October 6, 2008
By Julian Hale
BRUSSELS -- NATO forces should target drug labs in Afghanistan, which would cut off a major source of funding for insurgents, said U.S. Army Gen. John Craddock, Supreme Allied Commander for Europe.
"If we can destroy the processing facilities, then we can do a lot to stop the insurgency," Craddock said. "If we can take out the wherewithal to make bombs and bullets, isn't that a good thing?"
He said his proposal was not about crop eradication and said that there was a "handful of NATO countries that have not listened to the argument."
He said a nascent Afghan counternarcotics force was still building its skills, and that its membership would have to be carefully vetted.
It was important to make sure farmers could move freely through the country to get their wheat, fruit and other produce to market, he said.
NATO's provincial reconstruction teams remain key to alliance strategy, Craddock said. He added that there is no "one-size-fits-all type" of Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), and that "where security is more established, PRTs are being turned into Provincial Stabilization Teams with more focus on civilian aspects such as law and order."
He said NATO could improve the way it works with the United Nations, European Union, and nongovernmental organizations.
Craddock said that he would not rule out talks with the Taliban but that the Afghani government would have to lead any reconciliation.
Davood Moradian from the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs ruled out talks and instead spoke of reintegrating former Taliban people.
Kees Klompenhouwer, the European Council's director of Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability, said that the EU police mission, which was recently doubled to 400 people, was being deployed in 15 provinces to help the country build up its police structures. The mission is also helping the Afghans set up a criminal investigations department.
Daniel Korski, a senior researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that the reconstruction effort was "teetering on the brink of collapse," referring to a criminalized economy of which drugs was only a small part. He said the process of turning Afghanistan into a self-sustained country could take decades and pointed to two immediate concerns: how to ensure that the 2009 presidential elections in Afghanistan are executed in a safe and fair manner, and how to deal with plans by the Canadian government to pull out its troops by 2011.