WASHINGTON (AP) — The Afghanistan government must match the U.S. commitment in that war-ravaged country while expanding the Afghan army and security forces to have a chance at stabilizing the region, says a Republican lawmaker who just returned from a trip there.
Only significant growth in training of Afghan security forces, targeting the insurgency, securing population centers and strengthening Afghan and Pakistani governments will prevent the region from serving as a safe haven for radical Islamic terrorists again, Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware said in the weekly GOP video and radio address.
“In meeting with President (Hamid) Karzai, our delegation made clear that the commitment of the United States must be met with by equal determination of the Afghan government,” he said.
The Obama administration is hoping to reverse worsening conditions in Afghanistan as an additional 30,000 American and 7,000 NATO troops pour into the conflict in coming months. The fight — once mostly limited to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border — has spread across the country. Castle said he’s encouraged by the troops’ efforts, however.
“Particularly since the surge in Afghanistan began, we have seen progress toward helping establish a country that can govern itself, defend its borders and be an important ally in fighting terrorism,” Castle said.
In southern Afghanistan, the U.S. State and Agriculture departments are working to help this former agricultural hub of Afghanistan regain its potential, he said.
“The focus on agriculture will hopefully make progress in reducing the rampant opium and narcotics trade,” he said. “While President Karzai has pledged to help eradicate poppy crops, there must be development in Afghanistan of crops and methods other than poppies to sustain the people of this country.”
Castle also said Republicans were pleased with the decision by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration, to continue as head of the Pentagon.