By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 13, 2007 – The international community, represented by NATO, must increase efforts to improve security in Afghanistan and develop the Afghan government and security forces, a top military leader and a Defense Department leader said in congressional testimony today. Speaking at the House Armed Services Committee, Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, commander of Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, and Mary Beth Long, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international affairs, both said that while NATO has made a lot of progress in Afghanistan, much remains to be done.
Since beginning its contribution to the mission in Afghanistan, NATO involvement has grown considerably, Eikenberry noted. NATO's International Security Assistance Force now has responsibility for the entire country, and consists of 36,000 personnel from 37 nations.
"The Afghan operation has now grown into what is clearly the most ambitious in the alliance's 57-year-old history," he said.
For all the progress made, though, the United States still contributes the majority of combat forces and critical capabilities to ISAF, Eikenberry said. NATO countries must do more to fulfill their commitments to provide sufficient forces and capabilities to the mission, and increase their level of support to the training and equipping of the Afghan national security forces, he said.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates just concluded a trip to Seville, Spain, to meet with NATO partners. There, Long said, he asked the allied countries to fulfill the commitments they have made to Afghanistan.
"As Secretary Gates indicated recently in Seville, allies who have made a commitment should fulfill that commitment," she said. "We remind ourselves that NATO is, indeed, a military organization, and while all share in the financial burden, all must also share in the risks."
NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, Army Gen. John Craddock, recently submitted to the alliance a revised statement of military requirements, Long said. Several countries, such as Poland, Turkey, and the Czech Republic, have made generous preliminary offers for new resources, and several countries have pledged to reduce restrictions on their forces, which now limit many operations, she said.
The United States, as part of NATO, has recently committed to do more in Afghanistan, Long said. Included in the administration's fiscal 2007 global war on terror emergency supplemental funding request is $5.9 billion to enhance Afghan security forces; another $2.7 billion is included in the fiscal 2008 global war on terror budget request.
"This is for urgently needed equipment for the Afghan police and the Afghan National Army," Long said. "This equipment includes things like advanced first aid, better weapons, assault rifles, helmets and personal security equipment."
DoD has also extended troops in Afghanistan to help prepare for an expected Taliban offensive in the spring, Long said.
Most of the NATO forces in Afghanistan are in the eastern and southern regions, which are the most violent, Eikenberry said. Many of these forces have national restrictions imposed upon them, however, which limit their operations or their movement throughout the country.
NATO forces have significant shortfalls, particularly in the areas of military intelligence and fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, Eikenberry said. However, the progress NATO has made since assuming the mission in 2003 cannot be ignored, he said.
In October 2006, NATO forces took over the entire mission in Afghanistan, and now are engaged in an active counterinsurgency fight for the first time in the alliance's history.
"They have to adapt and grow faster and more into this mission," he said.
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