NATO will be in Afghan for years: Military chief
Afghanistan has "huge problems" and NATO troops will be in the country for "years and years", the commander of Canada's forces in Afghanistan said.Updated: Feb 23, 2006 09:21 IST
Afghanistan has "huge problems" and NATO troops will be in the country for "years and years", the commander of Canada's forces in Afghanistan told a British newspaper in an interview published on Thursday.
Major General Michel Gauthier, whose Canadian Expeditionary Force Command has taken a lead role in the hostile south of the country, made the warning to The Guardian daily.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is due to increase by about 6,000 troops in the coming months to number 16,000 to deploy in southern Afghanistan, where a US-led coalition of about 20,000 soldiers has been leading counter-insurgency operations.
The incoming soldiers will be charged with reconstruction and fighting the drug trade in Helmand province, where remnants of the former Taliban regime and fighters loyal to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terror network and opium growers persist.
The build-up of NATO troops in southern Afghanistan over the coming months is the alliance's "biggest operational, and perhaps strategic, challenge in years, if not decades," Gauthier said.
He said southern Afghanistan was an "unpermissive environment" and the country was facing "huge problems".
Asked if NATO troops would be in Afghanistan for decades, he replied: "For years and years".
A bomb fixed to a bicycle struck a convoy of NATO peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing one person and wounding 13 others including a German soldier.
ISAF troops are frequent targets of an insurgency blamed primarily on militants allied to the hardline Taliban government ousted in a US-led campaign in late 2001.
The insurgency, which has seen a rash of suicide blasts in the past months, has been focused on eastern and southern Afghanistan from where the ultraconservative Taliban rose to control most of the country by 1996.
The major general predicted there would be fewer suicide attacks than at present. They were "counter-cultural" to Afghans, the majority of whom wanted a peaceful and better life.
"What is clear, (is that) narcotics, criminality, terrorism and insurgency, are all linked," he added.
First Published: Feb 23, 2006 09:21 IST