- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 11, 2003

NATO’s recent announcement that it plans to expand its peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan beyond Kabul may not send terrorists running for foxholes, but it does mean that more schools, hospitals and roads will probably be built and more conflict deterred. Although the decision doesn’t represent a radical increase in the alliance’s involvement, it does demonstrate that the alliance’s tactical thinking is sound on Afghanistan and that moderate resources are being wisely used.

The NATO decision on Afghanistan, announced last week at the alliance’s meeting in Colorado Springs, would entail limited peacekeeping deployments outside of Kabul and the creation of new provincial reconstruction teams, which give military cover to aid and other workers on infrastructure projects. The NATO agreement still has to be approved by the U.N. Security Council, but U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, currently the council’s president, said he expected the council to approve a NATO resolution this month. The NATO mission will be kept separate from U.S.-led terrorist-hunting efforts in southern and eastern Afghanistan. Germany’s cabinet agreed recently to sending up to 450 soldiers to Kunduz province.

This is just the right approach for Afghanistan. Outside the confines of Kabul, violence continues to be part of the daily diet for many. Since the start of August, more than 300 people have been killed. However, stability in Afghanistan through centralized rule can’t be established without a massive deployment of troops that NATO countries don’t have available.

NATO troops work with tribal chieftains in Afghanistan, and they establish the presence of a working state province-by-province. Some observers of Afghanistan maintain that special-forces and other military personnel have a much better understanding of the country than diplomats and aid workers.

At the meeting in Colorado, NATO defense ministers appeared a coordinated group, and tested the agility of a new and evolving rapid-reaction force that the United States had long wanted to see functional. Working together in Afghanistan can only improve the alliance’s cohesion.

News on Thursday that major tribal factions had declared a cease-fire is certainly a good sign. NATO’s decision to extend its role on localized levels could help create more cease- fires and, someday, peace.

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