Sunday, September 16, 2007

NATO delegation acknowledges lack of Afghan support

Recently, a delegation of six members of the Defence and Security Committee of NATO's Parliamentary Assembly visited Afghanistan to assess NATO's mission. Led by Portuguese diplomat Julio Miranda Calha, the delegation included an American, a British, and a Canadian representative.

In their initial press release, the delegation makes a startling admission. After initial niceties about the mission ("visible progress", "increased economic activity", etc.), the statement airs its "strong concern" on a number of matters:

The NATO mission still suffers from a lack of personnel and assets... While NATO forces are able to clear any given area of insurgents, they do not have enough personnel to 'backfill' and hold a cleared area after a successful operation... The end result is the re-infiltration of cleared areas by insurgents, and an inability by local populations to commit to actively support NATO and the central government.
An "inability by local populations to commit to actively support NATO and the central government" is bureaucrat-speak. It means that Afghan villagers do not (or cannot) support NATO's war effort, nor Karzai's government. Of course, this refers primarily to southern Afghanistan, where support for the NATO/US missions has dropped dramatically, according to polls. A November 2006 opinion poll conducted in Afghanistan (pdf here) found that 43% of the residents of Kandahar and Helmand provinces, where Canadian combat troops have been active, feel that the toppling of the Taliban government was a “bad thing”. Further, this figure has jumped since the year previous, when just 13% of Afghans in the southern region felt that way.

Returning to the delegation's assessment: They call for more troops and intelligence with fewer restrictions on troop activities ("caveats"). Then they turn to Karzai's government:
Corruption, often linked to the surging drug trade, crippled efforts at every level of government from, for example, the Ministry of the Interior, to provincial governors, judges and police forces. Without dramatic progress in these areas, the vision of a stable and democratic state, responsive to the needs of the Afghan people, will remain unattainable
They conclude:
Fundamentally, the delegation came away with a sense that current efforts are making significant incremental progress, but not at a rate that will ensure without doubt an acceptable end state to our mission there.

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