By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
KABUL, Afghanistan, July 11, 2006 – Violence in southern Afghanistan is caused not just by militant extremists, but also by regional issues such as a lack of governance, the U.S. general in charge of coalition troops in Afghanistan said today. The Afghan government has not traditionally had strength and presence in certain provinces in southern Afghanistan, so the Taliban can easily gain strength, Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, commander of Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, told reporters in Tajikistan before boarding a flight here with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
"It's not a question of the enemy being strong; it's very much a question, in many instances, of the institutions of the state of Afghanistan still moving slowly to stand up in governance and Afghan security forces," Eikenberry said. He noted that in southern Afghanistan, one can mark the beginning of the Taliban's influence where the roads end. The Afghan government and U.S. military have not previously operated in these areas, so now they are forced to be on the offensive against the already-rooted Taliban, he said.
"It's a combination of needing to push the government of Afghanistan forward, get permanent presence of good, credible Afghan National Army and police, and then reinforce that with construction efforts," Eikenberry said. Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan are very adaptive and have been using more improvised explosive devices, specifically targeting schools. These type of attacks show the true nature of the enemy, the general said.
"In an unrestrained way, outside the bonds of any kind of civility, they will attack what they look at as a target that will undermine the confidence of the Afghanistan people," he said. As troops with the NATO International Security Assistance Force transition into control of southern Afghanistan, the U.S. will continue to focus on developing the Afghan National Army and police, Eikenberry said.
Rumsfeld will discuss these efforts here while meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Cabinet, as well as U.S. military leaders. In a July 9 interview on his way to Central Asia, Rumsfeld said that a main purpose of his visit is to discuss with the leaders issues relating to the NATO transition