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Feb-13-2007 13:51printcomments

Defense Officials: Success in Afghanistan Important for Middle East

"The leadership of Afghanistan is committed to being an active partner in the global war on terror in the long term," ... Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry

U.S. Army CH-47 helicopter
Gunner keeps a watch over the terrain below as Afghan National Army soldiers are transported in a U.S. Army CH-47 helicopter in January '07
Photos by: Tim King

(WASHINGTON) - Afghanistan is an important country in the Middle East, and engagement in the region is crucial to U.S. and NATO success there, a top Defense Department leader said in congressional testimony today.

"It is important to remind ourselves that our involvement in Afghanistan should be viewed in a broader context, and not just simply our troop presence as a result of 9/11 and the place where the terrorists came from," Mary Beth Long, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international affairs, said before the House Armed Services Committee.

Long pointed out the important position Afghanistan occupies in the Middle East. It shares a long border with Pakistan, the world's largest Muslim nation, which has nuclear capabilities and ungoverned tribal areas. To the west is Iran, a growing regional power and nuclear aspirant that is involved in undermining U.S. efforts in Iraq. To the northeast is China and to the north are Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, all former Soviet republics struggling to become responsible international players.

Afghanistan is strategically placed in the middle of this neighborhood, astride trade routes and with access to important natural resources, Long said.

The nation is a traditional Muslim country where the people have committed themselves to a democratically elected government and where coalition forces are still welcome, she noted.

"While (Afghans) have the will, they need continued involvement," Long said. "They need our commitment, our expertise, and (the) assistance of the U.S. and the international community in order to succeed."

Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, commander of Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, said at the hearing that regional engagement is essential to U.S. and NATO success in that country. He noted the importance of Pakistan, which faces threats of extremism within its own borders while contributing to the global war on terror.

"As we work towards improving governance, economic development and security in Afghanistan, we must maintain and strengthen cooperative relations with Pakistan," Eikenberry said.

The significant near-term threat to success in Afghanistan is the insurgency, focused in the south, Eikenberry said. However, the longer-term threat is the loss of legitimacy of the government of Afghanistan. For that reason, non-military operations must be increased to rebuild civil society and empower the Afghan government, he said.

More than 32,000 Afghan national Army troops and 59,000 Afghan police have been trained and equipped to date, Eikenberry said. The fiscal 2007 supplemental budget request would permit the Afghan army to expand to the internationally agreed level of 70,000 and the national police to increase to 82,000 by the end of 2008, he said. The supplemental measure also would equip the army and police with the protection, firepower, weapons, enhanced training and mobility required to meet the insurgent threat.

According to a recent survey, almost 90 percent of the Afghan people consider reconstruction and economic development the most important requirement to improve their lives, Eikenberry said. To this end, the international community must provide more resources in the areas of governance, justice, counternarcotics and economic development, he said.

"The leadership of Afghanistan is committed to being an active partner in the global war on terror in the long term," Eikenberry said. "The Afghan people and their nation's leaders are absolutely worthy of our trust, our confidence and our support. It is in the United States' national interest to gain and keep a partner and a friend who we can count on in this critical region of the world."


Thanks to Sgt. Sara Wood of American Forces Press Service for this report.




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S.LaMarche; February 15, 2007 9:09 pm (Pacific time)

Mr. Johnson; how much is your kid worth? or mine? or the son or daughter of Ahmet Kazan?. This policy is killing and maiming people and we have no buisness supporting any of it.,Karzai or the Mujahadeen or the ANA or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or Kashmir or Iraq or Kuwait and the list is unbelievably long, and Manuel Noriega,(the one they deposed in Panama), is still doing time last I heard., and I for one find it unacceeptable anymore to offer my kids lives to keep the president in his job with his own legendary legacy of denial and fear, "war president" my ass, he's a coward and doesn't play by any rules but his own. To call him a bully is grossly overstated. A bully has to occaisionally defend his or her point of view. He has no point of view.


Henry Ruark February 15, 2007 9:16 am (Pacific time)

SLM: How could one write it better and stronger ? Perhaps by reference to our Constitutional remedy foreseen by Founders, after years of solid preparation via Federalist Papers...which says much for ongoing demo-dialog !


Matt Johnson February 13, 2007 7:48 pm (Pacific time)

Mr. Lamarche, I think the point of it is that there are bad guys in Afghanistan and the Iraq thing is bogus, so if more emphasis is placed on Afghanistan maybe the whole point of the war can have some semblance of justification. Having said that, I am going to go meet Jack and Leroy at the point and paddle into some clean blue barrels, nothing beats living in Malibu man. Just my two cents's worth.


S. LaMarche; February 13, 2007 6:20 pm (Pacific time)

this is the "big diverson", another "Iraq" lie neatly pesented to us an paid for by the blood of our people and the money taken out of our country!, the Afghanistan leadership is committed to nothing but maintaining it's own tenous existance., and thanking Allah, (Im not making this up!) for weapons and Humvees already given, that they will strip down for valuables and eventually park next to the Russian tank graveyard covered in earlier "dispatch". With all due dis-respect, if they think I'm naieve enough to believe this "supplimental budget" will be used to increase the ANA and the internal security police to nearly double in numbers by 2008.,I say their telling a lie. It's taken five years to "train" the forces they claim available today!., three hundred U.S. KIA's,! hundreds permanently wounded, mentally "finished" as far as "normal" siociety goes and a few Billion dollars already thrown into the mire. No! the Afghan people got to run their own show! we have extremism enough in the US White House and the People from New Orleans to New York City could put that "supplimental budget" to better use than General Eikenberry or president Karzai of union oil! Bring 'em home now! It's gone on too long already!

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