Tolo TV had an interview with Mark Sedwill, following the resignation of US Top Commander in Afghanistan Question: Welcome, Mr. Mark Sedwill, NATO’s representative in Afghanistan. We really appreciate you are here in Tolo TV. At the beginning, what is the impact of General Stanley McChrystal’s removal on Afghanistan war?
Answer: Well, General McChrytal is a fine man, a close friend of mine and an outstanding military commander, and he was one of the architects of the comprehensive strategy that we are pursuing in Afghanistan to stabilise the areas threatened by the insurgency, to transfer responsibility to the Afghans in the areas that are stable and of course to support the reconciliation programme to bring back into the mainstream those insurgents who are willing to do so. But as the president said yesterday, the mission is bigger than the man, any man, and the campaign will remain on track. The strategy is the one that everyone is working towards and the campaign is on track. And in choosing General David Petraeus to replace General McChrystal, President Obama has chosen one of the finest soldiers in the world and he is absolutely the right man to meet the challenges ahead.
Question: Do you think that the replacement of General McChrystal, General David Petraeus is the good choice for Afghanistan as he had the same experience in Iraq war?
Answer: General Petraeus is one of the architects of the whole counterinsurgency philosophy that we have been pursuing here in Afghanistan and General McChrystal was leading the military component of it, so General Petraeus comes here with huge experience. He knows the country well. He knows President Karzai well and the government already. And more important is that he already has the relations around the region from his time as the commander of the entire region. That will become more important in the year ahead. So, he is absolutely the right man to take up this challenge.
Question: But General McChrystal has declared that there is a big difference between the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. What do you think about this?
Answer: Well, of course there is a big difference between Afghanistan and Iraq and indeed every other campaign of this kind. But it is important to remember that General Petraeus as the sent come commander, the commander of the US Command responsible for the whole region has been intimately involved already in overseeing the Afghan campaign. So, he understands the circumstances here and he already has the relations with the people here. He and I know each other. So, he will come to Afghanistan with the whole knowledge and experience that he has and be able to lead us to face the challenges ahead.
Question: It seems that there is a double opinion in the Obama administration in Afghanistan war and the resignation of Stanley McChrystal is one of the reasons. What is your opinion about this matter?
Answer: Well, I think every body, as President Obama set out yesterday, is signed up to and indeed working day and night to implement the strategy that the entire alliance devised last year. And we are already six months into that strategy and its one that we are seeking to pursue in the next 18 months or beyond. I think everybody is working towards the goal. There is a strong team here, military and civilian on the ground, and General Petraeus will be a very important part of that team.
Question: Do you think there is conflict in the White House about the current issues of Afghanistan?
Answer: No, I don’t think as President Obama set out yesterday, when he had General Petraeus with him, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior military officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, Secretary Gates, the Vice President. All of them there are working for and supporting the comprehensive strategy that we are taking in Afghanistan. I think it is true for the whole alliance. So, I think everyone is working for the same goal.
Question: Let’s focus on the Kandahar operation. What do think with the coming of David Petraeus? Will the operation start in its specific time as it was previously announced?
Answer: The Kandahar operation is on track and indeed the effort there has already begun. It is a complex campaign in Kandahar. We have the city itself and then the districts around it. So, what we are seeking is to bring together the political and the military and the civil effort in a comprehensive approach to stabilise the area bring security, better governance and better development for the people. That effort has already started. There will be a military phase of it and probably in a few months time, and we will continue to pursue that step by step over the coming period.
Question: You pointed about the political way of Kandahar operation. Do you mean about negotiations with the insurgents?
Answer: Well, there is a reconciliation policy agreed by the Peace Jirga just a few weeks ago which President Karzai is leading, and of course there is a separate programme to reintegrate insurgents who are willing to accept the constitution and renounce violence and terrorism. All those things are very important and the government has our full support and pursue. And if members of the Taliban are willing to negotiate with the government on that basis, then they have our support.
Question: Then, what happened to the Peace Jirga? There was an attack on the Peace Jirga, and it seems that the Taliban are never ready to negotiate.
Answer: Well, let’s see. I was there at the Peace Jirga when the attack happened and of course there seem to be dissident groups who want to disrupt any process of bringing peace to Afghanistan. But in the end, if it is the Taliban or any group of insurgents who wish to return and be a part of the main stream, and they wish to serve the people of Afghanistan, then they have a simple choice and that is to take up the offer of reconciliation that has been handed to them. The people of Afghanistan want peace. They don’t want us to continue. And all those Afghans fighting against the government and fighting against the prospects of peace should recognise that strong desire that people in the Peace Jirga have set out to bring this to an end.
Question: Do you think with the coming of David Petraeus, there will be some changes in the Afghan war?
Answer: Well, General Petraeus is hugely experienced, and will of course bring all his personal qualities and massive military experience to bear on this campaign. We all keep our campaign under the review all the time, and I am sure he will make a huge and positive contribution to it. He is exactly the right man to face this challenge.
Question: We have some experience from Marja operation. After the operation, NATO and the coalition forces did not run any rehabilitation and reconstruction projects. What do you think will be the changes after NATO and coalition forces leave the area without rehabilitation and reconstruction projects. What will be the changes?
Answer: The NATO forces will not be leaving the area and we have increased the forces in the area with the partnership of the Afghan forces on the ground, just to reinforce the security that we have been working so hard to bring. Where we go, we stay, and where we stay, we will help the Afghan government bring in the kind of projects that people want. Some of them are physical things, such as repairing the bazaar and looking at irrigation ditches. More important of that is to help the government bring the rule of law and bring those basic functions that the people of the area want. That is on track. It is taking a long time, because the area was in a very bad state. It is taking several months, but I think by the end of the year, the people of Marja will see really big differences from the situation when we started the Marja operation back.
Question: But recently, Mr. Coppler, a UK representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan also resigned. How do you compare his resignation with this issue?
Answer: I don’t think there is a link between the two. Mr. Coppler Coles was a good friend of mine and he was my predecessor when I was the British ambassador before taking on this job in NATO. He is a man who has worked very hard on behalf of Afghanistan in the last several years. First as ambassador and then as special representative. He has decided that it is the time now to move on to other challenges and I don’t think anyone should read any more on that.
Question: What is your long term strategy for Afghanistan to go to peace as a NATO Civilian Representative for Afghanistan?
Answer: Our strategy is a comprehensive one, which General McChrystal was an important part of it, and General Petraeus will lead through and that is a comprehensive approach. It is to regain the initiative against the insurgency, particularity in those areas in the south where they are strong. To resolve the political tensions which fuel the insurgency, and work with the Afghan government to do that and the reconciliation programme before the forthcoming elections is very important. And thirdly to transfer responsibility to the government of Afghanistan as areas become stable, so the people of Afghanistan can see their government deliver services, and all those things are what we want to achieve. At the end, what we want is a stable Afghanistan, governed by the legitimate government of Afghanistan and unthreatened by the insurgency, and one in which we can focus on development aid, the challenges of poverty and illiteracy, rather than military campaign, and that is the vision that we are working towards.
Question: What is very important for the people of Afghanistan is the security concerns, especially during the upcoming parliamentary elections. Do you think security will be established during the elections?
Answer: Well, I am sure there will be security problems and security threats during the elections, as they were last year, but I was in a briefing quite recently given by General Karimi, who leads the Afghan army in this effort and indeed many of his colleagues, and the chairman of the electoral commission was there and they set out their very extensive plans for providing security, not only on the day of the election, but actually in the weeks before and the weeks after it. I’m sure there will be security threats and there is bound to be some incidents, but I think the Afghan security forces supported by the international forces have good plans in place to do with those threats.
Question: Thank you very much Mr. Mark Sedwill. Good night.