ON THE NEW STRATEGY FOR AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN



THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
__________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release March 27, 2009

PRESS BRIEFING
BY BRUCE RIEDEL, AMBASSADOR RICHARD HOLBROOKE,
AND MICHELLE FLOURNOY
ON THE NEW STRATEGY FOR AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Room 450



MR. HAMMER: Good morning, everyone. We had a little change in the
programming note, but we do have Bruce Riedel and Michelle Flournoy,
who both were very much a part of this whole review. Bruce will start
off with a few remarks, and then we'll open it to Q&A. This is on the
record.

MR. RIEDEL: Thanks very much, Mike.

You've heard what the President had to say, so I'm not going to go
into repeating his remarks. Let me just open with a few process
questions in order to put this in perspective, and then I might hit on
a couple of highlights, and then as quickly as possible we want to get
to your questions.

This review builds on three previous reviews -- one done by General
Lute at the National Security Council, one done by Admiral Mullen at
the Joint Staff, and a third by General Petraeus at CENTCOM. We took
all of the results of those reviews into consideration right from the
beginning.

We also did a lot of reaching out to experts outside of the U.S.
government in think tanks across America and in South Asia, as well.
We consulted very extensively on the Hill right from the beginning.
We've had intense series of meetings here at the White House with
Speaker Pelosi and others in order to hear what they had to say and to
get their input into this process.

It has been thoroughly vetted through the interagency process at all
levels, including the deputies committee and the principals committee
of the National Security Council. And of course, we've reached out to
our commanders in the field including General Petraeus, and our
diplomats in the field including Ambassador Patterson. Not the least
-- and I really want to emphasis -- we've been engaged in extensive
consultations with our allies, starting, first and foremost, with our
partners, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In February we hosted delegations from both countries here at the
White House for very intense conversations about the problems they
face and to hear what was on their minds. And then Secretary Clinton
hosted a trilateral meeting at the State Department in order to bring
us all together. And as you notice from the President's speech, this
trilateral diplomacy will be an ongoing feature of this policy.

Of course, we've also reached out to our NATO partners and to our non-
NATO partners who have troops on the ground in Afghanistan. The Vice
President made two trips to Europe specifically to reach out to NATO
and the other partners in Brussels in order to get their views.
Ambassador Holbrooke briefed the North Atlantic Council last week on
where we were in this process, and the President this week met with
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

This has been a very intense and ambitious and aggressive 60-day
effort to reach out and to make sure that we've gotten everyone's
views into it. Next week, of course, the President will discuss this
at the NATO summit in Strasbourg and also at the EU summit in Prague.

I'll just put one or two of the key headlines, I think, on the table
here. I think, as you heard, the President wants to make sure that
this mission has a focus and a clear, concise goal. And that goal, as
he spelled it out, is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, and
to ensure that their safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot
threaten the United States anymore.

As he put it, al Qaeda has succeeded in regenerating itself over the
last seven years, and it is again a threat to the United States
homeland and to American influence around the world and to our allies
around the world.

Al Qaeda operates within a very sophisticated syndicate of terrorist
organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I'd be happy to try to
explain that more to you in questions and answers.

Thus far, our policy sees Afghanistan and Pakistan as two countries,
but one theater of operations for our diplomacy, and one challenge for
our overall policy. As the President laid out, we're going to engage
intensively with the Pakistani government. We have very concrete
proposals for increasing economic assistance to Pakistan, proposals
that have already been put forward by the Congress. We're also looking
at what we can do on the military side.

On the Afghanistan side, the President has resourced fully the
requirements of the mission -- not just on the military side, but I
want to emphasize on the civilian side, as well. Now, for the first
time, we are providing the kind of civilian support that this mission
has always needed.

Lastly, we're going to engage in very intensive regional diplomacy
with all the key stakeholders in the region in order to make sure we
do everything we can to enhance security and stability in the broader
region and isolate al Qaeda and the militants as much as possible.

You've heard the President, you've had the chance to speak to many of
us on other occasions, so I think at this point the most useful thing
to do is open it up to your questions, and we'll be happy to respond.

Sir, you were first.

Q Should we see this as an abandonment or shift from the
counterinsurgency mission that had been undertaken in Iraq and to a
lesser degree in Afghanistan, shifting from that to a much more
narrowly focused counterterror mission?

MR. RIEDEL: Absolutely not. I'll let Michelle talk a little bit more
about counterinsurgency, but I think there is nothing minimalist about
this approach.

MS. FLOURNOY: If anything, I would say what we're doing is stepping up
to more fully resource a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan
that is designed to first reverse Taliban gains and secure the
population, particularly in the most contested areas of the south and
east; second, provide the Afghan national security forces with the
training and the mentoring they need to expand rapidly and to take --
ultimately take the lead in providing security for their nation; and
finally, to provide a secure environment that will enable governance
and development efforts to take root and grow.

So this is a -- it has as its goal disrupting and defeating al Qaeda
and its associates, and preventing Afghanistan and Pakistan --
preventing Afghanistan from returning to become a safe haven. But it
is very much a counterinsurgency approach towards that end.

Q Can I follow up on that, just to clarify? Is there an increase in
the U.S. military or intelligence community conducting
counterterrorism operations, going after high-value targets like al
Qaeda or their sympathizers in Afghanistan or in Pakistan? Is that a
part of this strategy?

MS. FLOURNOY: The counterterrorism piece remains a central part of
this mission, and I certainly believe we are going to be increasing
our intelligence focus in this theater, and as opportunities arise
that may increase the pace of operations, as well.

Q Is there anything specific about going after bin Laden?

MR. RIEDEL: I don't think that we're going to get into specifics about
intelligence operations here. I think the President said very clearly
during the campaign, and you heard him say it again today, that if we
have actionable intelligence about senior targets, we will take the
appropriate action.

Q Can you talk a little bit about how you envision reducing the safe
havens in Pakistan? You talked a little bit about the broad strategy
versus Pakistan, but I don't understand how that will shrink or reduce
the safe havens over time.

MR. RIEDEL: I think this -- the short answer to that is that the
combination of military operations, aggressive military operations on
the Afghan side, and working energetically with the Pakistani
government to shut down these safe havens, creates the synergy which
we hope will then lead to their destruction.

Q When the President gave his first press conference about a month
back, he said that the central government of Afghanistan was detached
from the rest of the country. What is envisioned -- what is within
your ability to do about undetaching it, because if it remains
detached, how can you implement these programs, and how can you do
anything about the corruption, which the President spoke about a
little bit but didn't really detail how you address it?

MR. RIEDEL: I want to bring Richard into this part of the
conversation, because he's had the distinction of having more
opportunity to deal with them than Michelle and I have.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I'm sorry, I thought this was Bruce's press
conference. Sorry I'm late. (Laughter.) Can you just -- I know, I
really apologize for being late. Could you just repeat the question in
a -- this is something to do with corruption, which, by the way, I'm
totally against. (Laughter.) But could you just clarify what the
question was?

Q Well, the President himself said that the central government in
Afghanistan was detached from the rest of the country. So I want to
know what in this new strategic review will address that issue. What
is within the power of the United States and NATO to make the
government less detached, and how does that play into the whole issue
of corruption, which the President talked about briefly today but
didn't give any details on how you actually deal with corruption?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: First, let me just say that President Karzai has
called and is trying to reach me now, and I may have to leave, take
the call. But he sent in word already that he watched the speech live
on CNN from Kabul, that he was extremely gratified by it, and that he
will be issuing his own statement of support in -- quickly, but that
may divert me.

I would just point you to the fact that no American chief executive
has spoken about corruption this way ever before in open. Isn't that a
fair statement, Bruce? And on the way out, a former Assistant
Secretary of State, who many of you know, but I better not give his
name, since he isn't -- I was going to say it -- with vast experience
--

Q Is he a big guy? (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: They're all big guys. (Laughter.) He said -- he
said to me, I've been waiting six years to hear a speech like that,
and the emphasis on corruption is essential. You've all been reporting
it for years. We view it as a cancer eating away at the country and it
has to be dealt with. And obviously we're not going to lay out how
we're going to deal with it. To some extent, we don't know yet.
There's so much dispute about it. Senators have talked about it,
including senators who are now President, Vice President and Secretary
of State. And they bring what they said as senators to this issue.

And speaking for myself, I've written about it a lot. I don't take
back anything I ever wrote as a private citizen. Now we've been
offered the extraordinary challenge of trying to deal with this
problem. And we're here to say, it is at the highest levels. Why? This
isn't baksheesh. We've got to make a distinction between ordinary
problems that happen in every society. This is massive efforts that
undermine the government. President Karzai himself has said this, and
we need to work on this. It's a huge recruiting draw -- excuse me,
huge recruiting opportunity for the Taliban. It's one of their major
things they exploit. But I can't lay out to you how exactly we're
going to do this. We're just starting out. And by the way, we're in
the middle of an election campaign in Afghanistan, which complicates
everything enormously.

Q Do you -- three precise questions -- do you fully support President
Karzai and his family? How are you going to get the confidence of the
local population? And is there an exit strategy?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: The only exit strategy that Bruce and Michelle
and I and the people we work for and with can see is pretty basic. We
can leave as the Afghans can deal with their own security problems.
That's why the President today put emphasis on training the National
Army, training and improving the National Police. And he said -- and I
would draw your attention to this -- that there will be an increase in
their numbers, although he did not give a precise figure. I've seen
some in articles, particularly one in The New York Times the other day
-- those figures were figures kicking around in the planning process,
but they weren't sufficiently scrubbed down; they weren't sufficiently
costed out. So the President felt that he ought to just talk about the
increase now and we're going to keep working on it.

It's a -- that is -- the exit strategy of course includes governance,
corruption, but above all -- and this is the single most difficult
aspect of what we're talking about today -- above all, it also
requires dealing with western Pakistan, because you could have a great
government in Kabul; you could have a government that fulfills every
criteria of democratic governance, and if the current situation in
western Pakistan continued, the instability in Afghanistan would
continue.

You all know that, those of you who've been there. It is clearly
reflected in Margaret Warner's series from Afghanistan and Pakistan on
Lehrer NewsHour recently. It's been reported in every one of your
newspapers. CNN has done it. We have to deal with this western
Pakistan problem. And I think Bruce and Michelle and I and our
superiors would all freely admit that that is, of all the dilemmas,
problems and challenges we face, that's going to be the most daunting,
because it's a sovereign country and there is a red line. And the red
line is unambiguous and stated publically by the Pakistani government
over and over again: No foreign troops on our soil.

Q Do you support Karzai. Do you support President Karzai and his
brother? Do you fully support them?

MR. RIEDEL: We support the elected leadership of Afghanistan and we
support the elected leadership of Pakistan. In the elections process,
this is a decision for the Afghan and Pakistani people; it is not an
American decision, and the United States is not endorsing candidates.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Let me phrase it even more precisely, because we
have a mantra we're going to work out on this, and it's very clear. As
I'm sure most of you know, the Constitution says under Article 61 that
President Karzai -- not President Karzai -- but the President's term
ends on May 22nd. The election commission decide -- which meant the
election should be held on April 21st. The election commission in
Afghanistan said they wanted to postpone the election to August 20th
for various reasons. There may be a runoff that would take it to
October 2nd.

The United States, in that interim -- there's going to be a big
argument about who's President from May 22nd to August 20th. The
United States' position could not be clearer, and President Obama has
personally reviewed it and articulated it, and it's worth repeating
again today: We believe there should be continuity of government until
the election -- point number one.

Point number two: The United States will neither support nor oppose
any candidate in these elections. In the meetings yesterday that the
President had with the leadership, which we were privileged to be in,
he was explicit on that.

And point number three: We believe the election should be free, fair,
open, and the candidates should operate from a level playing field.
We've reviewed this with President Karzai, we've reviewed it with the
other candidates, and that's really all we're going to say on that
subject.

MS. FLOURNOY: If I could just clarify one point on the topic of exit
strategy, even as we ultimately consider transition of
responsibilities in the security sector, one of the things that's very
clear in this strategy is a long-term commitment to assisting the
Afghan people, in terms of economic and security assistance long-term,
even as the security sector may transition over time. So I wanted to
clarify that.

The other thing that, with regard to your question about connecting to
the people, is I think there is a shift in strategy towards
emphasizing more bottom-up approaches in development and governance at
the district and provincial level to complement the investments we're
making at the national level in ministries and so forth.

MR. RIEDEL: And in that regard, that's one of the most important
things the President mentioned, but which could get otherwise missed:
agricultural-sector job creation. We're talking to Secretary Vilsack
about that; the U.S. Department of Agriculture is going to get much
more involved.

This is a rural country. There is no agricultural -- senior
agricultural attaché in the mission right now. AID and USDA don't work
together. We're going to fix all that, I hope. We're going to go to --
we're going to emphasize wheat; it's a wheat culture, and the current
wheat is very low in nutrients. President Obama is personally
enthusiastic and interested in this. Tom Vilsack will be part of our
next trilateral meeting; he wasn't part of the first one.

So that's what Michelle means by ground-up. We also want to work on
training district-level officials in Afghanistan. There are 396
districts in Afghanistan. There's been no training at that level.
There are lots of things like that we can do. It's not nation
building; it's what you do to help a country that is in need. They
have a nation; we need to help them stand on their own feet.

Q What's happening in terms of an increase in troops among our
allies?

MS. FLOURNOY: This is -- we are -- the President is going to the NATO
summit; Secretary Clinton is going to The Hague on March 31st. We are
-- have been engaging extensively throughout the review with our
allies and our partners and we have made some very clear requests of
them, not only in the military sphere, but in the training and
mentoring sphere, in the capacity sphere on the civilian side, in
terms of -- also in terms of financial contributions. So we are making
very specific asks; we've been in consultation with them already and
we expect many of those to be -- come to fruition over the next month
or two.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: But The Hague is not a pledging conference.
We're not going to The Hague to collect numbers; we're going to The
Hague to set the framework for a new revitalization of the commitment.
However, many countries have already talked to us privately about
either troops during the election period, or nonmilitary support.

I would particularly draw your attention to Japan. Japan is going to
pay the salaries of the National Police for the next six months -- all
of it -- as an example of huge -- and this is very important; the
Congress emphasizes it all the time.

Q Can you go through the benchmarks, please? What are they? Who set
them and who will determine whether the benchmarks are being met?

MR. RIEDEL: The benchmarks is a process that's just beginning. We have
not established them. Let me say that this strategic review is a road
map for moving forward; it's a strategy. It's not intended to be a
campaign plan or a straitjacket.

We will develop benchmarks across the board. Some of these are fairly
obvious, like levels of violence, levels of casualties, periodicity of
suicide bombings both in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- those kind of
benchmarks that you measure any conflict by. Those are some that are
pretty obvious. There are going to be other ones about moving against
corruption; there will be other ones about the speed with which we
build up the Afghan army and the success rate of building the Afghan
army.

So the benchmarks process is not something that's locked in stone
today. It's something that we're only at the beginning phase of
starting to work on.

Q Well, will the benchmarks be just for Afghanistan, or will they also
be for any kind of progress being made in western Pakistan?

MR. RIEDEL: The President feels very strongly that this strategy needs
to be flexible and adaptable, and that to the extent possible, we
develop metrics -- and you heard him use that word in the speech --
that give you an idea of our success rate. He wants to reevaluate
periodically how we're doing, what's working, what's not working, make
mid-course corrections and adjustments.

This is a very, very difficult problem, as the President laid out.
It's going to be a long and difficult road ahead. And he wants to
have, and we have built into the strategy, maximum flexibility and
adaptability. For example, there may be a benchmark that we don't even
know of now that, as we go forward, we begin to realize is something
we want to test and measure. So the theme of this process is to be
flexible, adaptable and comprehensive, and self-regulating with
periodic reviews.

Q Can I ask about the question of corruption with regard to Pakistan?
The President alluded today to some problems in getting Pakistanis to
respond when we have high-level intelligence -- or have intelligence
about high-level terrorists, and he said, "We will insist that action
be taken." Does that mean if the Pakistanis will act we will not, and
if they do not, we will?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I just don't think we can answer that question.
It's speculative, it's hypothetical, and it would be deeply injurious
to our national interest to speculate. But I appreciate the importance
of the question, and that's all we're ready to say.

Q Can you say something about what the President meant by that?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: No.

Q The Taliban has come out with a statement in response to the
President this morning. They basically said that the U.S. is repeating
the mistakes of the Russians, and if winning the war by military power
worked then the Russians would still be in charge. I wonder if you
have any comment to that. And if that's the kind of rhetoric that
they're -- they sound like they're ready to fight. Is the U.S. ready
for casualties, more Afghan casualties? And how can the U.S. engage
with them in any productive way?

MR. RIEDEL: Let me comment on the Taliban. It's no surprise. We know
that the core Taliban leadership, led by Mullah Omar, is determined
not to negotiate with anybody. They want to take Afghanistan back to
the medieval hell that they created in the 1990s. But there are many
of the -- those involved in the insurgency who may not be so committed
as that, and if we see the momentum of the Taliban broken this summer
and over the course of the fighting season, we may see some fractures
within that movement. And I suspect that the core Taliban leadership
is very, very worried about just that kind of thing happening.

MS. FLOURNOY: And I would just further add that there's absolutely no
valid comparison between the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, which
was an occupation to control a country, repress a population, install
their own sort of puppet leadership. We are there to, first and
foremost, combat terrorism and protect our own interests and our own
people from attack. But we're also there to help the Afghan people and
enable them to reclaim their country. There is absolutely no
comparison that's valid between the two.

Q I want to just check a few things. How do you plan to deal with the
danger to -- you're talking about significantly increasing aid to
Pakistan, for example, on the civilian side. How do you plan to deal
-- get that aid into the tribal areas when even Embassy workers in
Peshawar had to retreat? I mean, how are you going to deal with that
problem?

And is there any risk of ending up -- and maybe this is for Michelle
Flournoy -- ending up with an Afghan army that is too large to
actually support financially in the long term?

And the other question is, do you have any plans for how to improve
coordination between all of the foreign interests that are involved in
Afghanistan? Is there some central way that you're going to be able to
coordinate?

MS. FLOURNOY: Let me just take the Afghan national security forces
question first. We have identified this as a key priority -- building
their capacity is a key priority in the new strategy -- and we're
going to fully resource that effort for the first time in years.

We are going to -- right now the first step is to focus on
accelerating that growth while maintaining quality to the established
targets for both the army and the police by 2011. At that point we'll
need to assess whether that growth is adequate or whether they need to
be expanded further, and that determination will be made down the
road. Part of that determination will be the question of
sustainability, and that will obviously depend on the state of the
Afghan economy, the willingness of the international community to
continue to support and so forth. So that is a question to be
determined in the future.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: The last part of your question was on --

Q Coordination.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Yes, between the civilians and the military in
the U.S. side.

Q Among all of the --

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Oh, the international. Yes, that's a very
interesting question. Since the job I was given includes that issue --
I'm actually interviewing now for somebody to do that on a full-time
basis, that particular issue.

We've already begun extensive discussions with many other nations on
how to refocus international assistance in a way that is more
coordinated and more rational.

If a country has a geographic location for its troops -- the Dutch and
Australians in Uruzgan, the Germans in Mazar-e-Sharif, the Italians in
Herat -- wouldn't it make more sense for their aid to be focused in
that area, too? We're going to concentrate on the south and east. We
are also going to focus much, not all of our aid in that area.

And so we're -- we need somebody working only on that issue, just on
that issue, because it's so important. You've all reported on the lack
of coordination among the international -- now, the U.N. has a central
role in all this and will be very -- the U.N. is hosting the
conference in The Hague that Michelle mentioned earlier, and that
needs to be underscored. The Secretary General of the U.N., Ban Ki-
moon, will open it; Kai Eide will preside.

So I'm glad you raised that issue.

Q Thank you very much. With all of the consultations you did, there
must have been some very attractive ideas that just didn't fit in the
strategy today. So are there things that you have in your notebook to
look at in coming months that you may adopt? And if so, what are they?
And more broadly speaking, on the continuum from doing nothing to
trying to create a Central Asian Valhalla, where does this strategy
fit: maximum, minimal, or just right in the middle?

MR. RIEDEL: I have never understood what the Valhalla thing was about,
so I'm going to stay away from that. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Which province is that in? (Laughter.)

MR. RIEDEL: I would say that this strategy is focused on a concise
goal, and I think the President made that very clear. And it's a goal
that is about protecting American citizens and American interests.
From that there are a series of objectives. But from the beginning of
this process and in every conversation I had with the President about
this, he kept coming back to, let's keep the focus clear on what the
goal is.

As for what's in my notebooks and Michelle's notebooks and Richard's
notebooks, I'm sure there are lots of good ideas in there and we're
going to come back to this. As I said at the beginning, this is a road
map. It will now be followed up by days, weeks, months of detailed
implementation plans as we try to put this together in a way that can
be executed and bring success.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: May I just expand on that for those of you who
are interested in process. I know Washington loves to talk about
process. We began with a very wide range of ideas. One of the goals of
this project was to form a common consensus, a base, for people who
have to implement policy. So you're quite right that there were
hundreds of ideas thrown out.

The emphasis in agriculture emerged from our dialogue. The realization
that the drug and narcotic program was not working, which was not the
view we inherited, emerged from study involving a lot of agencies, and
by the way is not universally agreed to. You'll be able to find plenty
of people in the government who don't agree with what Bruce and
Michelle and I have said about drugs. But that's the direction that we
took it.

Of course there are ideas we didn't use. Some of them were just -- by
the way, we've got thousands of ideas from citizens all over the
country, and many other governments made inputs -- Pakistan and
Afghanistan, first of all; all our NATO allies; Australia; Japan. They
all came to Washington and we talked to them. We have -- we have
mounds of paper. And out of this, there was a consensus. Here was the
dilemma: How do we avoid the consensus becoming watered-down
conventional wisdom, which in my experience in this city is what
usually happens.

The way I think we've avoided it is that this is a not a straitjacket,
a detailed blueprint. It's a framework within which there's plenty of
flexibility to bring in ideas which are not in the report. One of the
most important ideas in this report -- which is new for this country
but has been done in many other wars, including Iraq -- is the
information issue. We can -- in Swat, for example, there are about 150
illegal FM radio stations, and Fazlullah is going around every night
broadcasting the names of people they're going to behead or they've
beheaded. Any of you who have a sense of recent history know that
that's exactly what happened with Radio Mille Collines in Rwanda, and
the United States did nothing, to our eternal regret.

And nothing has been done so far about that. These are unimpeded. We
have identified the information issue -- sometimes called
psychological operations or strategic communication; used to have
different names in the old days -- as a major, major gap to be filled.
Senator Kerry is pushing this very hard from the Senate side. So this
is the kind of thing that emerged from our discussions.

Q Thank you. When you talk about comprehensive strategy and consulting
with allies in the region and elsewhere, does this include the Saudis?
Because there was talk about they might play a mediation between the
so-called moderate Taliban. And if you have been in consultation with
them, and whether it's going to be effective actually, talking to
them?

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: We identify seven or eight countries that have
critical importance beyond our NATO allies and Australia, Japan. And
Saudi Arabia is definitely one of them. So is Turkey and the countries
the President mentioned -- China, Russia, Iran, the neighbors,
obviously Pakistan. And I would add the United Arab Emirates. These
are countries that have real influence in either Pakistan or
Afghanistan or both, all of whom are involved whether we like it or
not, and we're going to spend a great deal of time on this. And I
mentioned earlier that I was looking for somebody to coordinate
international foreign assistance. I'm also looking for somebody to
focus on that issue on our small -- our small interagency staff that
we have.

Q I know there's no fixed timeline for what you're working on, but
there have been some time periods mentioned. The President mentioned
building up the troops by 2011. You mentioned making inroads with the
Taliban this summer.

Can you give any time sense about how long it will take before you
know this is working or not working? Or how long -- what the time
horizon is? Are we talking about two years? Five years? Ten years?

MR. RIEDEL: We very deliberately do not have timelines in this study.
And it goes back to what I said about the President's determination
that we check the metrics, we see how we're doing, and we remain
flexible and adaptable throughout the process.

We're not going to impose artificial constraints. The 2011 timeline is
about building up the Afghan National Army. It's a notional idea that
by 2011 we'll be at the 134,000 -

MS. FLOURNOY: Army.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: And 82,000.

Q Just building on from that, General McKiernan has avoided using the
term "search" for the extra troops that he's asked for. And he's made
the point that he thinks that the extra troops that are going in will
need to be replaced. In other words, this is a longer-term commitment
than just one-off deployments.

Do you agree with that? And will the troops, the combat troops at
least, operate any differently in the field under this new strategy
than they have been doing up until now?

MS. FLOURNOY: Again, I think what Bruce -- I want to underscore the
importance of what Bruce said. We have committed to a regular process
of reassessment and evaluation of this mission. And I can assure you
that the question of troop levels and duration of how many -- and
rotations, and so forth -- will continue to be addressed over time.

What we don't want to do is pretend that we can predict where we'll be
in a year, or what have you. But I can tell you there's a very strong
commitment at the highest levels to that process of evaluation.

And in terms of what -- the missions of the troops on the ground, I
think that American forces and our allied forces are going in with a
couple of key missions in mind. First is protecting the population,
reversing Taliban gains, creating secure environments that will allow
other things to happen in the country.

But equally important is we are going to be focused on the training
mission and the mentoring mission, and the building of Afghan national
security force capacity, both by embedding training teams with Afghan
units, but also by partnering coalition units and Afghan units. So
they work together day in, day out, every day.

That -- from one of our lessons learned from Iraq, is how powerful
that partnering can be as a supplement to the embedded trainers.

Q Thank you. The President mentioned the Kerry-Lugar bill, billions of
dollars' worth of aid to Pakistan. He also said that Pakistan won't be
given a blank check. So I'm wondering what restrictions does the
administration want to see on that money specifically?

And also, how do you react to statements from some senators, such as
Senator Levin, who have said that this strategy places too much
dependence on the Pakistani government to deal with extremists, and
perhaps gives too much of a reliance on them to help us make progress
in Afghanistan?

MR. RIEDEL: I'm not going to comment on Senator Levin's remarks. I'll
say this: For the last eight years, Pakistan received billions of
dollars in support from the United States -- much of it was
unaccountable; much the Pakistanis don't even know where it went.

As the President indicated in his speech, we're going to make sure
that there is rigorous oversight by an Inspector General's office. And
we're going to work very, very intensively with our Pakistani
partners, the democratically elected civilian leadership in Pakistan,
to see that we're moving in the right direction, in the same direction
that we want to go.

The United States has a long history of legislative-required sanctions
on Pakistan. I think one of the things that we have learned from that
history is that we need to be very careful in how we do this, and that
we need to work with the Pakistanis and not box ourselves in or box
them in.

So it's going to be a complex process. We will work very closely with
the Hill on the legislation. But we're going to try on this area, as
in every other area, to maintain the adaptability of our strategy, so
that we can avoid finding ourselves boxed into a corner.

Q Very quick follow-up? Very quick follow-up? Is the ISI aiding the
Taliban?

MR. RIEDEL: I'm not going to get into the intelligence questions which
have been in every newspaper in the United States in the last several
days. This strategy is built upon a very clear understanding of what's
going on the region, but I'm not going to comment on intelligence
matters today.

Thank you very much.

Article Source :
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Press-Briefing-by-Bruce-Riedel-Ambassador-Richard-Holbrooke-and-Michelle-Flournoy-on-the-New-Strategy-for-Afghanistan-and-Pakistan/
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