January 28th, 2007 07:13 EST
Rice Says Success in Afghanistan Requires Coordinated Efforts
Washington -- Success in Afghanistan requires a coordinated international approach combining military, political, economic and reconstruction efforts, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says after meeting with NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Belgium, January 26.
Interviewed on ARD German Television, Rice termed a recommitment to Afghanistan "NATO's central, most important mission right now."
The effort must be to "energize a new comprehensive approach for our policies in Afghanistan, a comprehensive strategy that recognizes the essential importance of the military contribution but recognizes also that the reconstruction and development, the governance issues, the counternarcotics mission" must be addressed, the secretary said.
Rice added that meeting participants "had a lot of discussion today about the importance of defeating the Taliban, but also of winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people."
She said the session she had called together had produced "new commitments around the table," and added, "I hope that in the future there are going to be even more."
The United States itself came to the meeting pledging to devote an additional $10.6 billion to security and reconstruction operations in Afghanistan. (See related article.)
Rice noted with satisfaction that the Brussels meeting brought together not only NATO members, but also global partners, including Japan, South Korea and Australia, as well as representatives from the United Nations, the World Bank and the European Commission.
Asked about prospects for a spring offensive by the Taliban, she said such a push "is to be expected."
"In advance of that we need to make certain that [we] have the military assets that the commanders need. We need to make certain that we have the kind of coordination that counterinsurgency requires between the reconstruction and development that should follow," she said.
Furthermore, Rice said, "When you've cleared out an area, you have to be able to help the population to recover, and that keeps them on your side. So these two go very much hand in hand."
Rice said she was encouraged that "the Karzai government, the Afghan government, is stronger now than it was," so that the Taliban’s efforts do not pose a strategic threat to that government. "I think that ... we will be able to handle this so-called spring offensive," she said.
Asked by her interviewer about Iraq and, specifically, public and congressional reaction to President Bush's plans for a troop surge there, Rice responded, "the American public ... wants us to succeed in Iraq." (See related article.)
She said, "I believe in the final analysis when people ask themselves the question if the commander-in-chief and his new counterinsurgency commanders say that the best way for success in Iraq is to surge 21,000 American forces, I think people will ultimately say all right, we'll have that happen."
As for administration plans to deal with neighboring Iran's role in Iraq, Rice said the United States would be "very active in disrupting the networks that are making these highly explosive devices that are causing casualties to our troops. It's a matter of troop protection. And we are also concerned about some of the efforts to arm militias that are putting forward death squads."
She stressed that the administration did not view its approach as an escalation. (See related article.)
"We aren't escalating. We're responding to something that Iran is doing that is very dangerous to our forces. And no commander, no government would sit idly by while this was done to their forces," the secretary said.
Asked whether Iran's insistence on pursuing its nuclear development program, coupled with an increasing U.S. troop presence in the region, was bringing military conflict closer, Rice reassured her interviewer that "diplomacy has a lot of work still to do on this Iranian issue."
Sanctions imposed by the United Nations in December may well be having an impact, she said, explaining that "you're starting to see voices in Iran that are concerned about the isolation that Iran's president and Iran's program are bringing.
"The international community, the six powers, have offered very attractive incentives for Iran to stop its enrichment and reprocessing activities. The United States has offered to change 27 years of policy and engage Iran directly about its nuclear program. But they need to live up to the demand that is being made of them by the international system," Rice declared.
A transcript of Rice’s remarks is available on the State Department’s website.
For more information on U.S. policy, see Rebuilding Afghanistan.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
By Ralph Dannheisser
USINFO Special Correspondent