WASHINGTON, Mar 26 (APP): As
President Barack Obama prepared to lay out a revamped U.S. policy on way forward
in militancy‑hit Afghanistan‑Pakistan border region, his nominee for American
ambassador in Kabul, Lt Gen Karl Eikenberry, favored economic and military
support for Islamabad as part of a regional security effort.
Appearing before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing, Eikenberry said
success against militants along the porous mountainous border region “is
in America’s vital national security interest.”
He said al‑Qaeda and its
affiliates “seek to create fear and chaos in Afghanistan and Pakistan in
order to regain the territorial control that (in Afghanistan) allowed them
to so horrifically overturn the peace and tranquility of our Homeland seven
years ago (with 9/11 attacks).”
Asked by chairman of the
committee Senator John Kerry as to what steps he would recommend to immediately
make a difference in the security and stability efforts along the border region,
Eikenberry, who has been engaged with the Afghan mission from NATO headquarters
in Brussels, replied:
“Trying to get immediate gains
is very difficult in Afghanistan‑Pakistan but what will be important is a more
honest collaborative exchanges of intelligence and willingness to conduct
combined operations between the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“Secondly, focused aid and
assistance programs to the Pakistan military that can give them capability and
the wherewithal to attack al‑Qaeda and the extremists that are along the border
areas in the northwest frontier province.
“And thirdly, helping the
Pakistanis to develop (economic) aid programs which just as you have talked on
the Afghan side of the border, (it is) important that the Pakistani authorities
adopt the same approach on their own side of the border and perhaps finding ways
to collaborate between Afghanistan and Pakistan they have combined economic
programs that will be win‑win across the border.”
Questioned by a lawmaker about
India’s role in Afghanistan and its implications in the context of
India‑Pakistan historical tensions, Eikenberry said India has played a role in
economic development efforts in the insurgency‑wrecked country.
At the same time, he noted that
“Pakistan and India have had, of course, a very difficult relationship at times,
which is over the years, which has seen points of severe tension and points of
“(But) what is critical is that
within the region facilitated by the United States to the extent that we can and
we can try, and facilitated by other critical nations, that we find ways to have
cooperative approaches made toward Afghanistan (so) that it does not become a
location of competition (but) it becomes a location for cooperation.”
He claimed that al‑Qaeda and
its allies operating in Afghanistan and the Pakistani border areas are planning
attacks against the United States and Pakistan itself.
Zeroing in on problems inside
Afghanistan he acknowledged that “the situation in Afghanistan is increasingly
“Time is of the essence. There
are areas of instability and poor governance inside the country and threatening
dangerous terrorist sanctuaries beyond its borders. Within these spaces,
extremists try to exploit the weakness of the existing political system to
impose their own vision of social order characterized by brutality and
barbarism. There is no silver bullet and no quick, cheap, or easy solutions.
There is no substitute for more resources and sacrifice.”
The United States, its
international partners, and most importantly, the Afghans, must work to reduce
corruption and strengthen the rule of law, he added.
“Without real progress on these
issues, success will be very difficult to achieve. We need to expand training
and education for Afghan judicial and law enforcement officials who are
dedicated to serving their people’s access to justice and protection.
“Today’s sobering reality is
that Afghanistan supplies more than 90 percent of the world’s illicit opiates.
The corrupting effect of drugs and the steady revenue stream provided by the
narcotics trade fuel the insurgency and are a scourge, eroding Afghan
aspirations for security, government probity, and economic development. We must
acknowledge that the drug trade also affects Afghanistan’s neighbors, who suffer
from high rates of addiction and narco‑trafficking associated crime and
violence. Accordingly, a coordinated and cooperative regional approach is
essential to counter this growing threat.”