Afghan army progressing, says Defence Minister
During a visit to NATO, Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said that Afghanistan’s forces were making progress, but continuing international assistance was necessary before they became fully operational.
Minister Wardak was heading a delegation of senior Government officials who visited NATO HQ on 13 and 14 March to discuss the way ahead for NATO’s assistance to Afghanistan .
During the visit, the Minister met with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and addressed the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s principal decision-making body.
The discussions focused on the security situation in Afghanistan , progress achieved in creating a national army and security forces, and the planned expansion of NATO’s presence and role in the country.
The development of a specific co-operation programme between NATO and Afghanistan was also on the agenda. The programme, being developed by the Alliance in close coordination with the Afghan Government, will complement the operational role of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and be built on the principle of Afghan ownership. It will concentrate on supporting the Afghan authorities in defence and security sector reform.
Speaking to reporters on the first day of the visit, the Minister said he expected the Afghanistan National Army to be fully operational in four to five years, but that this also depended on the security situation in the country.
“ We have defended the country for 5,000 of years against very big invasions and aggressions, ” he said, “Now also I think that it is our duty to defend that country and provide security.”
In a video interview for the NATO Web site, he said that Afghanistan ’s security forces needed more training, but also key assets such as helicopters and aircraft.
NATO is leading a 9,000-strong international peacekeeping force in the country, and is also assisting with training the army and security forces.
The Alliance is currently preparing to further expand its presence in the country, by establishing Provincial Reconstruction Teams in the South of Afghanistan.