Top NATO Civilian: Expect Security Transfers in Afghanistan This Year
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary-general of the NATO alliance, told an audience at Georgetown University today that “this year” the alliance’s military command in Afghanistan “will be able to start transferring security responsibilities to the Afghans themselves” — well ahead of President Obama’s “strategic inflection point” of handovers beginning in July 2011.
Asked about that rosy assessment by TWI, Rasmussen reiterated his confidence in his earlier timeline, but said he would not be able to tell which Afghan provinces and districts would be realistic candidates for security transfer until the “second half of 2010.” But “within a very few weeks,” Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Amb. Mark Sedwill — NATO’s new civilian representative in Afghanistan — and the Afghan government will complete a set of criteria to determine when an area is ready for transference. Those criteria include “military and security aspects as well as civilian aspects,” Rasmussen said, adding that he anticipated “a transparent process” leading to public disclosure of the handover criteria. “I would expect this process of transition to start already this year,” Rasmussen emphasized, “so I would expect the first provinces to be handed over this year.”
The secretary general sounded other optimistic notes in his remarks, though, calling the Marja operation in Helmand province so far a “great success,” pledging that “we also see the implementation now in practice of the new civilian strategy” wherein “as soon as a district is liberated and cleared we provide governance, provide development assistance, make sure people in the local communities will be provided a better livelihood.” The NATO command in Afghanistan just this morning conceded that getting development aid into Marja was “progressing slowly due to ongoing resistance by the insurgents.”
For good measure, he denied that the collapse of the Dutch government had as much to do with NATO’s request to extend the Dutch troop presence in Afghanistan as was widely reported. “I don’t think what has happened in the Netherlands will have any impact on the situation in other countries,” Rasmussen said, although the Netherlands is hardly the only country where prolonged military deployments to Afghanistan are politically controversial. “It is the result of a unique political situation in the Netherlands and if there is a lesson learned I think other governments will not want to come to the same situation.”