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Van Bommel: struggle for Afghan ‘hearts and minds’ fails

February 1st, 2012 • NATO’s strategy to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people is failing pitifully. This was the conclusion drawn by SP Member of Parliament and foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel on the basis of a leaked report which reveals that the Taliban enjoy broad support amongst the country’s population. ‘There was always something fishy about NATO’s optimistic official statements on the progress of the war,’ says Van Bommel. ‘Now it turns out that NATO didn’t really believe in these itself.’

Amongst the NATO report’s conclusions is that there is a wide-ranging cooperation between the insurgents on the one hand and the Afghan police and military on the other and that in the areas from which NATO units - operating as the International Security assistance Force (ISAF) - have withdrawn, the Taliban’s influence has been reasserted. This often occurs with little or no resistance from the Afghan government’s security forces and in many cases even with the active assistance of the Afghan police and military.

The report, which is based on many thousands of interviews with captured insurgents, further concluded that the Afghans generally do not trust the Karzai government. Afghan citizens often express a preference for the Taliban’s rule over that of the Afghan government.

According to the SP this report puts major question marks over the achievability of the Kunduz mission. Will the Afghan army and police, currently under training by the Netherlands and others, soon be in a condition which will enable it to run the Taliban out of this northern province? Or will it turn out, as has happened in other parts of Afghanistan, that all this work may have been for nothing? “On the basis of the NATO report you can only come to the sobering conclusion that this is not improbable,” says Van Bommel.

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