NATO in Afghanistan - already a success story ?

Posted in NATO , Broader Middle East | 18-Feb-04 | Author: Dieter Farwick

BrigGen (ret.) Dieter Farwick, Global Editor-in-Chief of, interviewed Lt. General Götz Gliemeroth, the first NATO commander in Afghanistan, exclusively for WSN, this time at the end of his six month mission.

Commander-in-Chief, you have been in charge of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan for six month. What are the greatest changes in this period of time?

The first units waiting to move the heavy weapons to cantonment sites in Kabul.
Lt. General Gliemeroth:
In the time we have been here, the greatest changes have been the successful completion of the Constitutional Loya Jirga and the approval of the new Afghan Constitution, the initiation of the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration programme, and the beginning of the Heavy Weapons Cantonment programme. Each of these things, with considerable involvement from ISAF, has shown that Afghanistan is on the road to recovery, one step at a time.

The approval of the Constitution ensures that there is equal representation of all factions across Afghanistan, with equal rights for all, which did not exist before. The other two visible signs of progress, DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration) pilots and Heavy Weapons Cantonment, demonstrate that there is progress made in disarming those who no longer need weapons. It shows there is progress in finding jobs for ex-militia members whose only previous job was to fight.

And, there is progress made with regard to the five pillars of the Security Sector Reform. Under those five pillars – Judicial Reform, Counter Narcotics, training of the Afghan National Army, Police Training, and Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration, varying degrees of progress are being made. The build-up of the Afghan National Army is slowly but surely coming along. There is now considerable improvement of recruiting for the Afghan National Army and the future establishment of training centres in various provinces will definitely improve the build-up of the Afghan National Army. Recently installed embedded training teams by ISAF nations are fostering an increase in the quality as well. The training of the new Afghan Police Forces is also progressing well. These are all examples of the visible progress that my soldiers and I have been able to witness and partially to support during our time here in Afghanistan since last August, and it is very comforting to know that happened under our watch.

What are the chances of the new constitution – agreed upon by the Loya Jirga – to be transferred into reality?

Lt. General Gliemeroth: The approval of the new Constitution of Afghanistan is a great achievement for the people of Afghanistan,
but without the will of the nation, as President Karzai said, “It will be only paper.” Now, what is required is a sustained effort to implement its contents, to develop the subsequent laws and decrees and to enforce them. The elections will greatly assist in making the Constitution a living and breathing document, and as you know, elections are scheduled to take place this summer. It is after these successful elections that we will be able to gauge the real success of the Constitution and its effectiveness across Afghanistan. I am quite confident that Afghanistan will take all the necessary steps in order to implement the upcoming elections, and thus, the Constitution.

Of course, one has to expect that for safeguarding voter registration and elections, additional security elements from the Coalition and ISAF will be necessary, at least with temporary deployments in respective areas.

Let me remind as well that NATO and ISAF will stay in Afghanistan until the mission is complete, as it is our responsibility to ensure that we help to provide the stable and secure environment in which the elections can take place.

What is your opinion of the efficiency of the so-called “Provincial Reconstruction Teams”?

Lt. General Gliemeroth:
PRTs were conceived in December 2002 when the US-led Coalition Forces decided to enlarge their influence through nation rebuilding and containment operations, as well as assisting in extending the influence of the Government of Afghanistan throughout the country. Just a few months ago, at the beginning of January, ISAF took charge of its first PRT in Kunduz, led by Germany. It is likely that by this year’s end, another four to five PRTs will be under NATO and ISAF’s command and control.

Commander ISAF takes over Command and Control of the German Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kundus
PRTs are important because they set the stage for helping to rebuild Afghanistan in areas outside of the capital city of Kabul. There are two legs on which the PRTs stand – the military leg and the civilian leg. The military leg is responsible, in short, for establishing an adequate military footprint to provide security in the area in which it operates. The civilian leg is responsible for carrying out or contracting reconstruction tasks in an area. Those tasks span a wide spectrum, but include such areas as assisting in rebuilding schools and roads and providing a mentoring role to the government officials in a village or city.

It is up to the member nations, however, to come to the table with their contributions. We – NATO – can not do this without the express cooperation and contribution from member nations. The nations are the ones who will provide the manpower and the resources to make these PRTs a success.

The decision by the German Government to take over the Kunduz PRT from the US-led Coalition and not to select another PRT location shows very clearly that it is the individual contributing nation’s decision, together with the GoA(Government of Afghanistan) and UNAMA(UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan), where PRT’s will be established in the future by NATO and ISAF. Each nation that desires to contribute a PRT under ISAF must design that PRT based upon the needs of the specific area. However, the need for adequate coordination is assured by the PRT steering group providing for the Afghan Transitional Authority to influence efforts and focus.

In areas that are less secure, the military leg might be stronger and more military members might be needed. In areas that need more reconstruction, a focus might be made to specifically address the civil needs of that area. Every PRT will be built differently, according to the needs of the area in which the PRT will be placed.

And what, you might ask, is the need for PRTs? Well, in addition to humanitarian aid and reconstruction work in an area, important programmes like the Security Sector Reform (SSR) can be fostered by PRTs as well, with a sense of urgency as part of the Bonn agreement. The five pillars of the Security Sector Reform - Judicial Reform, Counter Narcotics, training of the Afghan National Army, Police Training, and Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration - lay the ground work for the preparation for and conduct of elections. If these areas are not sufficiently addressed, elections will likely not progress in accordance with the agreed timetable. The effective promulgation of good governance from the central authorities into the provinces will be key for further development of this country.

So, you see, all of these areas tie together. PRTs are only one part of the equation, but a vital part of it, which contributes to making Afghanistan a place where its citizens can enjoy the freedoms that they so strongly deserve.

“NATO is not in Afghanistan to fail," Lord Robertson, former Secretary General of NATO stated. Additionally, the new current NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer stated that Afghanistan would remain the number one priority for the Alliance. NATO and ISAF will do all in their power to ensure that the efforts here to rebuild Afghanistan are successful.

What about the security of the PRTs in remote areas?

Lt. General Gliemeroth:
A contingency plan for the ISAF PRT KONDUZ has been fully developed, based on a joint effort by ISAF and the Coalition. The plan is both robust and flexible in nature and meets all possible contingency requirements. Additionally, for future PRTs a thorough assessment of the security situation will be made to determine the most effective and safe method of employment of personnel. Of course, we always treat security issues very seriously and do all in our power to mitigate the risks involved for the troops on the ground, while still successfully accomplishing the mission at hand.

No doubt, once the expansion goes beyond the Kunduz pilot, the Alliance will have to provide the necessary means for, in extremis, Quick Reaction Forces, Close Air Support, up to extraction, including the running of the Forward Operating Bases.

What role does ISAF play in the anti-drug war?

Lt. General Gliemeroth: As part of the Bonn Agreement, counter-narcotics are one of the Security Sector Reform (SSR) pillars. Under the SSR, in each of the five pillars, one nation is responsible for the direct assistance in that area to the Afghan authorities. In the case of counter-narcotics, the UK has the lead
in assisting the Afghan structure, while ISAF is to support the Security Sector Reform as a whole. The UN mandate that authorizes ISAF stems from the Bonn Agreement and UN Security Council Resolutions. The Bonn Agreement calls upon the International Community to address drug related issues in Afghanistan.

As you are well aware, drugs provide revenue to the Opposing Military Forces and to anti-government forces. ISAF is rightly concerned about the distribution of drugs and is investigating the resulting money trail. As such, ISAF works closely with other nations and International Organizations in the overall effort to counter the narcotics problem.

From how many nations do you have soldiers under your command and control?

Lt. General Gliemeroth:
ISAF is currently comprised of personnel from 34 nations, 19 of which are from NATO member nations, and 15 of which are from non-NATO nations, predominantly Partnership for Peace nations.

Confidence building
Have all nations fulfilled their obligations in sending soldiers, weapons and equipment?

Lt. General Gliemeroth:
All the nations participating in ISAF have deployed with the appropriate level of national equipment required to support their mission. Bear in mind, however, that each nation chooses the number of personnel and the equipment that it wants to commit.

Do you ask for more soldiers beyond Kabul to enhance countrywide stability?

Lt. General Gliemeroth:
NATO has already sanctioned an ISAF expansion to extend its mission throughout Afghanistan. In this way NATO is supporting the Government of Afghanistan in its endeavour of bringing effective governance to all corners of Afghanistan. The endeavours that must be undertaken now are more demanding. For this reason it is evident that more forces will be required and will certainly be brought to theatre by NATO and other Partner Nations.

I must emphasise that it is most important to gain an increase in some very important force enablers to make this mission successful. The force enablers I refer to are our aviation forces, to include the capacities to operate a number of airfields in different parts of the country, as forward operating and logistic bases; mobile quick reaction forces; enhanced communications systems, etc. The purpose of these types of force enablers is to allow coverage of all the important outlying towns, so that assistance can be provided to the central Government, provincial and local authorities to support the process of political normalization.

A secondary item may be to increase the total numbers of soldiers, but it is the primary force enablers, as mentioned above, that will do more to make this mission successful than a simple increase in the number of soldiers.

What are the remaining major stumbling blocks on the road to more stability?

Lt. General Gliemeroth: One of the most important areas that must be tackled in the near future is the successful completion of presidential and parliamentary elections.
With these, the Afghan nation will become fully sovereign, which means it will have the people’s representation and effective public authority. Both are the attributes of a nation, which can guarantee peace and prosperity for all. The elected President, together with the Parliament, will have a tremendous amount of work to do in drafting the new laws required to implement new policies, establish the rule of law, accelerate the build-up and implementation of the new key organisations for security, such as the new Afghan National Army and the National Police Force, including Border Police and Counter-Narcotics units. At the same time, the new institutions must operate effectively to end the two cancers, which can kill the Afghani society. These two cancers are warlordism and narcotics. Hence, the new Government of Afghanistan, with its President at the helm, and the Parliament having the peoples’ representation to control the action of the Government, must disarm all those factional militias, and lessen the amount of drug production and trafficking of narcotics.

Dieter Farwick: What are the changes with the threat by the Taliban?

Lt. General Gliemeroth:
Coalition and ISAF forces definitely have the strategic initiative in defeating the Opposing Militant Forces here in Afghanistan. Apart from tragic setbacks at the tactical level, the Taliban have been soundly routed and are on the decline. The success in these areas is reinforced by the successes in other areas, such as the initiation of the Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration (DDR) programme, the Heavy Weapons Cantonment, and the approval of the new Constitution. All of these positive steps would not have been possible two years ago, when the Taliban were in power.

Please, share your view with us on the developments in Afghanistan within the next 2-3 years.

Lt. General Gliemeroth:
The time span you mention – 2 or 3 years – is not important, because after more than twenty years of war, improvements are being made at a considerable rate. In a relatively short period of time, I hope that things will be very different in Afghanistan. Hopefully, we will see a country at peace, where the rule of law is a reality, where there are no more terrorist attacks, where the Government institutions work for everyone’s benefit, where there is education for both men and women, where everyone has access to health facilities and where there are jobs and economic prosperity for all.

Sir, thank you very much. We keep our fingers crossed for you and your soldiers.