NATO Official Confirms Coalition Role in Security for Elections
KABUL – Maurits R. Jochems, NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, confirmed to TOLOnews that NATO would support Afghan forces in providing security for the upcoming elections and would be involved in transporting ballots to the capital for counting. “The elections are of course Afghan led and Afghan owned as it should be, but we have a supporting role in the security of the elections,” Mr. Jochems said. “For example, when there is not enough airlift capacity…to bring results of the votes to the capital or back, then NATO can assist with the airlift.”
Coalition and Afghan officials both maintain that the Afghan forces have largely assumed operation responsibilities throughout the country ahead of the 2014 foreign troop withdraw. Nevertheless, due to the limited capacities of the Afghan air force, coalition forces have continued to provide air support for Afghan operations and supply transport.
Ahead of the Presidential and Provincial elections set for April 5 insecurity has been an issue of top concern for government officials and the general public. Many are worried security issues could make election improprieties more likely, so assurance from NATO that additional support for ballot transport will be provided is likely to be received well. Mr. Jochems added that he is optimistic about the capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), but stressed the importance of training and organization of the Afghan forces.
“The Afghan National Security forces are now at an unprecedented level, I mean 350,000 police and military, and that is fantastic. But indeed, in terms of quality, they still have to train further and develop themselves and be equipped…and that will all take a few more years to do,” he said.
The NATO combat mission is set to end in December of 2014, when nearly all foreign troops are expected to leave the country. With relations between Kabul and Washington on the fritz, a “zero option” – leaving no troops behind for advising and training – was floated by officials in the Obama administration back in July. Although it is likely some U.S. troops will stay behind to work with the Afghan forces, nothing is guaranteed, and if the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is not finalized there will be no blueprint for a post-drawdown presence.
“In that sense a follow on mission will be very much in the interest of Afghanistan, I can’t see another way,” Mr. Jochems said referring to the possible role of U.S. troops post-2014. “To improve the ANSF is in the interest of Afghanistan and to improve the ANSF you probably need a training mission and some extra support, so the conclusion is clear to me.” (Tolonews)