Seminar strives for Afghan, Pakistani teamwork
GARMISCH, Germany — The remote region where Osama bin Laden and others are thought to be hiding have at least two things in common: Afghanistan and Pakistan.
A seminar that ended Friday sought to help the two countries’ militaries work together to flush out the Taliban leader and others deemed enemies of the states.
“The more effective this program is, the fewer boots on the ground we (U.S.) will have to have,” said Nick Pratt, a retired Marine colonel and director of the Program on Terrorism and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.
“In a perfect world, there would be no NATO or U.S. guys there,” Pratt said. “We’d have two countries working together.”
The seminar was requested by Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, commander of Combined Forces Command—Afghanistan. It was sponsored by the command, Marshall Center and the Washington-based Near East/South Asia Center.
More seminars between the two nations are to be planned — two per year over the next five years or longer, Pratt said.
Given the vast, remote landscape and its inhabitants, many of whom are fiercely loyal to bin Laden and his allies, finding them is not easy. Pratt said the two-week seminar, which cost the Pentagon about $200,000, was a new way of bringing people together to help do the job.
Costs included transportation, food, lodging and lecturers.
“There are no measures of effectiveness (for the seminar),” Pratt said. “Over five years, there will be a cadre of people who know each other. Sometimes it will work, and sometimes it will not.”
Subjects included international law, the financing of terrorism, the role of criminals such as drug traffickers, and U.S. strategy, which the Afghan and Pakistani officers were asked to critique.
Attendees included eight officers from the fledgling Afghan military and eight from the more established Pakistani forces.
The Afghan side would like to share more intelligence with Pakistan, according to Col. Zamon Hussain Ihsan, an Afghan intelligence officer.
“This is to enable us to conduct more precise operations against terrorism,” Ihsan said.
Ihsan proposed more sharing between the countries politically and economically and said that students from the two countries should be given a chance to meet and help shape their futures.
“The final aim is to create confidence and trust between the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Ihsan said.
The Afghans and Pakistanis said they would bring back to their respective bosses information from the conference.
“Why not have a seminar with officers from both militaries, especially officers who deal with operations?” said Col. Khalil Dar, Pakistan’s military operations director of its region near Afghanistan.
“It gives us a common platform to sit and discuss with each other. We feel that aim has been amply achieved.”
Dar also said he was surprised how few people realized that the Pakistanis, Afghans and U.S.-led combined forces were interacting with each other at a tactical level, but without crossing each other’s border.
“Many times our responses are in coordination,” Dar said.