American Forces Press Service
March 5, 2009 - NATO's top military officer noted improving relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan yesterday, and he expressed the hope for continued progress. U.S. Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, met with Pakistani journalists here to answer questions about the future and scope of NATO operations in the Pakistan and Afghanistan region.
Craddock said how increased collaboration among NATO forces and those of Pakistan and Afghanistan has helped NATO's International Security Assistance Force gain situational awareness for controlling Afghan borders.
"In recent months, there has been a warming of relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan," Craddock said. "These are good trends, and I hope they continue."
ISAF is working in a politically and militarily complex environment to quell the ongoing Taliban insurgency while building a capable Afghan security force, Craddock said. But while improvements have been made and cooperation has increased, he acknowledged, much remains to be done to complete the mission.
"We have to improve cooperation and push hard not just for military tripartite meetings, but political tripartite meetings which could also be helpful," he said.
A key concern is discouraging insurgents from seeking "safe haven" within Pakistan, Craddock told the group. Consistent Pakistan border enforcement is paramount for creating regional stability along the "long and difficult" Afghanistan border, he emphasized.
The general noted a renewed emphasis and increased presence of Pakistan forces along the border in recent months. "I would hope, ask, request that this be sustained over time," he said.
When asked how long NATO would stay in Afghanistan, Craddock replied, "Not one day longer than needed." While projections range, he said, the Afghan army expects to have a full complement by the end of 2011, and an Afghan police force likely is another three to five years behind that.
"The key here is a confident, capable and trustworthy Afghan national security force, including army and police," Craddock explained. "My No. 1 priority as NATO commander is to generate training capability for the army ... and see the ability of the Afghan security force to secure its own country."
The Pakistani journalists spent the day touring Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and participating in roundtable discussions and meetings with SHAPE staff members.
(From a Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe news release.)