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Afghanistan Solution Requires International Commitment, General Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2007 – The solution in Afghanistan will not be military in nature, but will be possible with the cooperation and work of the international community, the former commander of U.S. European Command said here today.

“The good news about Afghanistan is that you’ve got about 60 countries that are doing something in Afghanistan. That’s an awful lot of potential that can be brought to good use,” Marine Gen. James L. Jones, who led EUCOM for four years while serving as NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, said in an interview.

About 37 countries are providing troops to assist in security operations in Afghanistan, but the violence there is not the country’s major problem, Jones said. Most of the violence is caused by crime and remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda that are often overestimated, he said.

The No. 1 problem in Afghanistan, which the international community has not done a good job dealing with, is narcotics, Jones said. “It’s preventing the legitimacy of the economic revival of Afghanistan,” he said. “It’s providing money for the insurgency; it’s contributing to the corruption of public officials and prevents the emergence of the new Afghanistan.”

In conjunction with dealing with the drug problem, the international community needs to focus on judicial reform in Afghanistan, Jones said. It would be pointless to crack down on drug lords if the country doesn’t have a legitimate justice system that the people have faith in, he said.

Afghanistan also needs work on the quality and quantity of its police forces, and the government needs to be more visible within the country, providing proof of its strength and the progress it is making, Jones said.

The international community also needs to figure out how to get Afghanistan and Pakistan to work together on solving problems at the border, Jones said. “There’s too much finger pointing; we need military-to-military strategy and effect in order to solve this problem,” he said.

Afghanistan presents several challenges for the U.S. and its international partners, Jones acknowledged, but said he remains optimistic that success there can be achieved and sustained with the right amount of outside help.

“It is hard work, but the Afghan people are ready for it, and they’ve convinced me that if they get the incentive and they can see progress, there’s no question as to which way they’re going to turn,” he said.

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