NATO operations to target Afghan drug labs and lords
Military operations targeting drug labs and the Afghan drug lords who run them are poised to begin as part of an effort to eliminate a key funding source for Taliban fighters, NATO’s top commander said Sunday during a security conference in Munich.
Gen. John Craddock, who also commands U.S. European Command, told reporters such operations should begin within "the next several days."
"We’ve got to get started," Craddock said, according to media reports.
Meanwhile, Craddock would not disclose whether the U.S. and its allies will be getting more troops from other countries, though he said progress is being made in that area, as well as the need for equipment and intelligence gathering in Afghanistan.
Craddock, who said he needs about 5,000 NATO troops to bolster Afghan forces during the presidential elections later this year, wasn’t alone in the call for more support at the Munich Security Conference this weekend.
Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, made similar observations.
"I would be remiss if I did not ask individual countries to examine very closely the forces and other contributions they can provide as ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] intensifies its efforts in preparation for the elections in August," said Petraeus, who warned of tough days ahead in Afghanistan.
The needs listed by Petraeus: more troops, aircraft, medical evacuation facilities, engineers and trainers.
The fight in Afghanistan isn’t only against a resurgent Taliban. There also have been challenges in trying to strengthen what is viewed as a weak and corrupt central government.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in a Sunday speech, said the only way for Afghanistan to succeed is to reconcile with some members of the Taliban.
That means inviting "Taliban who are not part of al-Qaida, who are not part of terrorist networks" back into Afghan life, Karzai said.
"Military action may be the primary response, but it can only succeed if it is part of a comprehensive strategy that covers reconciliation, consolidating our democratic gains, institutional building, fighting narcotics and corruption and above all, economic development," Karzai said.
National Security adviser James Jones, a retired Marine general and former NATO commander, echoing earlier comments from Vice President Joe Biden, said going forward it is important not to look at Afghanistan in isolation.
"Working relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan … have to be effective if we’re going to solve this problem," he said, adding that a regional approach is long overdue.
Jones continued: "We’ve learned over time that problems in Afghanistan are not just uniquely confined to one country — it’s a regional problem set."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.