NATO’s Not Win­ning in Afghanista­n, Re­port Says

The Washington Post - - World News - By Ann Scott Tyson

NATO forces in Afghanista­n are in a “strate­gic stale­mate,” as Tal­iban in­sur­gents ex­pand their con­trol of sparsely pop­u­lated ar­eas and as the cen­tral gov­ern­ment fails to carry out vi­tal re­forms and re­con­struc­tion, ac­cord­ing to an in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ment re­leased yes­ter­day by NATO’s for­mer com­man­der.

“Make no mis­take, NATO is not win­ning in Afghanista­n,” said the re­port by the At­lantic Coun­cil of the United States, chaired by re­tired Gen. James L. Jones, who un­til the sum­mer of 2006 served as the supreme al­lied com­man­der of NATO.

“Afghanista­n re­mains a fail­ing state. It could be­come a failed state,” warned the re­port, which called for “ur­gent ac­tion” to over­haul NATO strat­egy in com­ing weeks be­fore an an­tic­i­pated new of­fen­sive by Tal­iban in­sur­gents in the spring.

The At­lantic Coun­cil re­port was one of two strongly worded as­sess­ments of the war in Afghanista­n — both led by Jones — re­leased at a Capi­tol Hill news con­fer­ence yes­ter­day. The sec­ond was by the Afghanista­n Study Group, co-chaired by Jones and Thomas R. Pickering, a for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to Rus­sia and other na­tions.

Jones said sev­eral steps are needed to “re­gain the mo­men­tum that ap­pears to have been lost” in Afghanista­n: a com­pre­hen­sive cam­paign plan that in­te­grates se­cu­rity and re­con­struc­tion work; the ap­point­ment of a United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner to co­or­di­nate in­ter­na­tional ef­forts; and a new re­gional approach to sta­bi­liz­ing Afghanista­n that would in­clude con­fer­ences with neigh­bor­ing coun­tries such as Pak­istan and Iran.

Progress in Afghanista­n “is un­der se­ri­ous threat from resur­gent vi­o­lence, weak­en­ing in­ter­na­tional re­solve, mount­ing re­gional chal­lenges and a grow­ing lack of con­fi­dence on the part of the Afghan peo­ple about the fu­ture di­rec­tion of their coun­try,” said the re­port by the Afghanista­n Study Group, cre­ated by the Cen­ter for the Study of the Pres­i­dency, which was also in­volved with the Iraq Study Group.

“The United States and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity have tried to win the strug­gle in Afghanista­n with too few mil­i­tary forces and in­suf­fi­cient eco­nomic aid,” the re­port said. It high­lighted the lack of a clear strat­egy needed to “fill the power vac­uum out­side Kabul and to counter the com­bined chal­lenges of re­con­sti­tuted Tal­iban and Al Qaeda forces in Afghanista­n and Pak­istan, a run­away opium econ­omy, and the stark poverty faced by most Afghans.”

The study group said the United States should “de­cou­ple” Iraq and Afghanista­n to es­tab­lish a clear dis­tinc­tion be­tween the fund­ing and pro­grams un­der­way in the coun­tries, which, it said, face dif­fer­ent prob­lems. It also called on Wash­ing­ton to ap­point a spe­cial en­voy for Afghanista­n.

Vi­o­lence has risen 27 per­cent in Afghanista­n in the past year, with a 39 per­cent in­crease in at­tacks in the na­tion’s east­ern por­tion — where most U.S. troops op­er­ate — and a 60 per­cent surge in the prov­ince of Hel­mand, where the Tal­iban resur­gence has been strong­est.

Sui­cide bomb­ings rose to 140 in 2007, com­pared with five be­tween 2001 and 2005, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures. U.S. and other for­eign troop losses — as well as Afghan civil­ian ca­su­al­ties — reached the high­est level since the U.S.-led in­va­sion over­threw the Tal­iban gov­ern­ment in 2001.

Amid the ris­ing vi­o­lence, the Pen­tagon an­nounced this month that it would de­ploy 3,200 Marines to Afghanista­n to help counter the ex­pected Tal­iban of­fen­sive.

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