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Civilian counterpart to ISAF commander is needed in Afghanistan, says security advisor

What is your hope and expectation of President Karzai? Is he capable of turning his government around and providing desperately needed basic services to his people after the recent election debacle further eroded his credibility?

President Hamid Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai needs support amid all the criticism

President Karzai must do those things to turn things around and to remain in power. But I think we have to be careful. While this was a less than clean election, we have to careful about either undermining, criticising or ultimately humiliating him and then judging him for his performance. If we want him to be able to perform, he is now the president of Afghanistan, he is going forward, we must empower him and then support him in these efforts to root out corruption and to deliver services to the Afghan people.

But the time for maligning him and criticising him frankly has got to end. We have to stop that and permit him the space and the room to move forward. If he fails he will not simply fail NATO and his US allies, he is going to fail the Afghan people and he will be thrown out of office. The time for criticism is over and we now have to move forward in a positive way and judge him based on his performance.

An important factor in Europe concerning Afghanistan is the public's opposition against the military effort there. This trend in public opinion against the war in Afghanistan has recently also gained momentum in the US. How do you explain a new surge or an even increased international effort in Afghanistan to an ever increasingly skeptical public in Europe and the US?

This is the very reason that we do not either in Europe or in the United States conduct foreign policy (based) on public opinion polls. This is exactly the reason why we democratically elect leaders to make difficult public policy decisions that are in the country's best interest.

With all due respect, I think there is a misperception in the debate in Europe. This is not an American problem. Afghanistan is not simply an American threat. Look at the rise of illegal immigration from North Africa and from Islamic countries into Europe. Look at the public policy problems in education and health care that Europe is dealing with. Look at the travel between the expatriate communities from Muslim countries that are legally in Europe and they are travelling back where they can perhaps get training and be recruiting.

This is not just an American problem. Europe is going to have to come to grips that while this is both wildly unpopular in Europe and the United States, Afghanistan and our success or lack of success there poses a direct threat to the people of Europe.

Michael Knigge talked to Frances Townsend
Editor: Rob Mudge

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