Graft, safe havens in Pakistan threat to Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (PAN): Corruption and terrorist safe havens pose greatest challenge to Afghanistan, a top Pentagon official has said expressing frustration over the lack of commitment from Islamabad to take strong action against these safe hideouts.
“The biggest threat (to Afghanistan) is corruption and the border with Pakistan is a source of frustration,” said Marine Corps Maj Gen. John Toolan, commander of the 2nd Marine Division and the former commander of Regional Command-South West.
In a breakfast meeting, Toolan told Defense Writers' Group that during the year of his stay in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Army's 12th Corps was positioned across the border. The problem is, Toolan said, Pakistan has worries of its own and Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan's Helmand and Nimruz provinces, has its own separatist movement underway.
"The Pakistani military knows, if they start doing things, they could stir up the Balochistan beehive, so they just sit there. And it's frustrating. Diplomatic pressure on Pakistan is important, but we don't want to break the Pakistani government," he said.
"As a military commander that has to deal with it, I can keep mopping the floor but I can't turn off the water," Toolan said expressing his frustration.
Toolan said Pakistan officials should re-open supply routes in the absence of which it would be a tough and costly job for the Pentagon to move equipment into Afghanistan for years. The transit lines were closed last year after a NATO cross fire killed 24 Pak soldiers.
Corruption in Afghanistan, Toolan said is of two types -- parasitic and predatory. Parasitic corruption, he said, is from government officials feathering their own nests. Predatory corruption is something military commanders can deal with, he noted, adding this is the abuse of power. This is soldiers or police who abuse their official positions for profit, he said.
"While I was in Helmand province, there were indications that predatory corruption was occurring. What we tried to do was to identify it quickly and actually hold people,” he said.
Toolan said the capacity of the Afghan police is picking up. While the Afghan army has good credibility among the public, the police do not.
“We need to understand the Afghans have a design for the future. They have a force lay-down in their minds. Early on, we were trying to use them in places based on our ideas of what was an important district to seize, clear, hold and rebuild," he said.
The Afghan army, he observed, wants to be on the borders protecting the nation as armies are supposed to do. "But we have to be careful because I don't think the police are entirely ready yet to take full responsibility for the population centers along the Helmand River Valley. The police are the key to success in the province, but they haven't gotten past being a paramilitary (organization) yet," he added.
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