WASHINGTON, DC, June 16, 2008 -- The International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, in Afghanistan has faced mounting pressure from both inside and outside the country. Unrelenting attacks by Taliban insurgents and the operational inefficiencies of local governments in the country serve to undermine American efforts to confront terrorism and help reconstruct the country. How much closer is the US to its goals?
General Dan McNeill, the commander of ISAF, addressing Asia Society Washington as part of the Center’s Asia-Pacific Strategic Challenges Series, believes there have been positive and significant achievements despite the mixed reviews that NATO’s military operations in Afghanistan have received.
After 16 months in the field as the top NATO military commander in Afghanistan, General McNeill conceded that the long mountainous borders in the region mean that security is likely to remain problematic. Although it could be improved upon, General McNeill said that cooperation with Pakistan has been robust.
General McNeill suggested that ISAF forces should be taken out of the reconstruction effort and should instead focus on fighting the Taliban and the local insurgency, while helping local forces build up capacity to assume more responsibilities themselves. He said some progress had already been made with Afghan security forces, although he did concede that the Afghan government will have to confront many challenges before the country can become stable.
Asked by a member of the press about the upcoming election and how it would impact the democratization process, General McNeill responded that there are often risks in voting exercises in newly democratic nations. Local elections could generate conflict among various interest groups, he cautioned, but said it is a necessary process for the country to stabilize and develop, and the role of the military is simply to create the most conducive conditions for all parties involved.
Reported by Yun Sun, Asia Society Washington Center