Eyewash to placate the Afghan leadership as a major offensive in Kandahar kicks off?
Flashback: Canadian Afghan withdrawal could pass through Pakistan | Full Afghan withdrawal ‘wrong,’ top Tory says | U.S. to press for Canada to keep troops in Afghanistan | No way to escape Afghan combat post-2011, Hillier says | Troops get non-combat role in Afghanistan after 2011 | Conservatives claim ‘no decision’ made on leaving some troops in Afghanistan past 2011 | ‘Some’ Troops to stay in Afghanistan past 2011: McKay
The Associated Press
April 23, 2010
Details on schedule vague, training still needed
NATO agreed Friday to begin handing more control of Afghanistan to the Afghan government this year, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says.
But the accord appeared short on details and timelines, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned of a rocky road ahead in a country beset with a resilient insurgency, limited resources and a weak, sometimes dysfunctional central government.
Canada plans on ending its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2011, and U.S. President Barack Obama has said he wants to start pulling troops out of the country by July 2011.
Clinton said she was pleased with progress toward eliminating the shortage of allied trainers for the Afghan army and police. She offered a generally sunny outlook and said the government of much-criticized President Hamid Karzai gets too little credit for progress in building a viable democracy.
“We believe that with sufficient attention, training and mentoring, the Afghans themselves are perfectly capable of defending themselves against insurgents,” she told a news conference at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallinn, Estonia.
“Does that mean it will be smooth sailing? I don’t think so. Look at Iraq.”
NATO is still about 450 people short of its target for a training contingent to assist the Afghan security forces, and while that gap apparently was not filled during Friday’s session, Clinton said she was not discouraged.
“We have a relatively small gap that we’re still working to fill. I’m very convinced we’ll get that filled,” she said, adding: “For me, the glass is way more than half full.”
Earlier this month, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Canada is sending 90 additional troops to Afghanistan to help train local police and the national army.
Mark Sedwill, the senior NATO civilian representative in Afghanistan, told reporters Friday that the Tallinn meeting’s agreement on starting a transition to Afghan control this year will require endorsement by the Afghan government. That is supposed to happen at a July conference in Kabul.
The next step would be an announcement at a NATO summit meeting in November of the first provinces targeted for transition to Afghan control, Sedwill said.
Aim ‘to take the initiative’
Fogh Rasmussen said the 28-nation alliance is on track with its new strategy for winding down the war in Afghanistan, despite security setbacks and a continuing shortage of foreign trainers for the fledgling Afghan police and army.
“Our aims in 2010 are clear: to take the initiative against the insurgents, to help the Afghan government exercise its sovereignty, and to start handing over responsibility for Afghanistan to the Afghans this year,” he said.
He said the NATO foreign ministers agreed on what it will take to create conditions enabling Afghans to assume control of their country. He was not specific about what those conditions would be, but said progress is important to avoid further erosion of public support for the war effort.
“Where it occurs, the transition must be not just sustainable but irreversible,” Fogh Rasmussen told reporters at the conclusion of the two-day meeting.
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