WASHINGTON (CN) – British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told senators Thursday that other nations must step up to their responsibilities in Afghanistan. “Do we together need to do more to match the moment?” he asked at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. “The answer is yes,” Miliband said, predicting other nations will announce more contributions next week. “This is not just a US – UK venture.”
Forty three nations have contributed militarily to the war and more than 60 have supplied humanitarian aid but the United States and Britain are the largest troop contributors and the United Kingdom is the third largest financial contributor. Miliband’s testimony coincides with the release of a status report on Afghanistan, both in preparation for an international meeting in London next week on humanitarian cooperation in Afghanistan, where Miliband predicted a number of nations will announce more contributions to the effort in Afghanistan.
Miliband shined an optimistic light on Afghanistan and consistently underlined persistence in pursuing goals there. He called for “effective and sustained implementation” of international agendas in Afghanistan, signaling that the nine-year war may need to last much longer.
He pointed to Afghan government shortfalls and acknowledged that it doesn’t just need to worry about being outgunned, “it must not be out-governed by the insurgency,” he said.
He echoed calls long-held by other experts that security responsibilities ultimately need to be handed to the Afghan government, and that insurgents must be offered good alternatives to fighting- at least better than the $10 a day the insurgents offer to some fighters.
But Miliband did bear some positive news. Afghans feel that someone is in charge now that the election – which was fraught with speculation of corruption – is over, Miliband said, and noted that Afghanistan President Karzai is appointing “people of merit” to cabinet positions.
And despite Afghanistan’s difficulty as the fourth or fifth poorest nation in the world, and its locally-focused tribal structure, Miliband pointed to the growing Afghan army – which now has 96,000 fighters – and to the rise in school attendance and the return of four million Afghan refugees to portray growing stability.
But then he clarified, “We do not have military forces in Afghanistan in order for children to go to school,” he said, and suggested that the numbers show that efforts to diminish international terrorism by stabilizing the region may be working.
Seventy percent of terrorist plots against the United Kingdom are linked to the Afghanistan and Pakistan border region, he said.
Miliband also noted that the Afghan army is expected to grow to 109,000 by the end of the year.