Accessibility links

Breaking News

U.S. Defense Official Says Engagement Key To Winning War On Terror

U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman
PRAGUE -- In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman has detailed the Pentagon's concerns in the war on terrorism.

Edelman said that when military planners on Afghanistan speak about learning lessons from Iraq, it does not mean that a surge in troop numbers alone will improve security in Afghanistan. Rather, he says, Iraq has shown that "tribal engagement and local accommodation" will be part of the solution in Afghanistan.

Read the full interview transcript here
But with key differences between Iraq and Afghansitan, Edelman says, Pentagon planners are still trying to figure out exactly how to apply those lessons properly.

Addressing the fight against militants in Pakistan, Edelman said that Islamabad has been more cooperative with U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan since President Asif Ali Zardari came to power, and since senior generals in Pakistan's army and intelligence services have been replaced.

According to Edelman, U.S. military strategists came to the conclusion long ago that military force alone cannot defeat Taliban militants in Afghanistan and in Pakistan's tribal regions.

He says the rule of thumb is that 80 percent of counterinsurgency efforts should be civilian activity -- comprising economic, social, and political development -- as opposed to military assaults and air strikes. Edelman admitted that U.S.-led coalition forces have not yet reached that goal, but said that security still must be established before many civilian reconstruction programs can be implemented.

Edelman also said that the international financial crisis is putting enormous economic pressure on Pakistan's government and its ability to fight militants. He said that Washington has recommended that Islamabad get involved in an International Monetary Fund program to ensure that the country's economy can weather the financial crisis and still fight terrorism.

Edelman also said U.S. military officials have obtained 'episodic evidence' in recent months that elements within Iran's government are linked to smugglers who have been delivering weapons to Taliban fighters in western Afghanistan.