NATO, West urged to support Afghanistan for the long haul
The Hague, 22 November 2014 – NATO and the West are at a critical crossroads in Afghanistan and must support the insurgency-hit country’s government, justice system and security forces long-term after international troops end their mission in a few weeks, parliamentarians warned Saturday.
“To preserve the substantial gains made in Afghanistan so far, the international community must stay engaged in Afghanistan beyond the conclusion” of the International Security Assistance force mission, Portuguese deputy Julio Miranda Calha told the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
ISAF has been helping to spread the influence of the central government and build up the army since 2003 but most of those forces, the bulk of which are US troops, will leave by the end of 2014. Some 12,000 soldiers are expected to remain until at least 2016 in the follow-up training and mentoring mission, Operation Resolute Support.
Calha told the assembly’s Defence and Security Committee that the Afghan security forces need help to fill critical capability gaps in air support, intelligence collection, logistics and medical evacuation and have suffered more casualties to Taliban-led insurgents this year than ever before.
Afghan deputy Khalid Pashtoon lamented the shortage of good equipment. He also warned that insurgent groups, including members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, are crossing the border from Pakistan, and he urged help to find alternative livelihoods for Afghans growing opium.
In a report adopted by the NATO PA’s Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security, German lawmaker Ulla Schmidt also argued that the gains of recent years should not be taken for granted and that more support is needed for rule of law, fight against corruption and the protection of human rights, particularly those of women.
“The international community has a direct stake in the consolidation of a stable, democratic and inclusive system of governance in Afghanistan. This is to avoid the risk of the country becoming once again a source of instability for the region and beyond,” she told committee members at the NATO PA’s three-day Annual Session in The Hague.
She praised President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah for their statesmanship and for agreeing to form a national unity government. Schmidt also called on Afghan politicians, especially the camps of the two former presidential candidates, to preserve this unity and work together to confront the challenges Afghanistan faces, as well as to make Constitutional changes to define clearly the division of competences between the President and the Chief Executive.
She underlined that a lot remains to be done to improve electoral laws, institutions and practices, particularly as parliamentary elections are due next year.
The NATO PA is expected to adopt on Monday a resolution urging the governments of countries taking part in ISAF to continue their support so that Operation Resolute Support can start on time on January 1, and commit to long-term backing of the Afghan security forces.