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FREISING, Germany — To U.S. troops on the ground, the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan might appear somewhat similar.

But, according to a Pentagon official, the struggle in each country is quite different, though both are important aspects of U.S. foreign and military policy.

Ambassador Eric S. Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy at the Pentagon, addressed an international conference aimed at developing a comprehensive approach to modern warfare in countries such as Afghanistan. The comprehensive approach, which Edelman supports, includes civilian agencies in carrying out vital reconstruction and development roles even as military operations continue.

Sectarian violence and insurgent activity have hampered efforts to provide security and stability in Iraq, and so far more than 328,000 Iraqi troops and 191,800 Iraqi police have been trained to deal with security problems. Those numbers are expected to grow.

A resurgent Taliban, which aims to re-establish an extremist Islamic government in Afghanistan, is almost solely responsible for that country’s insurgency. In more than five years the U.S., NATO and a handful of non-NATO countries have trained more than 90,000 military personnel and policemen.

While the definition of success in each front has been clearly defined, NATO has played a role in outlining the coalition’s goals in Afghanistan, while President Bush and his administration alone have set the definition for success in Iraq, Edelman said.

In Afghanistan that definition includes an elected government operating under a constitution approved by the people and an ability for that government to develop its economy and its social life free of the type of violence inflicted under Taliban rule.

In Iraq, where the U.S. is in charge of the mission and American troops make up the majority of fighting forces, “We want to provide some, along with our Iraqi colleagues, greater measure of security for the population so that the government of Iraq has the time and the space to deliver the kind of services that the Iraq public expects of a government that they’ve elected and hold accountable,” Edelman said. Success also depends on a well-trained and equipped Iraqi security force.

Edelman acknowledged that the expectations of the Afghans and the Iraqis have played some role in shaping these plans. Afghanistan, a landlocked nation that has sparse natural resources, is expected to rely heavily on handouts from the international community in order to keep the government afloat.

He noted that Afghanistan’s development has been hampered by three decades of war and a poorly educated population that doesn’t yet have the expertise that it would need to operate independently.

Iraq, by contrast, has traditionally had a very educated population, he said.

“And since one of the resources they happen to sit on is oil, you don’t have quite the same need for international assistance that you do in Afghanistan,” Edelman said.

Nevertheless, the U.S. has pleaded with the international community to excuse Iraq’s Saddam-era debt and lift restrictions to international financial markets. The administration also wants to promote investment in Iraq to create jobs “and drain the pool of potential recruits for the insurgency,” said Edelman, a career foreign service officer who took his defense department post in 2005.

But according to a Defense Department report published in March, sectarian violence is “the greatest impediment to the establishment of security and effective governance in Iraq.” Iraq’s neighbors — especially Iran, which is majority Shia, and Syria, which is majority Sunni — have been accused by the administration of fueling tensions between the two groups in Iraq.

“I think there are a lot of people who’d like to see some of the neighboring states provide some moral support for the government and recognize the role that the government’s playing in trying to bring national reconciliation and stability to Iraq,” Edelman said.


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