EU wants quick military victories in southern Afghanistan
The European Union (EU) has asked for quick military victories in southern Afghanistan coupled with improvement of governance at the local level and reconstruction assistance.
"It is not politically a good idea to have a long fighting season, not only now, but in the next year or two," EU's special representative in Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell told reporters in Brussels.
Civilian casualties, which are largely unavoidable in military operations, bear a political price, he explained. Even the killing of Taliban fighters in these operations may draw sympathies from the Pashtun population in the south, he said.
He said "Operation Medusa," which was aimed to establish government control over an area of Kandahar Province centered on the town of Panjwayi, had ended satisfactorily with full control of the region.
The victory in the battle does not mean victory in the war, he said. But through the operation, the Taliban have seen the capacity of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
Military victories should be followed up immediately by reconstruction assistance, he said.
"There has to be tangible and visible reconstruction efforts to provide more employment to the people."
The Taliban are able to recruit people not mainly due to ideological grounds, but to their promises of higher pay than the police and the army, he said.
Vendrell said he is concerned about the increase in suicide attacks, which were rare until a year ago.
Afghans were thought to be too proud to carry out suicide attacks. But now it can no longer be assumed to be the case, he said.
There has been an increase in suicide attacks because there is "an element of copycat from Iraq."
The suicide attacks caused numerous problems on the ground, particularly for the NGOs, he said. In the past weeks, there have been killings and kidnappings of NGO staff, both foreign and national.
He also expressed concern over narcotics in Afghanistan, which he described as "not a particularly optimistic chapter."
He said the idea of eliminating poppy crops is not a good one as narcotics provides employment for 2.9 million people in the country.
It is imperative to find alternative livelihood and to discipline officials who are involved, he said.
Vendrell asked Pakistan to assume more responsibility on the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf admitted in his recent visit to Afghanistan that the Taliban are crossing the border into Afghanistan from Pakistan.
Vendrell acknowledged that even with the best effort of the Pakistani army, Taliban infiltration would be unavoidable.
However, he appealed for every effort from the Pakistani army to ensure "a minimal amount of infiltration."
"We also feel that the Pakistani government ought to ensure that the Taliban leadership is not able to use Pakistani territory to engage in political activities."
Vendrell said there is no way of sealing off the Afghan- Pakistani border unless Musharraf's idea of mining the border or building a fence along it.
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