HomeMEDIA RESOURCES2006 - Paris Session28 May 2006 - AFGHANISTAN POSES HUGE CHALLENGE TO NATO FORCES, PARLIAMENTARIANS HEAR [PRESS COMMUNIQUE]
28 May 2006 - AFGHANISTAN POSES HUGE CHALLENGE TO NATO FORCES, PARLIAMENTARIANS HEAR [PRESS COMMUNIQUE]
NATO’S operations in Afghanistan, the first test of Alliance operations outside Europe, are critical to the organization’s long-term security and success, NATO Parliamentarians were warned this weekend.
"Afghanistan is the most important theatre of operations. It is the litmus test for NATO's ability to act and follow up on what member states have promised. The Alliance has staked its credibility on the success of this mission," said a report presented to the Political Committee of the NATO-Parliamentary Assembly (NATO-PA).
The NATO-PA, which is holding its Spring Session in Paris, recently sent a team of seven members to the country. Led by Sven Mikser of Estonia, the group met with military commanders, President Hamid Karzai and representatives of international organizations working to improve conditions in Afghanistan.
The visit took place at a critical time as NATO is currently taking over control of operations in the south of the country, an area which has witnessed a resurgence of violence over the last year. In general, the NATO-PA delegation concluded that although much had been accomplished, a tremendous amount remained to be done.
The report, drawn up by Dutch member Bert Koenders and presented to the Assembly's Political committee on Saturday, stressed the situation throughout the country remained tense. "In some areas, particularly in the south of the country, it has even deteriorated," his report noted.
"Insurgents' attacks in the southern and eastern regions that border Pakistan led to the bloodiest summer since the fall of the Taliban. Moreover, terrorist activities, including suicide bombings that were previously unseen in Afghanistan, have increased significantly," the report continued.
Despite progress following historic parliamentary elections in September 2005 and the creation of a central government, both the NATO-PA mission and the Koenders report called for an increased commitment of resources to the country.
The Parliamentarians noted that the country was one of the poorest in the world on a par with much of sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, government revenue totaled some $330 million, less than 50 per cent of government expenses.
"The production and trafficking of opium and its derivatives continue to be the major challenge to Afghanistan's political and economic development and threatens regional stability," the report stated.
According to the US State Department, the opium trade is worth some $2.8 billion, one third of the country's gross domestic product. Afghanistan still produces around 90 per cent of the world's opium poppy supply and much of the crop is refined into heroin and morphine at drug laboratories inside the country and then smuggled through Pakistan.
"As in other post-conflict regions, in Afghanistan everything is linked. The reduction of poverty cannot be separated from combating the insurgency", the report said.