Improved tribal relations could aid NATO in Afghanistan: General
AFP - Sunday, November 2
OTTAWA (AFP) - - NATO should borrow lessons from Iraq and work with local tribes in Afghanistan, to improve security there, Major General Marc Lessard, the outgoing Canadian commander of foreign troops in the south of the country, said Saturday.
In an interview with the Canadian daily Globe and Mail, just before handing power to Dutch commander Major General Mart de Kruif, Lessard said better outreach to Afghan tribes and tribal elders "has to be explored."
Despite an upsurge of violence in the country by Taliban forces in recent months, Lessard downplayed the idea of a strengthened insurgency, instead describing the insurgents are "extremely, extremely resilient."
Lessard, replaced Saturday by de Kruif as head of the International Security Assistance Force in southern Afghanistan at a ceremony at the Kandahar Air Base, said an understanding of the role of tribal communities is key to success.
"The tribal dynamic here is a lot more complex than in Iraq," he told the daily.
"The authority of the central government here in Afghanistan is not as strong as in Iraq," he said, adding: "The tribes play an important, important role in the daily lives of Afghans."
"If you make a mistake and alienate some tribes, because some tribes feel disenfranchised, you can create more harm than good in this tribal outreach," he said.
Lessard said, however, that he was "very, very leery" about the tactic of arming tribes and counting on their support in NATO's push against insurgents.
"We have spent a lot of effort, a lot of money, resources, on developing the Afghan security forces: the army, the police, the border police," he said.
"When you arm a militia, you think that you're giving it a role for added security. They may think also they are empowering themselves and getting a greater status within the overall region in terms of the other tribes."
Earlier this week the US government indicated it is considering negotiations with "reconcilable" members of the Taliban, in the hope they would renounce violence and respect the Afghan constitution.
"We are clearly, as I said, under the strategic review, trying to see if our engagement with any reconcilable elements makes sense," a State Department official told reporters Tuesday.
There are a total of 60-70,000 international soldiers in Afghanistan, fighting insurgents and training Afghan forces.
Insurgent attacks are at a record high this year and there are calls for more international troops to be sent to the shattered country.
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NATO should borrow lessons from Iraq and work with local tribes in Afghanistan, to improve security there, Major General Marc Lessard, the outgoing Canadian commander of foreign troops in the south of the country, seen here in February 2008, said Saturday.
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