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Afghan Popular Support Key to Defeating the Taliban

Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari discussed challenges to security and governance in Afghanistan in a presentation to the US Army 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky on November 15. He thanked the deploying forces and their families for serving their nation in Afghanistan where they were most welcome by the Afghan people to help stabilize their country for reconstruction. “Your greatest ally, your greatest strategic asset in the war against terrorists in Afghanistan are the Afghan people, who have suffered for too long and will embrace you as their friends and harbingers of peace and prosperity,” Haidari told the soldiers.

In addition to the importance of retaining popular support against defeating the Taliban, Haidari discussed the challenges facing governance and rule of law in Afghanistan and recommended that the international community focus on building institutional capacity.

“The Afghan people perceive you as their liberators, and their concern is not so much why international security forces are in Afghanistan but what if you leave them too quickly,” Haidari said. “Afghans want you there until our own forces stand on their feet and are able to defend Afghanistan against our common enemies.” He stressed the importance of making every effort to avoid civilian casualties, which the Taliban have exploited through an elaborate propaganda campaign.

Haidari recommended integrating the clear, hold, and build components of the U.S. and international military missions into an effective counter-insurgency strategy against the Taliban. “It is often the case that we are able to clear areas off the Taliban control and influence, but we lack the resources to stand up state institutions to hold and build those areas by delivering basic services, administering rule of law, and maintaining security there,” Haidari noted.  “The Taliban defeat would result as much from military gains against them as from strengthening Afghan state institutions.”    

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