British Secretary of State for Defense Des Browne expressed guarded optimism about Afghanistan's democratization process during a recent speech in Washington, DC. At the same time, Browne cautioned that the conflict-ravaged nation will take at least a generation to rebuild.
"The nature and complexity of the challenge there is greater even than the nature and complexity of the challenge in ... Iraq," Browne said during a July 10 address at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. He was in the US capital to mark the 50th anniversary of UK-US Mutual Defense Agreement, as well as to hold consultations with senior American defense officials.
Browne voiced hope that a "virtuous circle" of increasing military security and economic-political improvements was taking shape in Afghanistan. In his view, the International Security Assurance Force (ISAF), of which Britain is the second-highest troop contributor after the United States, is establishing the basis for economic development and a strengthening of the Afghan government's political authority. The economic and political progress, in turn, is helping consolidate the coalition's military successes.
"It is vital for the international community to remain committed to Afghanistan, something of which I know no American audience will ever need persuading," he said.
Taliban operations have captured headlines of late, such as the July 13 assault on a combined US-Afghan military post in eastern Afghanistan that left nine American soldiers dead. Countering the impression that the Taliban had the initiative, Browne maintained that coalition forces had driven the radical Islamic militants out of many of their former strongholds. While he maintained that the Taliban could not win in Afghanistan, he cautioned that the international community could still lose the conflict "if we fail to maintain our cohesion as an alliance and rapidly
Richard Weitz is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.