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Afghan reconstruction as important as victory: NATO

world Updated: May 14, 2009 19:21 IST

Outgoing NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Thursday said international organisations should make Afghanistan a “political priority” as its reconstruction is as vital as military victory.

“We should not draw the conclusion that we are there for a military victory, that is not the ambition. We are there to create a climate of security and stability within which Afghanistan can develop itself,” Scheffer said.

“Reconstruction and development is as important, a civilian presence is as important, as a military presence. That’s the reason why all international organisations, not only NATO but others as well should make Afghanistan a political priority,” he said during a visit to Athens.

Around 70,000 foreign troops mainly from NATO and a US-led coalition are currently deployed in Afghanistan where the Taliban are waging an insurgency against President Hamid Karzai’s government.

The insurgency has steadily escalated over the past seven years forcing US President Barack Obama to announce in February a new strategy.

The plan will see Washington deploy an extra 21,000 US troops to the impoverished and largely rural country, and puts pressure on Pakistan to deal with the militant sanctuaries on its soil.

Scheffer, who hands NATO’s reins to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in late July, welcomed such an approach.

“The surge in troops joined by a civilian surge is an important element which will certainly make ISAF-NATO forces better equipped to take on the opposing militant forces,” he said.

But a precondition for success is that “all 28 NATO allies keep up” the effort.