Saturday, March 28, 2009

State Department diplomacy is key to new Afghan Strategy

Friday morning, Secretay Clinton joined President Obama for his Press Announcement announcong a new strategy consisting of increasing troops in Afghanistan while boosting aid in Pakistan with the hopes of weakening al-Qaeda. They were joined by policy adviser Bruce Riedel, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, National Security Adviser James Jones, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Undersecretary of Defense for policy, Michelle A. Flournoy, and Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Obama began by saying his team has completed "a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan."

"Many people want to know, what is our purpose in Afghanistan? So let me be clear," Obama continues.

"Al-Qaeda and its allies -- the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks -- are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the U.S. homeland from its safe-haven in Pakistan. And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban -- or allows al-Qaeda to go unchallenged -- that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can."

"For the American people," Obama says, the Afghan-Pakistan border has become "the most dangerous place in the world" because of the terrorists' presence there.

He then gave a clear message saying: "And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you."

And he gave a clear message to the people of Afghanistan: "We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future. We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States, our friends and allies, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists."

He called for aid, by calling upon Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by John Kerry and Richard Lugar that authorizes $1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years -- resources that will build schools, roads, and hospitals, and strengthen Pakistan's democracy.

He called for a troop increase, saying later this spring we will deploy approximately 4,000 U.S. troops to train Afghan Security Forces but not forgetting to accelerate our efforts to build an Afghan Army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000 in order to turn over security responsibility to the Afghans.

He also called for an increase in the civillan presense, saying this is how we can help the Afghan government serve its people, and develop an economy that isn't dominated by illicit drugs. And by seeking civilian support from our partners and allies, from the United Nations and international aid organizations -- an effort that he called upon Secretary Clinton to carry forward next week in the Hague.

The AP reported late Friday after Obama announced the results of his administration's review of policy for the region, Hillary said the success of Obama's new plan depends on the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"Whether this strategy succeeds or not depends in large part on all of us... The major shift in this strategy is to emphasize our diplomatic and civilian efforts to achieve our objectives. That means more civilian expertise working on the ground; it means pursuing greater regional diplomacy; and it means sustained high-level attention and focus in Washington." Now, the U.S. part of the strategy aimed at defeating al-Qaida, the Taliban and other extremists will see hundreds more diplomats and aid workers deployed in Afghanistan and provide $1.5 billion in annual development aid to Pakistan.

The White House has not released an estimate of the total cost but it is expected to run into the billions of dollars just on State Department and foreign assistance programs.

Hillary said money for the effort was critical and would mean "changing the way we do business" to ensure congressional support.

"This new strategy makes clear that we must implement significant changes in the management, resources and focus of our foreign assistance."

She also noted that the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, would play the main role on overseeing the civilian parts of the plan.

"I ask for all of your ideas, talent, creativity, hard work and sacrifice to help make this new strategy succeed... The ability of the Afghan and Pakistani people to build peaceful and prosperous lives — and the future national security of the United States — requires nothing less."

View a clip of the press conference (with Hillary in the background) here.


Kmb08 said...

Hillary is doing such a tremendous job as SOS, but I feel she is working herself to death, and not getting needed rest. She looks exhausted here.

Still4Hill said...

I understand that this is a serious subject, but Hillary does not look happy. She almost looks angry.

She does look tired. It's not just the appointments and traveling, it's all the studying she does all the time about the place she is going and the people she is meeting at home and abroad. She's an assiduous student, and she is digesting huge amounts of policy.

I love her!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog, but have one request: If you must post pictures of Obama, could you put a warning about it at the top of the post so that one can be prepared and react acordingly? Thank you in advance,

Sarah said...

@Kmb08 and Still4Hill- I agree with you on that one! I am worried she is going to burn out from all her hard work. I mean, she travelled from Mexico to D.C. to Texas, then back to D.C. in one day!

And you are right, you bet she was reading and preparing for everything she had to do on those plane trips! She is superwoman, seriously.

@Anonymous- haha I can try my best to warn you about the Obama pics... and your welome in advance :)

Debbie said...

OK! "I ask for all of your ideas"

Where were we to submit these ideas that does not result in a letter telling us they get thousands of letters a day, and we cannot respond to each & every letter we receive. :)

I have ideas, but the people who ask for them, apparently don't want them.

So my first idea is to create an Idea Department that takes your message - gets it to the correct person for an answer - and follow up on the answer to get the message back to the person who sent as to why or why not an idea is rejected/accepted.

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