NATO Forces Make a Difference in Afghanistan, General Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 12, 2008 NATO’s efforts against insurgents in Afghanistan are helping the Afghan people realize a better future, and the Atlantic Alliance should keep the door open to admit new members, a senior U.S. military commander told a Senate panel here today.
“NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan are making a difference,” Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command told Senate Foreign Relations Committee members.
Craddock said the alliance’s security and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan are making progress and “improving the lives of many Afghan citizens” while “creating the conditions for a better future.”
The security situation in Afghanistan remains difficult, especially in the southern and eastern parts of the country, Craddock said, noting that the NATO International Security Assistance Force deployed to Afghanistan has achieved numerous victories against Taliban insurgents that threaten President Hamid Karzai’s central government.
NATO’s ISAF has 47,000 members, including about 19,000 U.S. troops.
“We are succeeding, but, indeed, not as fast as we, the international community, are capable of succeeding,” Craddock said. NATO and its international partners “can and must do more” in Afghanistan, the four-star general emphasized.
The Afghan national army continues to increase in size and capability, Craddock reported, noting it is expected to exceed the ISAF in numbers sometime this year.
Afghanistan’s national police force, too, has grown larger, Craddock pointed out. But, the capability of the country’s constabulary “continues to lag significantly” behind that of the ANA, he added.
“Police performance needs to be urgently enhanced,” Craddock emphasized. “Recent pay and performance reforms will help, but corruption, criminality, and lack of qualified leadership remain the most pressing areas.”
While security gains are evident across Afghanistan, such progress “is slowed by force shortfalls in some key locations and capabilities,” Craddock explained.
“We are at a critical juncture in Afghanistan, and the ISAF mission needs its military requirements filled immediately,” the general said.
In addition, conditions of deployment, known as caveats, used by some NATO members limits or restricts the utility and movement of their forces in the Afghan theater of operations, Craddock noted.
“These caveats, like (troop) shortfalls, increase the risk to every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine deployed in theater,” he emphasized.
Regarding the issue of admitting new members to NATO, Craddock pointed out that “enlargement has been an historical success, strengthening our alliance and serving as a powerful incentive to promote democratic reforms among aspiring members.”
Several eastern European nations, including Croatia, Albania and Macedonia, have expressed their desire to join NATO one day.
“I believe the process of NATO enlargement is not complete,” Craddock said. “NATO’s door must remain open.”
However, NATO candidates “must provide added value to the alliance,” Craddock added.
“They must be contributors to security, not consumers of it,” the general said.
Meanwhile, NATO’s current obligations, including response-force needs in Afghanistan, are challenging its pool of available military manpower, Craddock pointed out. If unresolved, he said, this situation threatens to reduce the alliance’s “force pool into a puddle.”
“Key capability resourcing is crucial to ensuring NATO’s ability to simultaneously execute its main task, respond to crises, and transform to meet future challenges,” Craddock said.