- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The editorial regarding “Fissures on Afghanistan” (Wednesday) correctly warns that “So long as Pakistan remains a sanctuary for jihadists targeting Afghanistan, NATO’s progress in keeping the terrorists out will be limited.”

In addition, the ongoing peace negotiations between Pakistan and the Taliban in the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas have coincided with increased cross-border terrorist attacks in the south and east of Afghanistan, further undermining NATO’s stabilization efforts in the country.

For example, terrorist attacks have risen by more than 40 percent in eastern Afghanistan within the first five months of 2008 compared to the same period last year, and 36 of the 103 soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year have died since the beginning of this month.

This shouldn’t be much of a surprise, however. During similar Pakistan-Taliban peace negotiations in 2005 and 2006, Afghanistan saw a 300 percent increase in cross-border terrorist incidents.

At the August 2007 Afghanistan-Pakistan Regional Peace Jirga Conference in Kabul, President Pervez Musharraf admitted that the problem existed.

The government and people of Afghanistan strongly support the re-establishment of a civilian government in Pakistan and stand ready to collaborate closely with the new regime to address common security threats to our two nations.

However, Pakistan needs to craft an approach to its northwestern border that balances their internal security needs with their regional and international commitments to Afghanistan’s stability.

Peace in Pakistan simply cannot come at the expense of security in Afghanistan, both for international soldiers and Afghan civilians. Talibanization of Pakistan is not a problem that can be resolved by shifting it elsewhere through previously failed peace deals with terrorists - who can and must be defeated where they originate and find easy sanctuary.

At the same time, NATO is in need of bolstering its military strength in the fight against cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan. It would not take much in terms of additional troop deployments to make a big difference in Afghanistan. Just about two additional brigades, or about 7,500 troops, would provide a great boost to efforts to defeat the Taliban.

Ultimately, the key to securing Afghanistan will rest in the buildup of a professional Afghan army and police. To hasten the process, more military and police trainers are needed to build the Afghan national security forces to reach the targeted goals of 80,000 soldiers for the Afghan National Army (ANA) and 82,000 police for the Afghan National Police by the end of 2009.

Specifically, Afghanistan needs more than 70 Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams - each comprising 16 to 20 men - to train ANA units. The country also requires 2,300 police trainers, including force protection, to implement the district police development program currently under way.

Peace can hardly take hold in Pakistan without stability in Afghanistan and vice versa, nor can global peace be ensured without steady consolidation of Afghanistan’s democratic achievements during the past seven years. It is, therefore, in the best interest of all stakeholders to commit firmly to helping secure and rebuild Afghanistan.


Political counselor

Embassy of Afghanistan


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