The key planks in the Obama strategy in Afghanistan can be characterized as the three R’s: regaining the initiative against the insurgency, resolving the political tensions and grievances,and rebuilding and reinforcing, said U.K. Ambassador to Afghanistan Mark Sedwill in a Department of Defense briefing yesterday.
Coming to the end of the first year of the Obama strategy set out last spring, Sedwill and Gen. Stanley McChrystal spoke about some of the challenges in Afghanistan and what the future holds.
Referring to the three R’s, Sedwill said there needs to be a rebuilding of the institutions of the state in which the Afghan people lost confidence.
“We haven’t made enough progress in the past eight years in rebuilding them, but we need to really strengthen them–strengthen them now, to win over the people’s allegiance–not to us, but to their own government,” Sedwill said.
The ambassador also talked about how during his visit to Marja, he noticed how a generation that never went to school wanted access to education for its children.
“They do see this as their next generation’s way out of the poverty and conflict that they’ve experienced,” Sedwill said. “And that was as true for girls as for boys among that group of people. They want that to happen, and they’re aware of what they need. They don’t just want schools; they want teachers, and they want teachers who understand the local area, and they made that clear.”
Another “striking” discovery Sedwill made was how disillusioned Afghans have become with the way that state institutions, particularly the police, have been unable to serve them.
“And that isn’t particularly because the police is full of people who are bad or indeed the state institutions are, but those institutions have in some cases been captured by criminal networks, power brokers and others who turned them to their own use and against the people, rather than serving the people,” Sedwill said.
Answering a question about what lies in the months ahead, McChrystal, who is the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said there will be a number of activities to shape the political relationships in and around Kandahar, including collaborating with political leaders and increasing forces in districts such as Zari, Panjwai and Arghandab.
“We have already increased our forces somewhat, and we will continue to increase Afghan national security forces and coalition forces in the months ahead,” McChrystal said. “If you control the environs around Kandahar, you go a long way to controlling Kandahar.”
After answering questions from journalists, Sedwill said in his final comments that he urges people to to remember the complexity of the ongoing campaign.
“We’ve tended to focus–I think it’s quite natural in this audience–on the military elements of it, but the military elements of it are not going to deliver success here unless we get the political elements right and indeed the other part of it, the development of governance and so on,” Sedwill said.