NATO SecGen urges US to stick to current Afghan strategy

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, May 24, 2011.

From James Blitz, the Financial Times:  The US must stick to its broad counter insurgency strategy in Afghanistan and reject calls for a narrower focus under which Washington would significantly reduce troop numbers, Nato’s senior diplomat has warned.

In the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden, some US politicians have argued that Washington should move to a counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan.

This would see the US reduce its 100,000 troops on the ground, leaving a smaller contingent to target Taliban fighters.

But in an interview with the Financial Times, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato’s secretary-general, said such a move would be a mistake.

He argued that the US led mission had to ensure that Afghan forces were in a strong position when they took over security from 2014. Maintaining the counter insurgency approach – which involves large numbers of Nato troops operating among communities – would ensure that Afghan government bodies could fully develop, he said.

“We don’t want to leave a security vacuum in the country after we have gone,” Mr Fogh Rasmussen said in Kabul, after meetings with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and government officials. “We must make sure Afghan society is well equipped to be inhospitable for terrorists and that we have developed strong governmental structures. We must maintain the broad counter-insurgency strategy to fulfil that, and I feel sure the US will stick to that policy.”

Mr Fogh Rasmussen’s call came as the US debated the scale of its planned reduction of troops. The expectation in Washington was that Barack Obama, US president, would announce a limited troop withdrawal beginning in July, with the possibility of bigger reductions next year.  (photo: AP)

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