`Catastrophic consequences of walking away from Afghanistan`

Holbrooke says US continued assistance is required to achieve Afghan success.

Updated: Jul 15, 2010, 15:16 PM IST

Washington: Any hasty withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan could have catastrophic consequences and active cooperation of Pakistan is a must for comprehensively defeating al Qaeda and Taliban, America`s point man for the region Richard Holbrooke has said.

"This is my personal view, if we walk away from Afghanistan, again, as we did 21 years ago, the consequences will be similarly catastrophic because of the unique strategic position of Afghanistan and the reaction that it would have in Pakistan, China, India and the countries to Afghanistan`s west," the Obama administration`s special envoy told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He said to achieve success in the war torn country, it would involve continued American economic and development assistance.

"This will not be cheap, but it will be a fraction of the money that is now being authorised and appropriated for the military campaign. When we will be able to transition to that is impossible for me or anyone to say, but it won`t be on a single day. It will be a gradual process, and that is what the review in December and the President`s decision making will focus on," Holbrooke said in response to questions from Senators.

On Pakistan`s role, he said, "We cannot succeed in Afghanistan without Pakistan`s participation."

Holbrooke told Senators that the very fact that he was appointed as the Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, in itself was a reflection of the fact. "The US government reorganised to reflect the fact that you cannot succeed in Afghanistan without Pakistan`s involvement."

Indicating that Washington was putting pressure on Islamabad for a larger crackdown in the Waziristan tribal belt Holbrooke said, "We do not have enough action yet on the Pakistani side of the border. Here is a perfect example of why the two countries cannot be disaggregated for purposes of policy. We got what we wanted on one side of the border, but we haven`t gotten it on the other yet. And Americans are being killed and wounded because of this."

The American envoy also conceded that western part of Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorists. "The western part of Pakistan, the lawless areas, are the epicentre of the issues that threaten our country. They directly link to the Taliban but they`re in Pakistan," he said responding to concerns from Senator Jim Webb.

"We have made real progress in Pakistan in the last year and a half, but the focus is so overwhelmingly on Afghanistan -- for valid reasons; that`s where our troops are -- that we have lost -- we haven`t even recognised the movement in Pakistan across the board: economically, politically, strategically," Holbrooke said.

To achieve the goal to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and prevent its ability to threaten the United States, Holbrooke said the US has to degrade the Taliban because they are part of the enemy structure, a different part but an integral part that America faces.

"Now, the Afghan government doesn`t yet have the capacity to deal with this on its own. How could they after 30 years of war? And so the civilian part of it, police, government capacity, rule of law, sub-national government, training provincial official, women`s empowerment and a whole series of other major issues -- are part of our civilian programs," he said.

The civilian strategy of the Obama administration, he said, is designed from keeping al Qaeda at bay and it`s designed to help Afghan institutions establish conditions for stable governance.