Security and Terrorism Program
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates's visit to Pakistan indicates the growing concern among the Western coalition forces about the worsening situation in Afghanistan. The insurgency in Afghanistan has recently shown its bloodiest face since the Taliban's ouster in 2001 and represents a ticking time bomb today for the collapse of US policies in Afghanistan. The fallout of the US policies in Iraq has been felt across the region, especially in Afghanistan where the Taliban has launched a series of successful offensives against the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
The fact remains that the Afghan case is a test for NATO's credibility. With a 35,000-strong force currently deployed in Afghanistan, the ISAF is attempting to pre-empt a strong Taliban offensive in the coming spring months. Gates' visit to Pakistan will be followed by that of NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in the coming weeks. While the NATO top command acknowledges the difficulties and is engaged in coordinating its strategy with neighboring Pakistan, there is a need to review the current policies being pursued in Afghanistan.
Gates has admitted that the United States made a mistake in neglecting Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal. That eventually led to the growth of extremism and resulted in the September 11, 2001 attacks. The monumental mistake the US made was that it did not capitalize on the tremendous goodwill the various jihadist groups in Afghanistan had at the time for the West and the US and implement a massive economic reconstruction program; rather the warring factions were left to fight among themselves and consolidate their individual power base, the whole purpose being for them to exhaust their weapons and arms supplies.
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