OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Afghan government’s failure to combat insurgents is a significant obstacle in the way to eventual success in Afghanistan, a top Canadian general said in blunt comments on Thursday.
Brigadier-General Jon Vance, who was the commander of Canada’s 2,800 troops in Afghanistan until last November, said Kabul needed to act immediately to take advantage of the gains made by foreign troops.
He said Canadian soldiers, who are based in the southern Taliban stronghold region of Kandahar, were gradually taking control of the area outside the city.
“At this point in time, I’d say the enemy effectiveness has been largely arrested and we now have to deal with the greater persistent threat to success, which would be the Afghan government itself,” he said in a speech.
“Not that they’re actively trying to screw it up. But they need to fight the insurgents, and they’re not. I‘m being quite frank with you,” Vance said.
The Afghan government is having trouble dealing with the Taliban. Insurgents launched a brazen assault on the center of Kabul on Monday, killing several people.
Western nations are trying hard to build up both the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, with varying success. Vance said the army was showing some signs of progress but the police still faced many hurdles.
He identified one small southern town where he said Canadian troops had helped the local population by evicting the Taliban and restoring peace.
“What we need to see is the Afghan government taking full advantage of the changed situation, fast, and raise their game, so that the town isn’t seeing the turnaround strictly as a result of Canadian acts,” he said.
Canada is due to pull out all its troops by the end of 2011. So far, 139 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan.
Vance, expressing confidence that Afghanistan would eventually become a stable nation, said the Taliban were running a bad insurgency.
“They don’t have a counter-narrative for putting this country back together again, so they don’t appeal to the population. So they’re not going to win and I think they won’t be able to stand as a spoiler in the face of this,” he said.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson