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    Turkey willing to do more to build up Afghan forces: Turkish FM

    HotNewsTurkey with wires
    27.10.2008 - 11:26 | Son Güncelleme: 27.10.2008 - 11:26

    Turkey is willing to do more to train Afghanistan's security forces, the Turkish foreign minister told Reuters, after calls from Afghan and U.S. leaders for help to build up the army and police in their fight with Taliban insurgents.

    As violence reaches its worst level in Afghanistan since the Taliban were toppled in 2001, NATO leaders recognize that strengthening the Afghan army, and particularly the notoriously corrupt police, is key to suppressing the insurgency.

    But while the United States has pumped $7.4 billion into the Afghan army and police in the past 18 months, the U.S. military says it is still short of 2,300 instructors for the Afghan police and is having to use army trainers to try to cover the shortfall.

    "We need to do more to help Afghans to own their future and how to do it is by helping them with building their own military and police forces," Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, who is in the Afghan capital of Kabul, told Reuters in an interview late on Sunday.

    "We are willing to do more in the area of training," he said.

    Turkey currently has some 800 troops serving with NATO forces in Afghanistan, most of them based in the capital, Kabul. With the second biggest army in NATO and as the only Muslim country in the alliance, Turkey is uniquely placed to help.

    Afghanistan was the first country to recognize the Turkish Republic, established in 1923, and Turkey has trained Afghan officers as far back as the 1930s.

    Afghans still train at Turkey's military staff colleges and Turkish troops help train the Afghan army in Afghanistan and the police at a training centre Ankara set up near Kabul.

    But in meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other senior ministers, Babacan said they had all asked for more.

    "All I am hearing from them is 'you have very good military capabilities, you have good expertise in this area and we would like to get more help from you' ... that is what the Afghan authorities have been requesting from us again and again," he told Reuters.

    Washington is sending 8,000 more troops to Afghanistan next year after repeated appeals to its NATO allies for reinforcements met only a limited response.

    But Babacan, like U.S. commanders, stressed there was no purely military solution to end the conflict with the hardline Islamist Taliban which has now entered its eighth year. "Maybe more soldiers are necessary, that's another technical issue the military experts should look into, but on the other hand by only having more troops, we don't think the problems in Afghanistan will be solved," he said.

    Turkish companies are Afghanistan's biggest private investors and Turkish organisations operate a number of private Turkish schools, mainly in the more peaceful north. Turkey has also now begun a $12-million project to build a military high school.

    "It is ultimately going to be very important to win the people of Afghanistan, to win their hearts and to win their minds. If the people of Afghanistan are not satisfied, if they are not convinced then we all have a very difficult job here," Babacan said.

    Turkish foreign minister met Saturday his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta in Kabul. Babacan is expected to return to Turkey on Monday.

    Photo: AP











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