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News and Views

Afghanistan needs more foreign troops, says Kabul's US envoy

by Lalit K. Jha

Pahjwok Afghan News


Afghan Ambassador to the US Said Jawad has said American generals aware of the situation in his country estimate that an additional 5,000 international forces are required to handle the threat from terrorists.

The generals familiar with the situation, including General Dan McNeil, think there is a need for four more battalions in Afghanistan. This means about 5,000 extra troops, Jawad told Pajhwok Afghan News in an exclusive interview on Sunday [ 16 December].

The Ambassador recently had a series of meetings on the issue with top officials of the Bush administration including those in the Pentagon. Due to stepped-up Taleban and Al-Qa'idah activities in Afghanistan, there has been increasing realisation among NATO and US officials to send more troops to the war-torn country.

At one point in time, there was one suggestion to send some 20,000 additional troops to the country, but the idea could not gain ground. The number has now come down to a realistic figure of 5,000 troops. However, NATO and US officials are yet to formally announce the increase.

I think the current levels and capacity of security forces in Afghanistan, international and Afghan forces combined, are not enough to overcome the challenges that you are facing, remarked Jawad, who opined three things were needed to meet the challenge.

First, increase the number of international forces. Second improve the quality of the troop, he said. For instance, the ambassador said, remove some of the caveats so that the existing troops could be deployed all over the country easily. "Also make sure NATO provides its troops with more helicopters, MVs [military vehicles] and other combat enablers so that they can carry out their mission more effectively.

But the real long-term solution -- to the deal with the issue of limited ability of the security forces in confronting terrorist forces -- is to build the capacity of the national army and police force, he stressed.

Jawad continued: Such a thing is more sustainable. This is lot more sustainable. There is no shortage of courage and commitment in Afghanistan. It is matter of acquiring those skills. For instance, for the price of the deployment of one international soldier, you can train and sustain 80 Afghan national soldiers.

Jawad said Afghanistan also needed more trainers for its nascent security forces. The ratio now is one trainer for 100 cadets, while that ratio in Kosovo was one trainer for 10 cadets. We are short of about 2,800 trainers for police, most of whom are supposed to be coming from European countries.

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