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Political Counselor Haidari Speaks to US Forces Going to Afghanistan

Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari spoke to the commanding officers of the 4th Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army at Ft. Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, on January 20, 2009. Preparing for their deployment to eastern Afghanistan, Haidari briefed the forces on the challenges to security, governance, and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

He noted that governance, security, and development were closely interconnected in the Afghan context, and that progress in one area would depend on and affect others over time. But he pointed out that progress in the three key sectors had been very inconsistent and lagging over the past eight years. Thus, the net impact of weak strategic coordination of aid implementation across the three key sectors has increasingly contributed to insecurity in Afghanistan, Haidari added. He expressed hope that some of the ongoing strategic reviews of Afghanistan were seriously studying the interconnections and provided for effective solutions that could address the combined challenges facing Afghanistan.

Despite daily reports of violence and terrorist attacks by the Taliban, Haidari reminded the forces that many parts of Afghanistan remained stable for rebuilding and expanding the reach of state institutions. "The Taliban have been able to expand their influence in the south and east where it is very important to focus our efforts, but we should not neglect the stability of the rest of the country," Haidari said. Breaking the cycle of increased violence requires not only additional boots on the ground but also an effective strategy to link up and balance military and non-military peace-building efforts across the country, he added. In addition, Haidari highlighted the regional dimension of insecurity in Afghanistan, and called for a coherent long-term strategy to address it. "Without closing down the Taliban's sanctuaries in Pakistan and drying up their sources of support in the country, we can hardly end hit and run terrorist attacks in Afghanistan's rough terrain and vulnerable human environment," Haidari noted.

Moreover, Haidari emphasized the importance of local institutional capacity building such that international civil and military actors would gradually work themselves out of their mission by handing it over to Afghans to carry on their own. "Overnight Afghanization is impossible to achieve, but overtime Afghanization must become the mission henceforth if we are to enable the Afghan people to stand on their own to run and defend their country for the long haul," Haidari noted.

Haidari also stressed the significance of popular support for international presence in Afghanistan. "The Afghan people continue to be our only strategic asset and weapon against terrorism and extremism in the region. It is with their support that we can sooner or later defeat the Taliban and their ideology of hatred," Haidari pointed out. However, he cautioned that increased civilian casualties in conflicts could boost the Taliban's hard efforts to create a cause for their insurgency, which they had so far lacked in Afghanistan. Hence, it was important for all military contingents in Afghanistan to deny the Taliban the support they are desperately seeking to gain from civilian casualties. The best way to minimize and prevent civilian casualties is to coordinate with Afghan security authorities from the conception of operational planning to the execution and after action assessments to avoid miscommunication and misinformation or disinformation which is partly to blame for civilian casualties.

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