News / Asia

NATO Commander Optimistic on Afghanistan, Despite Problems

NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis delivers a speech before a panel discussion in Berlin January 24, 2012.
NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis delivers a speech before a panel discussion in Berlin January 24, 2012.
Al Pessin
The commander of all NATO forces says the Taliban is under significant military pressure, designed in part to motivate its leaders to reach a political settlement with the Afghan government. In an interview, U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis told VOA that, despite recent problems, he is more optimistic now than he was a few years ago that Afghanistan will be stable when allied forces end their combat role, in a little more than two years. 

Admiral Stavridis has long described himself as "cautiously optimistic." But now, despite an apparent increase in Taliban activity and an epidemic of killings of allied troops by their Afghan partners, he says he feels a bit more optimistic.

"I'm actually more optimistic than I was at that time," he said. "And, I'll give you another metric that I think is very encouraging - casualties, which are devastating, every one of them individually.

"But I'm very happy to say that our casualty levels are down about 30 percent in the coalition compared to this time last year," continued Admiral Stavridis. "Why is that? It's because the Afghan security forces are in the lead."

And, he says Afghan security forces casualties are up about 30 percent as a result.

The admiral says allied forces have put a series of measures in place to try to guard against insider attacks, including stricter vetting procedures and tighter security during joint operations. And, officials say the joint patrols that were partly suspended a few weeks ago have mostly resumed.

"I'm very, very content that we have seized this challenge and will deal with it," said Admiral Stavridis. "And, it will not knock this campaign off course."

The focus of allied operations is on preparing the 350,000-strong new Afghan security forces to handle the situation on their own after most foreign forces leave at the end of 2014. At the same time, the NATO command and Afghan forces are attacking the Taliban to reduce its capabilities and convince its leaders to negotiate a political settlement with the Afghan government.

At London's Royal United Services Institute, Director Michael Clarke says the key is to ensure that after the foreign troops leave there is not more violence than the Afghan government forces can handle.

"I'm confident that NATO will leave behind a system and a structure that has a reasonable chance of working," said Clarke. "Whether it works or not will depend upon whether it's subjected to a really strong pressure. If the Taliban are able to exert real pressure on the system, then I'm not so sure it will stand."

For now, with more than 100,000 allied forces still in Afghanistan, Admiral Stavridis is more concerned about putting pressure on the Taliban.

"I think there's a lot of pressure on the insurgency," he said. "And, I think the more pressure that we put on the insurgency, the higher the likelihood of eventual political settlement in this dispute."

So far, peace talks have been rare and unsuccessful. But analysts say, if the Afghan government forces continue to get better and the allies continue to pound the Taliban, prospects for a settlement could improve as the deadline for withdrawing most foreign troops gets closer.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More