WASHINGTON (AFP) — The international effort in Afghanistan is falling short, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Wednesday, stressing the need for a better integrated approach to stabilizing the country.
"These efforts today, however well-intentioned and even heroic, add up to less than the sum of the parts," said Gates in a speech prepared for delivery to the US Institute for Peace.
His remarks came amid growing US fears that an upsurge of insurgent violence and corruption in Afghanistan is threatening the viability of an already weak central government.
"To be successful, the entirety of the NATO alliance, the European Union, NGOs, and other groups -- the full panoply of military and civilian elements -- must better integrate and coordinate with one another and also with the Afghan government," he said.
"Afghanistan is the test, on the grandest scale, of what we are trying to achieve when it comes to integrating the military and civilian, the public and private, the national and international."
But Gates complained that allied nations were unable to provide "the quantity and types of forces needed for this kind of fighting."
NATO forces, meanwhile, are hamstrung by caveats that nations have placed on the use of the military forces that they have provided, he said.
"An enduring requirement is the ability to rapidly train, equip, and advise Afghan security forces, as we are doing to improve the size and quality of Afghanistan's army and police," he said.
"Until recently, this capacity did not exist within most Western governments or militaries outside their Special Forces."
Gates called for a concerted development strategy that persuades and inspires the public to counter Taliban influence through intimidation.
"As one USAID contractor who worked in Afghanistan put it, we need to show the citizenry that we are 'fully committed to making a difference, rather than working disconnectedly on "one-off" projects'."
Gates' speech was the latest in a series advocating a more intelligent use of non-military instruments of power to deal with instability in poor and failing states.
"Enlightened counter-measures we take today will bolster the internal strength of vulnerable states so they will not harbor violent networks seeking to launch the next attack," he said.
Gates acknowledged that "at the end of the day," it will be necessary to deal with tribal leaders in Afghanistan to overcome the Taliban insurgency and to restore peace and security.
"I think the proper approach is not to abandon trying to create a strong central government, but also (to underline) the importance of dealing with provincial or tribal leaders and trying to bring them on board," he said.
"The key is ... how do you do that without creating new warlords, new tribal militias that are not part of provincial or national governments?"
"But I think, at the end of the day, the only solution in Afghanistan is to work with the tribes and provincial leaders, in terms of trying to create a backlash against the Taliban."
Unrest in Afghanistan has intensified despite the presence of 70,000 troops deployed under two multinational missions -- the NATO-led ISAF stabilization force and Operation Enduring Freedom, which is under US command.
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