14 November 2006, Québec, Canada - NATO’S AFGHANISTAN MISSION IS IN TROUBLE [PRESS COMMUNIQUÉ]
A senior European parliamentarian warned today (Tuesday) that NATO’s mission in Afghanistan could end in failure unless member states honoured commitments they had already made to ensure its success.
Mr Bert Koenders, a member of the Dutch parliament, told a meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO-PA) the mission was in trouble but could still be saved.
"The overall security situation has deteriorated significantly. Insurgents' attacks in the southern and eastern regions that border Pakistan led this summer to be the bloodiest since the fall of the Taliban," he told a meeting of the NATO-PA's Political Committee.
"Moreover terrorist activities including suicide bombings which were previously unseen in Afghanistan have increased significantly," he added. He noted that 3,700 people had been killed since January 2006 and that although many of these were insurgents the "frequency of terrorist attacks had increased four fold".
Mr Koenders, one of the NATO-PA's four Vice-Presidents, called for all NATO countries to meet in full all promised force contributions and to make greater efforts to win "hearts and minds" with priority projects in the areas of irrigation, roads and energy supplies.
Presenting a report to the committee entitled "Afghanistan and the Future of the Alliance", Mr Koenders concluded that the mission "is at a critical stage. The Alliance can and must succeed. If we do not, we would seriously fail the people of Afghanistan and undermine our unity of purpose."
Mr Koenders drew attention to the production and trafficking of opium in the country which he said was a major concern and a threat to regional stability. His report stated that this year the opium harvest would reach some 6,100 tons, a record high representing an increase of 59 percent over the previous year.
"Afghanistan's 2006 harvest will be 92 percent of the total world supply. Around the country, the number of people involved in opium production increased by almost a third in 2006 to 2.9 million, representing some 12.6 percent of the total population," the report detailed.
Afghanistan dominated the opening day of the NATO-PA's annual session in Québec City which lasts until November 17. The issue is expected to dominate a summit of NATO Heads of State and Government in Riga, Latvia on November 28-29.
Ambassador Robert Hunter, a former US envoy to NATO and currently Senior Advisor at the Rand Corporation, later told the same committee that the alliance had gambled its future on Afghanistan and could not afford to fail. "This mission has to succeed," he declared.