WASHINGTON – The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan failed to follow through as it should have after ousting the government in 2001, said the NATO commander in the country.
The mistake — adopting "a peacetime approach" too early — set the stage for this year's deadly Taliban resurgence, British Gen. David Richards told Pentagon reporters Tuesday.
He said the international community has six months to correct the problem before losing Afghan support.
"The Taliban were defeated. .... And it looked all pretty hunky-dory," Richard said of the environment at the end of 2001. "We thought it was all done ... and didn't treat it as aggressively as ... with the benefit of hindsight, we should have done."
Progress made on security, rebuilding and good government didn't meet Afghan expectations, and this year the "Taliban exploited ... this sense of frustration amongst the people," Richards said in a televised conference from Afghanistan.
Insurgent bombings, ambushes and rocket attacks surged this year. Since the Taliban was overthrown, many of Afghanistan's former rulers are thought to have found sanctuary across the border in Pakistan.
Five years later, NATO forces, along with Afghan Army and police forces, are planning a series of operations throughout the country this winter to do road building and other reconstruction projects in more secure areas and bolster security to prepare for reconstruction in the less secure areas, Richards said.
If there is not measurable improvement in six months, he said, Afghans may choose "the rotten future offered by the Taliban" rather than the hopeful future that the coalition offered but didn't deliver.