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Weak Afghan army raises doubts over readiness
‘I don’t think we are capable of fixing it fast enough by 2014’
Over the weekend, the Taliban launched an offensive, which included suicide bombers, in the southern province of Kandahar. U.S. officials said the attack was the start of the terrorists spring offensive.
Mr. Hakimi said he expects the Taliban to try to regain areas lost to Afghan and coalition forces last winter.
“We’d be stunned if they didn’t try,” he said.
Afghan security forces have been working jointly with U.S. troops to counter the Taliban offensive in Kandahar. Mr. Hakimi credited them with preventing the Talibans offensive from becoming the spectacular attack the terrorists had planned.
However, a Western diplomat, who spoke on background, cautioned that the overall gains in Afghanistan could be reversed.
“It is therefore crucial … particularly during the traditional summer fighting season, to continue to put pressure on the insurgency and extend the reach of the Afghan government,” he said.
Kandahar province is governed by Mr. Karzais brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who is frequently the target of corruption allegations.
Shahmahmood Miakhel, a former deputy minister of interior in the Karzai administration, said the Taliban owes its continuing influence to the lack of good government in Afghanistan.
“The Taliban’s physical power has been degraded, but its influence has not been reduced due to an absence of police and government structures,” said Mr. Miakhel, who heads the U.S. Institute of Peaces Afghanistan program.
David Kilcullen, author of “The Accidental Guerrilla” and a counterterrorism specialist who has worked in Afghanistan, said the Karzai administration must focus on improving its legitimacy through reform and rule of law.
“Unfortunately, this is something only Afghans can do. We can help, but they have to want it, too,” he added.
“No amount of know-how or enthusiasm on the part of outsiders can compensate for lack of will on the part of relevant officials.”
The Pentagon leads U.S. efforts to train and equip the Afghan army. Since 2002, U.S. agencies have allocated about $20 billion in support of this effort and sought $7.5 billion more for fiscal 2011.
A key question on the minds of Afghan officials and analysts is whether the international community will be willing to sustain its financial investment in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
“After 2014, the Afghan army will still need technical and financial support. The big question is whether international support can be maintained for the next five to 10 years,” said Mr. Miakhel.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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