Afghanistan — Elders Could Fuel Stability in Kandahar, General Says

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2010 — Elders who fled Tal­iban intim­i­da­tion in Afghanistan’s Kan­da­har province have start­ed to return home and could be cat­a­lysts for last­ing sta­bil­i­ty, the com­man­der of NATO forces in south­ern Afghanistan said today.

The return­ing elders might begin to work in sup­port of their dis­trict gov­er­nors through com­mu­ni­ty coun­cils, Maj. Gen. Nick Carter of the British army, com­man­der of Region­al Com­mand South, told Pen­ta­gon reporters in a video tele­con­fer­ence.

“And with that,” he added, “you begin to pro­vide sta­bil­i­ty that is nec­es­sary for an endur­ing solu­tion.”

Kan­da­har City, the provin­cial cap­i­tal and spir­i­tu­al home of the Tal­iban, was dis­or­ga­nized before coali­tion oper­a­tions began in April, Carter said. The city’s 1,500 Afghan police offi­cers were not aligned with the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force, he explained, and a “mob rule” atmos­phere made the city vul­ner­a­ble to insur­gents.

“We’ve worked extreme­ly hard, first of all, to build the secu­ri­ty of the struc­ture, through which five com­pa­nies of U.S. [mil­i­tary police] are now work­ing in part­ner­ship with Afghan uni­formed police­men,” he said. At the same time, Carter said, he and his troops are attempt­ing to devel­op gov­er­nance at the munic­i­pal and provin­cial lev­els.

A secu­ri­ty ring that com­pris­es numer­ous police sta­tions and check­points on key routes into and out of the city were designed as bases to pro­tect the pop­u­la­tion in rur­al areas, the gen­er­al said. The design also pro­vides a “fil­ter,” Carter said, as insur­gents try to move in and out of the city.

Region­al Com­mand South also has focused atten­tion on the Pak­istan bor­der-cross­ing point of Wesh-Chaman and on try­ing to remove mid- and low-lev­el Tal­iban lead­ers from the bat­tle­field at night, Carter said.

“So a com­bi­na­tion of all of this is com­ing togeth­er now with the third phase,” he said, “which is pre­dom­i­nant­ly focused on the dis­tricts of Zari and Pan­jwayi to the west of Kan­da­har City.”

While still a work in progress, Carter said, the pic­ture of Kan­da­har is encour­ag­ing. The num­ber of Afghans who are return­ing to their com­mu­ni­ties and their abil­i­ty to “move freely” on roads in their dis­tricts is a mea­sure of suc­cess, he added.

But a tough road still lies ahead, Carter said, to get the Afghan peo­ple to take on dis­trict lead­er­ship and to join police and army forces. The peo­ple must take respon­si­bil­i­ty to make deci­sions, he said, to “under­pin what we’re doing here.”

With win­ter approach­ing – ene­my activ­i­ty his­tor­i­cal­ly has dimin­ished under the season’s harsh con­di­tions – the gen­er­al warned that the next few months may not be par­tic­u­lar­ly telling.

“I would tell you that you, in Afghanistan, have to be very care­ful about not mea­sur­ing progress until you match it to the appro­pri­ate sea­son and the appro­pri­ate time of year,” he said. “And I sense it won’t be until June next year that we’ll be sure that the advances we’ve made dur­ing the course of the last few months are gen­uine suc­cess.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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