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In Afghanistan, NATO sees peace opportunity

In Afghanistan, NATO sees peace opportunity

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Jun 21, 2018 - 11:23

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): NATOinfo-icon officials believe the Eidul Fitr ceasefire and the burgeoning peace movement have pushed Afghanistaninfo-icon to the “edge of opportunity.”

Lt. Gen. Richard J. Cripwell, deputy commander for the Resolute Support Mission, hailed President Ashraf Ghani’s call for a ceasefire over the Eid holiday as courageous.

The Talibaninfo-icon agreed to the ceasefire and the nation saw what peace could look like as government and Taliban marked the end of the holy month of Ramadaninfo-icon this past weekend.

Ghani extended the ceasefire, but the Taliban did not choose to honour that and attacked Badghis province, where 30 Afghan soldiers were killed.

The scenes in Kabul -- with Taliban entering the city to snap selfies and eat ice cream -- show peace is possible, a statement from Resolute Support mission quoted Cripwell as saying.

Assisting Afghan partners

Cripwell discussed the military pressure on the Taliban to bring the group to the negotiating table. “We are not here to do this ourselves,” the general said told Pentagon reporters via video teleconference.

“Our focus is on building capability to ensure the Afghan security forces can deliver effective, targeted military pressure to protect and secure their population and create the conditions for a political settlement.”

Senior NATO leaders partnered with Afghan defense and interior officials to increase institutional strength and look to root out inefficiency and corruption, the general said.

“We are also helping at the structural level to redesign and to produce a different sort of army: One that is capable, one that is professional and, in the long run, one that is affordable for the Afghan government,” Cripwell said.

Afghan government reform

Part of this is the Afghan government enforcing a mandatory retirement rule that is replacing older leaders with younger, better-trained leaders who rose through the ranks on their merits and not family or tribal connections.

“My own country, the United Kingdom along with Denmark, Australia and New Zealand, oversee the training of over 1,000 new officers -- male and female -- per year at the Afghan National Officers Academy,” he said.

NATO trainers are also helping at the tactical level with the American 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade making its efforts felt at regional commands across the country.

Those officers and noncommissioned officers primarily advise at the brigade level, but can reach lower in case of need.

The general noted the Afghan Air Force was growing. The NATO advisors are working at all levels to ensure AAF’s effectiveness, accuracy and sustainability.

“I’ve seen for myself how resilient the security forces are, despite the challenging circumstances they find themselves in,” Cripwell said. “So far this year, they have defended over 80 percent of the district centres that have been attacked by the enemy.”

He said peace marchers were showing the social pressure that Taliban were under from the nation. One group marched from Helmand to Kabul.

They received shelter and aid from local mosques along the way. Other groups are active in the eastern part of the country and in Herat in the west.

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