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Working On The Afghan Build-up

  • February 21st, 2009
  • Posted by 7thmin

fitzgibbon-joel-google-abc3.jpgThis week’s meeting of NATO Defence Ministers at Krakow in Poland produced some limited extra support for the coming American troop build-up in Afghanistan.

The Australian forces will receive additional helicopter backing they have been wanting, from the United States … as pressure from the Taliban keeps mounting.


While partners of America in the North Atlantic alliance moved a little; Australia’s Defence Minister, Joel Fizgibbon (picture), said the Australian government had not yet received a request to increase its commitment.

He said while the thousand-strong Australian contingent was the largest non-NATO group in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, some of the European member states were the ones under direct pressure to contribute more.

‘I’m sure the United States is looking to NATO partners to do more rather than non-NATO partners, including Australia”, he told Radio Australia (20.2.09).

One hundred US helicopters are expected to be deployed in the Southern Oruzgan province where the main Australian force is based, with tasks including rapid movement of troops and medical evacuation.

In the lead-up to elections in  Afghanistan and with expanding activity by Taliban insurgents, the Minister said emphasis was being placed on building up Afghan national forces and reconstruction work.


The International Crisis Group has supported the call for more work on building up the Afghan forces including police; it has also highlighted the mounting strength of Taliban incursions, and described a need for much better strategic coordination on the allied side.

Mark L. Schneider, Senior Vice President of Crisis Group, outlined the organisation’s findings to a Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, at the US House of Representatives, 12.2.09.

“The UN Security Council reported in November 2008, 6,792 security incidents through the first ten months last year, compared to 508 in 2003,” he said.

“The UN also reported last September that some 12 districts were under the control of the Taliban and 90 at extreme risk — meaning that neither the government, the UN and the international donor community nor NGOs — has access for humanitarian or development projects.

“In fact, in December, the UN Security Council after traveling to Afghanistan reported that ‘Almost 40% of Afghanistan is either permanently or temporarily inaccessible to governmental and non-governmental aid.’

“We also have heard nearly every military commander, from General McKiernan to General Mullen to Secretary Gates pessimistically point to the trend lines moving in the wrong direction unless there are fundamental changes in policy.

“According to CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus, Afghanistan ‘has deteriorated markedly in the past two years,’ a result of worsening security, escalating corruption and high levels of opium trafficking.”

He said moves towards better application of massive funds dedicated to the Afghanistan campaign should help to overcome problems such as collapsing police capacity to uphold the rule of law.

“In our first report examining this issue in August 2007 we found almost total collapse of the national police, with a widespread culture of impunity, the police often a source of fear rather than security, and an absence of international agreement or  coordination of multiple training programs,” Mr Schneider said.

Citing other research he said that despite appropriations of $US6.2-billion (A$9.6-billion; none of the 433 police units were fully capable of stand-alone performance.

“Using that same test, the Pentagon reported at the end of 2008 that still only 18, most of them the Afghanistan National Civil Order (ANCOP) police units, were deemed fully capable.”

The Brussels-based Crisis Group describes itself as the pre-eminent non-partisan, non-governmental source of field-based analysis, policy advice and advocacy to governments, the United Nations, and other multilateral organizations on the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict.


The coming months will be decision-time for leaders of NATO, and for the alliance of countries taking part in the NATO-led intervention in Afghanistan.

The NATO Foreign Ministers will meet in Brussels (5.3.09) ahead of a summit of Heads of Government, at Strasbourg-Kehl, a month later (3-4.4.09).

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, is expected to go to the summit.


Defence Minister, Canberra. Minister for Defence meets with ISAF counterparts in Poland, Media Release, MIN17/09, 20.2.09

Mark Schneider, “Training and Equipping Afghan Security Forces: Unaccounted Weapons and Strategic Challenges”, International Crisis Group, Washington, 12.2.09., (21.2.09).

NATO, Brussels, Defence Ministers discuss key priorities in Afghanistan, 19.2.09. www.nato.intl, (21.2.09).