Quick English Translation | L’Original, en français
NouvelObs.com | By Adam Entous and David Brunnstrom | 11 June 2010
“Success is not assured” in Afghanistan, NATO admitsBRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO’s efforts to marginalize the Taliban guerrillas and helping the Kabul government to impose its authority has made “measured progress,” but the defense ministers of the Atlantic Alliance find that “significant challenges remain, and success is not assured.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the 122,000 foreign troops deployed in Afghanistan, have recognized the precariousness of the actions of the Alliance, but hoped to be able to report concrete progress in the six crucial months ahead.
“Nobody will deny that the signs of progress are tentative at this stage and that they are almost anecdotal. The benefits will not come quickly or without a high price,” said Robert Gates to the press, adding that his colleagues in NATO were also aware that “the road would be long and hard.”
NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen for his part acknowledged that the Taliban are providing “fierce resistance” to NATO in their provincial strongholds in Helmand and Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.
According to the former Danish Prime Minister, the Alliance must further accelerate its efforts to train the Afghan army in order to be able to start handing over the responsibility for security to them by the end of the year.
SIX MONTHS “VITAL”
“Many difficult days still lie ahead, but a sovereign and stable Afghanistan will mean a safer world and we will do whatever is necessary and as long as necessary for this to happen,” he said.
These assessments are tinged with pessimism after a week that saw NATO forces suffer extraordinary losses, 18 fatalities. Their leader, General McChrystal, admitted they need more time than expected for the new offensive that he is preparing in the province of Kandahar.
“General McChrystal told ministers he had confidence in being able to report progress in the South and the rest of the country, as well as the success of his strategy by the end of the year,” said Robert Gates.
Last year U.S. President Barack Obama provided a reinforcement of 30,000 men to McChrystal, on the condition that he would show a visible reversal of trend by the end of 2010, in order to allow him to consider in mid-2011 an early withdrawal of the “boys”.
Robert Gates acknowledged that, without noticeable results in the deadline, public support in the United States and other NATO countries will erode. Britain has also said that the next six months would be “vital.”
The new Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron has ruled out sending more troops in addition to the 9,500 British soldiers already deployed and said that they should not stay in Afghanistan “a day longer” than necessary.
The British require demonstration of progress in Afghanistan and prospects of return for their soldiers, he warned on Thursday, during his first visit to Afghanistan as prime minister.
Marc Delteil for the French service, edited by Gilles Trequesser
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