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Afghans Eyeing NATO Military Performance: Diplomats
Paul Eckert
Reuters, Defense News
07/07/2006

The next few months in which NATO troops take over in Afghanistan from U.S.-led forces will be a crucial test of the alliance in the eyes of the Afghan people, Kabul’s envoy in Washington said on July 6.

Ambassador Said Jawad and Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Spanta also said that the Afghan military and police forces that will work with NATO needed more recruits, better equipment and higher salaries.

"The serious threat to humanity, to the Western world, to the United States right now is terrorism, so Afghanistan is a mission that NATO cannot fail," Jawad said.
Amid the bloodiest violence since U.S.-led forces toppled the hard-line Islamist Taliban government in 2001, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is preparing to move into the southern heartland of the Taliban.

The deployment will allow the United States to pull out about 3,000 of its 23,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Jawad said NATO’s political commitment was strong but that the Western military alliance will have to prove itself to Afghans, whose weak loyalty to Kabul needs to be bolstered by better security and improved government services.

"Ordinary Afghans still have some doubt about NATO capabilities and that doubt will be removed once they see NATO in action and they see that NATO is as capable as the United States to carry out this mission," he told reporters.

Jawad said his government was grateful for the July 3 announcement that the United States would give $2 billion worth of military weapons and vehicles to modernize Afghanistan’s fledgling national army.

But he said Kabul still needed "immediate resources to enhance the capability of the Afghan police force and also the capacity of the Afghan government to deliver services," saying the funds could be drawn from money already pledged that has not been disbursed.

Foreign Minister Spanta, on his first visit to Washington since taking office in April, said the Afghanistan army needed three to four times the number of troops, modern equipment and increased mobility to exercise "security power to realize the rule of law in all corners of Afghanistan."

He said Afghan security forces in the south were outnumbered and outgunned by the Taliban and foreign Islamic fighters, including Pakistanis, Arabs and Chechens.

"We have enough soldiers in Afghanistan from the international community, in the form of NATO soldiers and also coalition soldiers. The weakness is in Afghan security and defense power," Spanta said.

 

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