The Wall Street Journal

30.03.2009
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The Wall Street Journal


NATO Can Do Better in Afghanistan
Now is no time to abandon the mission.

International efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and improve the lives of the Afghan people have fallen short of their targets. There is daily violence in the country and expectations continue to outpace achieved results. It is time for a policy shift. It is time for increased involvement.

We must first accept that so far the international community has not achieved results that match the significant sum of funds it has spent. We must also realize that Afghanistan and its surrounding region cannot be a secondary source of concern. We need to understand that this region is the new "powder keg" of the world and that the stakes are as high as they can be.

Therefore, it is encouraging to know that President Barack Obama understands these facts and has reviewed the United States' Afghanistan policy.

Not everything has gone awry. This year, Afghanistan will hold presidential elections. Next year, it will hold parliamentary elections, completing a transition to democracy. The Afghan people now have a right to universal suffrage.

However, more must be done. The Afghan National Army is composed of tough fighters, but it needs better equipment and training. I saw this first hand on a visit to the country. I saw two units. One was composed of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops; the other was composed of Afghans. What struck me was that the international soldiers had much better equipment.

One Afghan commander summed it up for me this way: "If anyone has to die for Afghanistan, it must not be the children of foreign nations. It must be our sons, and they are ready to do so. But they must be given a fair chance to be able to fight for their country. They must be properly armed and trained."

But more troops and more money alone will not be enough. The Afghan government needs military force to operate from a position of strength. But real improvement requires embracing every Afghan ready to work through peaceful means for the good of their country.

Political, diplomatic, economic, and social efforts must be increased and focused on consolidating national unity to bring about tangible improvement to people's lives. To have peace, we must win over the people.

There is a role here for the international community in enabling Afghan officials working to meet the basic needs of their people. Health care and education must both be top priorities. The country's civil service needs work. Its judiciary and police forces need to be strengthened. The people must come to believe that change is underway that will create a sense of normalcy for them.

We are doing our part. One thing I noticed in Kabul was unpaved roads. Where cars and trucks should have been able to drive unimpeded, people slogged through knee-deep mud. To fix this, Turkey is paving more than 60 miles of roads inside Kabul.

There is one more area of struggle, and it is the most difficult one. Extremist ideology in the region must be confronted. Education is the long-term remedy. The Afghans' desire for education is strong. What's needed is an international fund to support education in Afghanistan.

Turkey, which has cultural bonds with Afghanistan, could take the lead in creating such a fund. We have seen firsthand how much can be achieved with perseverance and hard work that does not alienate the people. Today, Turkey is involved in building and operating girls' schools where once girls could not walk on the streets.

Turkey, with its limited resources, is doing what it can to support Afghanistan. Since 2002, Turkey has assumed command of the ISAF twice. Turkey has also provided training, equipment and support to the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. To support Afghanistan, Turkey has launched its most comprehensive long-term assistance program in its history. And our commitment to reconstruction in Afghanistan is ongoing.

The international community cannot abandon the Afghan people at their time of difficulty. Rather than being mired in subjective discussions of hopelessness, we should draw the necessary lessons from the past and focus on helping the Afghan people build necessary institutions and find their own solutions to the problems they face.
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