two national elections,” he said. “And I believe the concept of what is being attempted in Afghanistan is one that is embraced by the people, generally speaking … I do think that they’ve made a clear choice that they do not want to continue fighting; they do want a better way of life.”
NATO forces are now responsible for all stability and security in Afghanistan, Jones said. The force still has some shortages that need to be filled, particularly in the area of mobility, he said, but NATO is working with its allied countries to generate these forces in the near future. Jones noted that it is not enough for nations to provide forces, if those forces come with national restrictions that prevent them from being effective.
“We are all in this together, in my view, and if it’s fair that a nation expects other people to come to their aid when and if they have a problem, then it’s fair that other nations should expect the same thing in return,” he said.