February 29, 2008 / 10:30 PM / 11 years ago

NATO chief disputes U.S. view of Afghan control

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - NATO’s top official took issue on Friday with a U.S. intelligence assessment that the Afghan government controls just 30 percent of the country and the Taliban holds 10 percent.

Smoke rises from the car of a suicide bomber in Kabul January 31, 2008. REUTERS/ Omar Sobhani

The assessment, revealed by U.S. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell on Wednesday, suggested the rest of Afghanistan was under the control of local groups.

“I do not share that analysis,” NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in Washington after a meeting with President George W. Bush.

De Hoop Scheffer did not offer an alternative assessment but said the U.S. figures did not match the views of commanders leading the NATO-led force trying to stabilize Afghanistan.

The dispute comes amid rising concern in Washington about the war in Afghanistan, where Taliban militants have increased suicide bombings and car bomb attacks over the past two years.

De Hoop Scheffer also disputed that tribal control of parts of Afghanistan represented a failure for the international community. He suggested it was a success if traditional tribes rather than the Taliban held sway.

“What kind of society is Afghanistan? It is a society with a tribal structure,” he said in a speech hosted by the Brookings Institution think tank.

“That many parts are ruled by tribes, and are ruled by the system that the country has known for ages, does not mean that we are failing,” he said. “It does rather mean that we are successful in Afghanistan.”

McConnell told the Senate Committee on Armed Services on Wednesday that the Taliban was able to control the population in about “10 to 11 percent” of the country.

Afghanistan’s the federal government had control of about 30 or 31 percent of the country and the rest was under “local control,” McConnell said.

Reporting by Andrew Gray; Editing by Xavier Briand

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