By John T. Bennett - 08/22/11 08:18 PM EDT
U.S. and NATO officials will not regret creating a highly functional Afghanistan security force — even as most other parts of that government appear mostly dysfunctional, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenSenators approve shift in funding to ease airport wait times Carter pledges probe of sex assault testimony Pentagon looks to reduce billion energy bill MORE (D-N.H.) said Monday.
Obama administration and NATO leaders for the last year have repeatedly said the biggest key to U.S. and alliance forces being withdrawn by a 2014 objective is a highly capable Afghanistan security apparatus that can keep the peace and prevent extremist groups from returning.
Pentagon officials in recent months have increasingly pointed to gains in individual areas, something Shaheen did Monday in a conference call with reporters from Afghanistan, where she has been meeting with U.S. military officials and some troops.
The Senate Armed Services Committee member said several times she sees “real progress” in Afghanistan but each time noted it is in “local villages” and “local areas.”
She acknowledged the notion of building a Western-style democratic government is no longer a part of the objective there.
But with hopes all but extinguished for establishing a functional national governmental structure there, U.S. and NATO officials are not handing too much power to indigenous military and security forces, Shaheen told The Hill.
There is no reason to believe any power vacuum in Kabul that might be created when U.S. and NATO forces leave later this decade would be filled by an organized, respected and effective Afghanistan security apparatus, she said.
It is “very important” to build an indigenous security force capable of keeping Taliban forces, as well as al Qaeda and similar groups, from returning and seizing power as they did in the years before the 9/11 attacks, she said.