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Nominee to Be US Ambassador to Afghanistan Calls for More Aid To War-Torn Nation


President Barack Obama's nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan says more resources are needed for the war and the civilian rebuilding effort in that country. Army Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry's testimony to a Senate panel Thursday, came as the Obama administration privately briefed lawmakers on its new strategy in Afghanistan.

With violence escalating in Afghanistan, Army Lieutenant General Eikenberry said the United States and its allies must do more to help stabilize the country.

"The situation in Afghanistan is increasingly difficult, and time is of the essence," said General Eikenberry. "There will be no substitute for more resources and sacrifice."

Appearing at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Eikenberry said more needs to be done to build the Afghan army and police forces, strengthen Afghan government at the local and national levels, improve the rule of law and make better progress in combating the drug trade.

His comments come as the Obama administration is about to announce a new strategy in Afghanistan, and will send 17,000 more troops to the war effort.

Eikenberry said there can be no lasting success in Afghanistan until the problem of terrorist sanctuary in Pakistan is addressed.

The New York Times reports that operatives in Pakistan's military intelligence provide cash, supplies and strategic advice to Taliban militia.

Eikenberry did not comment directly on the report, but said Pakistan has a very unclear and ambiguous relationship with the Taliban. He said the country's intelligence agency, known as ISI, may still be providing support to extremist fighters.

"It has been unclear whether all elements of ISI have dropped their support of the Taliban and their extremist allies," he said.

Eikenberry said U.S., Afghan and Pakistan officials are to meet in early May to discuss improving cooperation, including intelligence exchanges, in the fight against extremists.

Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he soon plans to reintroduce legislation which seeks to triple nonmilitary aid to Pakistan while holding security forces more accountable for assistance provided in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Kerry praised Eikenberry, who has served as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and is deputy chairman of the NATO military committee in Brussels, as the right person for the job.

"In Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, the president has chosen an exceptionally skilled and deeply knowledgeable public servant to represent the United States in Afghanistan," said Senator Kerry.

Eikenberry's nomination was also endorsed by the top Republican on the committee, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.

"As our ambassador to Afghanistan, General Eikenberry will be able to draw upon extensive experience in engaging international partners and facilitating a more collaborative effort with the Afghans," said Senator Lugar.

Eikenberry could be confirmed by the Senate as early as next week.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, held a Capitol Hill briefing on the status of human rights in Afghanistan.

Scott Worden, an expert on Afghanistan at the U.S. Institute of Peace, says the lack of the rule of law in Afghanistan is the biggest obstacle to human rights in the country.

"Corruption - there has been very little action or prosecution on that, drug trafficking, land seizures is a huge issue that affects the population but that gets very little attention in the west, as well as ongoing human rights abuses and violent crime," said Scott Worden. "In almost all cases, on all of these issues, there has been very little accountability if any in the legal system of Afghanistan."

Former Afghan Vice Premier Sima Samar chairs the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission:

"We cannot have sustainable peace unless we have justice," said Sima Samar. "Unless we stop the culture of impunity in the country, the people will not trust the government."

Scott Worden says the best way for the international community to combat impunity in Afghanistan is by helping ensure free and fair elections there later this year and assisting the country with judicial reform.


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