NATO Chief: Military Alone Can’t Solve Afghanistan’s Problems
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2008 The military cannot solve the problems of Afghanistan by itself, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe said today.
Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock spoke on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show. NATO is responsible for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Craddock, who has held his post since December 2006, said he had just returned from a trip to Afghanistan, and though he sees progress every time he goes to the country, it is uneven. Even where security progress has been good, more needs to be done to bring good governance to the people and to create jobs, he said.
“The fact is the military can’t solve the problem,” Craddock said. “The military will set the conditions to allow the people of Afghanistan and the local, provincial and national governments to provide better governance, and create jobs.”
The idea, he said, is to drive a wedge between the Taliban and the people. He said he wants to break the “day fighters” -- Afghans who fight for the Taliban or al Qaeda as a way to earn money and put food on their families’ tables -- away from the group.
“If they could get an honest wage, they would do it,” Craddock said. “That’s the job creation that needs to happen throughout the country. And it has to happen in the south and east, as well as the more stable areas in the north and west.”
Most of Afghanistan’s 396 districts are peaceful, the general said, with 40 districts in the southern and eastern parts of the country causing 70 percent of Afghanistan’s security problems. “That is Taliban country,” Craddock said.
The United States is sending an additional 3,200 Marines into Afghanistan beginning in March. Part of the force will go to reinforce NATO forces in Regional Command South, and the rest will be trainers for the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.
NATO has 47,000 troops in Afghanistan, 18,000 of them American. Another 10,000 American servicemembers are part of Operation Enduring Freedom and are not under NATO command. This includes trainers with Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan.
The Marines will be a short-term fix. Once they leave Afghanistan after a seven-month stint, NATO nations must pony up their replacements. The need for the troops is undisputed; NATO nations determined the numbers, and the alliance members agreed.
“We have a requirement that has not been met,” Craddock said. “We have a troop list, and we continue to work with the NATO nations to get them to contribute to meet all of our military requirements.”
Some of the requirements are in the “high-demand, low-density” category. These include helicopters and complex intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets. In some cases, the general said, political issues preclude nations from contributing.
The NATO effort must be a long-term commitment, Craddock said, because NATO forces will be needed until Afghan security forces can take responsibility. Meanwhile, he said, the Afghan government must work with the international community and nongovernmental organizations to put aid and job programs in place. These programs “must be integrated, coordinated and focused on the delivery of the effects: the jobs, the infrastructure, the roads,” he said.
“The key here is the development of a competent Afghan National Army and police force,” he said.
The Afghan National Army is moving along very well. The army could be ready to take over total responsibility in four to five years, he said, with the police two years behind.