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Afghanistan: New U.S. Report Warns Of Deteriorating International Support

(RFE/RL) An independent study to be released in Washington later today warns that Afghanistan is at risk of becoming a failed state because of deteriorating international support and growing militant violence there.

The study was a voluntary effort coordinated by the Center for the Study of the Presidency, a nonpartisan organization in Washington. It is a follow-on effort to the work of the Iraq Study Group -- a congressionally mandated panel and the first major bipartisan U.S. assessment of the Iraq war since the 2003 invasion.

The Afghanistan assessment was co-chaired by retired U.S. Marine Corps General James Jones and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Thomas Pickering.

Its warnings come a time when military and political officials from the United States and NATO are debating the distribution of war-fighting resources in Afghanistan and Iraq.

An advance copy of the Jones-Pickering assessment, obtained by AP, says progress achieved in Afghanistan during the last six years is under "serious threat" from resurgent militant violence, mounting regional challenges, and a weakening international resolve.

It says there is a growing lack of confidence on the part of the Afghan people about the future direction of their country.

The Jones-Pickering assessment also warns that the international community has not deployed enough military force or disbursed sufficient economic aid to Afghanistan.

Among some three dozen recommendations, the study calls for NATO to increase troop levels and military equipment to Afghanistan.

It recommends the appointment of a special envoy to coordinate all U.S. policy on Afghanistan. It calls for the U.S. management of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to be separated. And it urges the creation of a unified international strategy to stabilize security within five years.

Finally, the Jones-Pickering assessment recommends that Washington rethink its overall military and economic strategy in Afghanistan because of deteriorating support among voters in other NATO countries.

Calls For Increasing NATO Participation

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he agrees that more troops are now needed in Afghanistan. But he says they should not be U.S. soldiers.

Indeed, U.S. officials worked for months last year trying to get NATO allies to commit more troops to Afghanistan. But major alliance members such as Germany and France have restricted the way their forces can be deployed. They also have refused to significantly bolster the 10,000 NATO troops already deployed as part of the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force.

In December, NATO announced that it would send an additional 6,000 troops to southern Afghanistan to counter an expected Taliban spring offensive. At the same time, Washington said it wanted to withdraw about 4,000 U.S. troops from the same region.

But last week -- with other NATO countries still refusing to muster the additional troop numbers desired by the United States -- Washington confirmed that it would instead send an additional 3,200 U.S. Marines to Afghanistan's volatile border region near Pakistan.

Still, most NATO countries aren't abandoning their security commitments in Afghanistan outright. On January 29, the German legislature voted to extend the stay of German troops currently in Afghanistan.

"The only sustainable way to secure this country in an enduring way is to enable the Afghans themselves to be able to defend this country against all external and internal threats," Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said in welcoming the decision. "Having that in view, what we are expecting from all our friends and allies, especially the countries [with] which we enjoy the closest relations, like Germany, we are hoping that they shall assist us."

For his part, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview published on January 30 by the German newspaper "Die Welt" that he is not sure whether additional foreign troop deployments are the right answer for Afghanistan's security problems.

Karzai, in an apparent reference to militancy in neighboring Pakistan, said it is more important for international forces to concentrate on training camps and refuges outside of Afghanistan where terrorists have fled.

Karzai also said Afghanistan needs help to further expand its own security and legal institutions -- including the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police, the civil service, and the judiciary -- before the level of international troops in Afghanistan is reduced.

RFE/RL Afghanistan Report

RFE/RL Afghanistan Report

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