Saturday, March 28, 2009

Obama's war: Petraeus and Holbrooke on the public job

The point military man and civilian interviewed March 27 on the PBS Newshour:


Excerpts from the transcript:
Newsmaker Interview

Obama Sets Plan to Boost Afghan Stability, Confront Taliban and Al-Qaida

President Obama's new strategy for the Afghanistan war includes 4,000 more troops and assistance to Pakistan in its fight against militants. Special envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, and Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus explain the plan.
...
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: It is an integrated policy. It's going to have far more resources, the president today announced hundreds of additional civilians. He mentioned agronomists and economists, were going to increase the agricultural effort. This is a rural country, but right now the U.S. mission in Kabul does not even have a really coherent, integrated agricultural-assistance program. We're going to make a much stronger effort to counter the propaganda of the Taliban and al-Qaida in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Kerry-Lugar bill is going to ask for much more money. We have way under-resourced this effort, and as you know, additional troops are on their way.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, let me just ask you about the security situation in Pakistan. The Times today has a story that runs as a companion to the piece about President Obama's new policy, which says that the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan are joining forces and they're going to launch an offensive against the stepped-up U.S. forces in Afghanistan. How do you combat that without going to the heart of the problem in Pakistan?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, first of all of course, the additional forces that are going into Afghanistan will help with this considerably. As you know, Margaret, in response to requests by General McKiernan, by the end of the late summer or so, we will have more than doubled the U.S. force component that was on the ground, say, in December.

So that will help a considerable amount there, and then of course there has to be the component that President Obama explained today of working with our Pakistani partners. This is their territory, they have existing organizations, an army that they're very proud of, other elements that in some areas have already been on the offensive. In Bajaur, in Mohmand, two of the areas in the so-called Federally Administered Tribal Areas in which they had made inroads against the syndicate, really, of all of these different elements -- not just the Pakistani Taliban, but also the other extremist elements that are allied with al Qaida in that area.

MARGARET WARNER: But as I think even President Obama said, the heart of the Afghan Taliban is believed to be operating out of Quetta, which is in -- not in the tribal areas but in Pakistan proper, one of the provinces. Can you ensure the security of Afghanistan without going after them there?

GENERAL PETRAEUS: Well, that's why this has to be -- this is why it's an Af-Pak strategy, if you can -- this is why it has to be a comprehensive approach with both countries and, in fact, beyond that. It's not an accident that Richard went to India after visiting Afghanistan and Pakistan during the recent swing through the region. And beyond that, the central Asian states, the other neighbors -- he mentioned Russia, China, even Iran, as the president mentioned today. But certainly, the Afghan Taliban, if you will, leadership is concentrated arguably in the Quetta area of Balochistan province, just south of the border of Afghanistan, and again, that's where our Pakistani partners, with our assistance, as was announced, the additional contributions that will be made to their capability and capacity...

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: It is an integrated policy. It's going to have far more resources, the president today announced hundreds of additional civilians. He mentioned agronomists and economists, were going to increase the agricultural effort. This is a rural country, but right now the U.S. mission in Kabul does not even have a really coherent, integrated agricultural-assistance program. We're going to make a much stronger effort to counter the propaganda of the Taliban and al-Qaida in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Kerry-Lugar bill is going to ask for much more money. We have way under-resourced this effort, and as you know, additional troops are on their way.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, let me just ask you about the security situation in Pakistan. The Times today has a story that runs as a companion to the piece about President Obama's new policy, which says that the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan are joining forces and they're going to launch an offensive against the stepped-up U.S. forces in Afghanistan. How do you combat that without going to the heart of the problem in Pakistan?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, first of all of course, the additional forces that are going into Afghanistan will help with this considerably. As you know, Margaret, in response to requests by General McKiernan, by the end of the late summer or so, we will have more than doubled the U.S. force component that was on the ground, say, in December [emphasis added].

So that will help a considerable amount there, and then of course there has to be the component that President Obama explained today of working with our Pakistani partners. This is their territory, they have existing organizations, an army that they're very proud of, other elements that in some areas have already been on the offensive. In Bajaur, in Mohmand, two of the areas in the so-called Federally Administered Tribal Areas in which they had made inroads against the syndicate, really, of all of these different elements -- not just the Pakistani Taliban, but also the other extremist elements that are allied with al Qaida in that area.

MARGARET WARNER: But as I think even President Obama said, the heart of the Afghan Taliban is believed to be operating out of Quetta, which is in -- not in the tribal areas but in Pakistan proper, one of the provinces. Can you ensure the security of Afghanistan without going after them there?

GENERAL PETRAEUS: Well, that's why this has to be -- this is why it's an Af-Pak strategy, if you can -- this is why it has to be a comprehensive approach with both countries and, in fact, beyond that. It's not an accident that Richard went to India after visiting Afghanistan and Pakistan during the recent swing through the region. And beyond that, the central Asian states, the other neighbors -- he mentioned Russia, China, even Iran, as the president mentioned today. But certainly, the Afghan Taliban, if you will, leadership is concentrated arguably in the Quetta area of Balochistan province, just south of the border of Afghanistan, and again, that's where our Pakistani partners, with our assistance, as was announced, the additional contributions that will be made to their capability and capacity...

Talking to the Taliban
...
GENERAL PETREAUS: There's actually something, which you know, I'm sure, in their constitution about the reintegration and reconciliation, if you will. Our sense is that it is most profitable, at this time, to pursue that at the lower, middle levels in local areas where, for a variety of different reasons, the Taliban has been able to muscle in, to buy their way in or to bring people to their side for ills against, perhaps, the local governance, even.

But in all those cases, there is an opportunity, we think, to split off the more hardcore and then to try to bring back, if you will, to the new Afghanistan, those others. Whether that's possible at the top, I think, is a bigger question indeed. And I think President Obama's description today was revealing.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Margaret, the majority of people fighting for the Taliban are not fighting for the precepts of returning to a 14th century caliphate or for Mullah Omar's precepts. They're fighting either because it's a gun culture and they -- and it's a long-standing thing, or because they've been misguided to thinking we're the latest round of foreign invaders rather than coming in to liberate them from the Taliban.

We think that's probably over 70 percent, according to polling. We have to find ways to give these people alternatives -- jobs in the agricultural sector. Make them understand that they've been misled by Mullah Omar and his core leadership.

GENERAL PETREAUS: I think it's very important, in fact, to stress that the Taliban brand, if you will, is still very damaged, as I'm sure you found in your several weeks in Afghanistan recently. But this also highlights the importance of not just more forces, but also the proper employment of those forces.

General McKiernan, for example, just issued counterinsurgency guidance to the ISAF U.S. forces in Afghanistan. That should govern the way our forces operate. We have to be seen as, actually, good guests [emphasis added]. We have to be seen as, not conquerors, but as friends -- as there to help secure and to actually serve the people. And that is paramount as this goes forward...

MARGARET WARNER: And brief final question to you: This announcement today really only has 4,000 additional troops, all trainers; are there enough combat forces for this program going forward? Are you going to need more?

GENERAL PETRAEUS: Well, I think right now what we need to do is deploy the substantial number that has already been ordered. That's going to take us all the way out through the end of the summer and into the fall. As was mentioned, there will be assessments along the way, and certainly among the assessments will be the need, possibly or not, for additional coalition forces and, possibly, for additional Afghan national security forces above the level that President Obama mentioned...
Something worth noticing: with the 4,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division, plus two National Guard Brigades, the US will have about as many personnel assigned to training alone as the second-largest foreign contingent in the country, the British, now has for all military purposes.

Update: Another useful round-up about things Afgan at The Canada-Afghanistan Blog.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama: Pakistan is now part of our war
Better watch once than a lot of time to read.
video
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10:57 a.m., March 29, 2009  

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