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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

The Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan

FPC Briefing
Gen. James Jones
National Security Adviser
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
December 4, 2009

Date: 12/04/2009 Location: Washington D.C. Description: Gen. James Jones, National Security Adviser, briefs about the way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Washington Foreign Press Center on December 4, 2009. © State Dept Image


General Jones: Thank you. [Laughter]. This is starting off better than any day I’ve had. [Laughter]. Thank you very much. Thank you for being here, and good morning to you all.

I’ll just start off with a very short comment, and then I’ll be happy to take any questions you might have.

I think the last time I was here we were talking about the results of the March strategic review earlier this year. One of the things that the President decided at that strategic review, that there would be another assessment following the Afghan elections. And true to his word, we did emerge just recently from a rather lengthy assessment of not only the elections, but also General McChrystal’s assessments and our overall position with regard to not just Afghanistan, but the region of South Asia.

As I said, that assessment is now complete. In addition to announcing more troops, which is the focus of everybody’s attention, we also agreed to a number of other things that I think deserve some focus.

One is that the overall mission in the region would remain consistent with our strategic review, but would be somewhat narrowed in terms of timelines and achievability in terms of the counterinsurgency strategy proposed by the commander; that it would focus on regional threats posed by the insurgents -- not just in Afghanistan but in the region; and specifically call for an end to safe havens for insurgents that are not only destabilizing in Afghanistan but also in the neighboring country of Pakistan.

It would call for much more focus on good governance in Afghanistan from the national level, but the regional and local levels as well. Emphasis on countering corruption wherever possible. Confidence of people entrusted with leadership roles in the government at all levels. And more focus on delivering services to the Afghan people.

It would also have renewed focus on the Afghan National Security Force, specifically the development of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. It is very important that the Afghan National Security Forces be seen to be playing an increasingly visible role in the future of Afghanistan, and we will be working very hard with our friends and allies to provide not only the training and equipment, but also the operational confidence and deployment of those forces as soon as possible.

There was also a decision to agree on trying to achieve much better international focus and coordination on economic development. This is a civilian and military task and we will be working in the weeks ahead, heading toward the London Conference in late January to solve some of those organizational and structural problems that have inhibited us from synchronizing security, good governance and economic development in a way that will produce a more synergistic effect for the people of Afghanistan.

Finally, there will be more effort on Afghanization itself. That is to say the turnover of responsibility both for not only the, obviously the governance was a big thing, but also security and economic development in districts and provinces that are in fact ready for a certain sense of autonomy so that we can focus our efforts on more rapid progress elsewhere in the country.

To that end the United States President has announced that he intends to commit 30,000 additional troops. This is in addition to 33,000 that have already been sent this year, this calendar year; will be augmented by another 30,000; and I’m very happy to be able to report this morning that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, that the ongoing Ministerial has announced in excess of 7,000 troops coming from other NATO and non-NATO contributing countries. This is all very very welcome news and it will certainly facilitate our task to bring about rapid change in a shorter period of time in Afghanistan to the benefit of all the people of Afghanistan and also to the region itself.

So we hope to achieve these goals, as I said, in a shorter timeline. I think with the proper focus and attention, the right benchmarks, the right periodic reviews, by emphasizing “on the ground” performance of these key parameters that I’ve just outlined, that we will be able to achieve more success in a shorter period of time than we have in the past.

So with that, ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be happy to take your questions.

TASS: Thank you, General, for doing this, and thanks to our friends at the FPC for arranging this. My name is Andrei Sitov. I am with the Russian News Agency TASS.

I’m sure our two Presidents will be talking about Afghanistan among other things when they next meet so I wanted to ask you, sir, if you could give us any guidance as to when and where the next meeting may occur. There was, as you know, a statement, the Joint Statement, this morning. Overall, how would you evaluate the progress we’ve made in building up our relations over the past year? Thank you.

General Jones: Thank you very much. Taking the last part of your question first, I think that one of the most important relationships that have been successfully built since January 20th of last year has been the relationship between our two governments, and more specifically between our two Presidents who obviously have a growing close relationship and an ability to communicate between each other that’s very open and direct and builds a lot of trust and confidence. That, of course, flowing from those two leaders permeates the atmosphere elsewhere in our mutual dialogue. So I would characterize it as having been very constructive, very positive, and certainly one of the better things that we’ve seen and been able to participate in since January.

As for the next meeting, my guess would be it most likely would be in Copenhagen, but we are working, as you know, on the finalizing the new START agreement. We are in the final moments of that. I’m not quite sure whether we’ll get it done by the 5th, but in any event we will agree to extend by a very simple agreement between the two countries to extend the current treaty for the two or three days or couple of weeks that it will take to finalize the new one.

The answer on that is that, or the report on that is that this is positive and it’s ongoing. There’s no reason to think that this won’t be done. The desire on both sides is very real and genuine.

TASS: So it’s the meeting in Copenhagen and then the next one in --

General Jones: Possibly. It’s possible that could happen that way. Yes.

Dawn: Hello, General, thank you very much. I’m Anwar Iqbal. I work for Pakistan’s Dawn Newspaper. My question is about Pakistan.

The President and other senior U.S. officials have said so many times that they want a broad-based relationship with Pakistan which is not tied to any issue. But if you look at his speech, it seemed that the relationship is still tied to two issues, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and terrorism. These two are also inter-related.

So where is this effort to broaden the relationship?

Also how much is the internal situation in Pakistan, the conflict within the government and within the establishment, is a concern for you, particularly in this war?

General Jones: Thank you. The relationship between Pakistan and the United States we feel is a very positive one and one that will only grow in a positive direction in the future. The United States will support the democratic processes that Pakistan is adhering to and we will do everything we can to be a good friend and ally. Especially to assist Pakistan in its own internal struggles in any way we can with regard to the insurgents that are operating in the border area.

Obviously as a nuclear state Pakistan has enormous responsibilities within the community of nations that have nuclear weapons. They are very well aware of that and we have regular consultations on those issues.

But I think the future of the Pakistan-U.S. relationship is bright and it transcends simply just problems associated with insurgents and nuclear weapons. We would like to see it evolve into the trade issues, better economic development, and absolutely as we try to move towards more peace and stability in South Asia. So the democratic principle we hope will continue to thrive and grow and reach its full potential in the future which will be good for the people of Pakistan.

Ariana TV: Thank you. My name is Nazira Karimi, I’m correspondent for Ariana Television from Afghanistan.

As President Obama announced that U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan in 2011, that’s why it’s caused a lot of problem between the Afghan people and experts because the Afghan problem is still not solved. There are a lot of challenges in Afghanistan. Do you have any special comment about it?

General Jones: I think it’s very important to use the right words where this is concerned. The words “U.S. troops will leave in 2011” are inaccurate. The President has said that in July of 2011 we expect to have achieved a certain degree of success along the areas that I just mentioned in my introductory remarks which include reversing any perceived momentum that the insurgency may to have in Afghanistan in such a way that we will begin to be able to transition. That transition will be that Afghans will be able to start to begin to take control of more of their own affairs, especially in the security aspect of things, and we will begin that transition. That is very clear.

So it’s important that everybody understand at least from a U.S. perspective that the President’s decision did not mean that we will leave in 2011. It just means that will be a transition point where we’ll begin to be able to pull some of our forces back and turn over some of the responsibilities to the Afghans themselves.

CNN-IBN: Good morning, General. I’m Indira Kannan with CNN-IBN India.

When the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh visited Washington last month he categorically called on the United States to stay the course and remain engaged in Afghanistan, and specifically stated, I quote, that “any premature talk of exit will only embolden the terrorists.”

With the decision to begin withdrawal of troops by the summer of 2001, I know you’re saying that it doesn’t mean that you will withdraw, but there will be a transition. But even this talk of withdrawal by 2011, can we conclude then that President Obama and his administration disagree with the Prime Minister’s assessment that any premature talk of exit will only embolden the terrorists?

General Jones: I can only repeat to a certain extent what I tried to say, so I’ll do it again. The President and the Prime Minister did have discussions about this. The United States has no intention of leaving Afghanistan in the near future. Certainly not in 2011. We are very confident that by the application of over 100,000 U.S. troops and a significant increase in the NATO and non-NATO contributing countries, that we will be able to achieve the conditions by which Afghans will be able to take more responsibility for the conduct of their internal affairs. That will allow us to be able to start to bring some of our troops home. The rate at which that will happen will be conditioned on obviously the situation on the ground.

But when you have a mission like this, it simply cannot be that it’s going to go on forever, and the President’s decided to focus everyone’s attention on a reasonable timeframe in which we can see real change. And on that there has been no disagreement. Not only -- Let me put it positively. There has been full agreement on the part of the military advisors to the President, the civilian advisors, and also in the international community.

So I would take this as a positive, not as a negative. If we do our jobs right between now and then this will have a good result.

Global TV: General, Eric Sorenson from Global Television in Canada.

2011 was a hard deadline for Canada’s combat mission. At one time that could have been controversial because it’s a hard deadline during what would still be a war. Now that the U.S. is also looking at making this shift in 2011, does Canada’s mission and the U.S. mission dovetail better now starting in 2011?

General Jones: I would think so. I think it will be, obviously Canada has made such a huge contribution to the mission in Afghanistan for so long that it is a charter member of the effort. So I think that while we would encourage everyone to stay engaged as long as possible without summary announcements of total withdrawal, those are national decisions that have to be made and we respect that and we have ongoing dialogue with individual countries on those issues.

But the 2011 period was picked based on the recommendations of what our military commanders thought would be possible to achieve from this year until then, and the expectations that we put out are expectations that we’ve received assurances that we have a good chance of meeting.

We hope that Canada and the Netherlands and other countries that are key members of this effort will be able to stay as long as they possibly can because they make such a critical contribution.

Haberturk: Thank you, General. This is Tulin Daloglu with the Turkish Daily Newspaper, Haberturk.

You said in your opening remarks that NATO member countries had agreed to contribute 7,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdo�an will be meeting the President on Monday. Are you expecting a concrete announcement of Turkey’s additional commitment to the Afghani theater?

And more so, I know that in the past you demanded that Turkey should contribute combat troops to Afghanistan. The Turkish leadership made it clear that even this time when they do contribute it’s not going to be combat troops. How different do you think today? Or do you still think alike like you had those remarks in the past?

And second of all, can you give us, can you set the scene for us for the Monday meeting? What is important for the U.S. on this meeting? What do you like to see accomplished? Thank you.

General Jones: Thank you very much for that question. The contributions that Turkey has made to the Afghan mission have been tremendously important for many many years. Turkey as a country has had enormous influence in Afghanistan, has participated in economic reconstruction, has sent troops, and has been a valuable member and key ally in our common effort.

We appreciate any contributions that Turkey will be able to make in order to fulfill its very important mission in the capital region of Kabul, but the contributions that Turkey makes is not in troops alone. As I said, it’s in economic reconstruction and the degree of influence that Turkey has in Afghanistan has been something that has been appreciated and noticed by many people.

The upcoming visit. With regard to combat troops, of course this is a sovereign decision, a national decision as to how troops that are provided are to be used on the ground. I have always said that obviously in any coalition you have to try to eliminate as many restrictions as you possibly can in order to give commanders on the ground some flexibility. But in the end it’s a sovereign decision as to how those troops are used and we respect Turkey’s decision and I’m sure that General McChrystal will be grateful for the troops that he gets.

With regard to the upcoming visit, this is an important visit between two countries that have very strong ties. Turkey sits in a geographical position of great strategic importance and is able to bring influence on the world events that are mainly centered in the region, in the Middle East, with regard to Iran, with regard to Afghanistan, and also extending into Europe. Turkey is a key player and a key ally. We hope and we know that this meeting will have great significance in our bilateral relationships and I know the President is looking forward to the visit very much.

Thank you.

Globe & Mail: General, my name is Paul Koring. I’m with the Globe & Mail of Canada.

Secretary Gates said in December next year, December 2010, I believe, would be the first of the reviews before the decision would be made for the July 2011 transition.

Can you be as specific as possible and tell us what should we be looking for in Afghanistan to know whether sufficient progress has been made. Really after that first fighting season, that first six months when the new, much higher troop levels are in place.

General Jones: I’d be happy to. I think this is really the question that we should all be asking ourselves. This is what any review, whether it’s monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually, has to encompass.

I think we will know that things are moving in the right direction if the following number of things are visible.

The first is if we are able to significantly alter the idea that there are safe havens that exist in the border region for insurgents. Not just any particular insurgents, but all insurgents. This is a cancer that populates the region. The sooner that cancer is excised from the region the more likely that we will have an immediate strategic shift in the level of violence in Afghanistan.

Number two is I think that the degree to which we can pay more attention on good governance in Afghanistan, good governance at the national level, empowering those ministries that have done good things already and should be supported, and they’re doing good things for the people of Afghanistan. We want to help that.

We want to help and make sure that the 34 provinces of the country have good and competent governors and we will work very closely with President Karzai to make sure that those people are held to very high standards in terms of doing things that are good for the people. We want to pay more attention to local leaders, tribal leaders, mayors, district heads, and to make sure that that stream of good governance is extended down as far as we can down to the local communities of Afghanistan.

We want to make sure that there is economic development that is focused on things that bring the promise of the future to the people of Afghanistan. We’ve had a good year in agriculture. A record wheat crop I think in Afghanistan that shows that there are alternatives to poppies and there are alternatives to the narcotics trade as Afghanistan seeks to develop its economy.

There’s an enormous amount of international resources going into Afghanistan to try to help us in that goal. That civilian/military bridge of economic development accompanied by security is extremely important.

The development of the Afghan National Security Force. If you see the Afghan National Army in the field, if you see a more prominent Afghan face, if you will, in the local communities with better police, a more visible presence of the army and a bigger role in terms of maintaining overall security in the key population areas of the country, better protection of the infrastructure, you will see that things are moving in the right direction.

Finally when you see the very districts and the provinces of Afghanistan are incorporating those three things -- economic development, good governance and security -- in a way that we can generate some stand-alone effect where we would be able to then start pulling back a little bit but making sure that the insurgents are not able to come back and undo what we have all built and put together, then I think those are the benchmarks that will indicate whether we’re being successful or not.

We will be able to monitor that I think month by month as we go along.

Kuwait News Agency: Thank you, sir. Ronald Baygents, Kuwait News Agency.

Briefly could you tell us what you would envision the United States wanting most in this new strategy from the Gulf states?

General Jones: I think there is no different standard here. We would appreciate contributions of additional manpower and personnel, both civilian and military. I think one of the things that we will continue to be trying to change as much as we can is the degree to which we have a civilian surge, if you will, in terms of capacity. So civilian contributions, experts on irrigation projects, experts on agriculture, economic experts that can help bring into reality a legitimate economy that is growing at a satisfactory rate, education experts to make sure that we try to reverse the severe deficit in education that Afghans have been subjected to as a result of the previous rule of the Taliban, both for men and women. Those kinds of things are extraordinarily important. Also in-kind contributions. Financial contributions to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund and the Legal Trust Fund, both of which are up and operating.

If we can better focus the sum total of our contributions towards specific ends, I think that we’ll be able to have more success in a shorter period of time.

Al-Jazeera TV: Thank you, General, for being with us. My name is Nasser Hssaini from Al-Jazeera Arabic.

Just two key questions. You said this is a cancer in the region. I’d like it if you could elaborate a little bit more on Taliban. And on the military capacities, if there is any. But also, what makes you so confident with all the buildup to make it in Afghanistan where Russia failed basically? What makes NATO, the U.S., so sure that they can do this nation-building effort, if I can call it so. This military development effort is a huge mission, sir. If you can shed more light in detail a little bit with a couple of examples. Thank you.

General Jones: There is no perfect crystal ball here. This is not an exact science. But we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. We’ve been in Afghanistan now for eight years. We’ve been studying the problem for a long time. I think some of the ingredients that will make sure that we are successful are frankly, the Afghans themselves. There is a deep belief that the Afghan people genuinely want a different kind of government. They’ve been disappointed. I think we have to say that over the last four or five years their expectations have not been met. Actually in the last two or three years, we’ve actually seen a resurgence in the capability of the Taliban. The people who are caught in the middle are the innocent people. Protected by day, but left alone at night. It’s very difficult to get some momentum unless you have at least a sense of security 24 hours a day as much as possible.

Having a renewed commitment of a military capacity in the order that I’ve just outlined is going to materially change the situation on the ground in relatively short order. The Taliban will certainly not be able to continue its expansion and will have to think very hard about how it’s going to proceed. If we can dislodge and dismantle and in my view destroy the safe havens along with, in closer partnership with the Army of Pakistan, then I think you have a strategic change in the entire region that bodes well for the future.

Once insurgencies are on the run and they don’t have the illusion of sanctuary or the reality of sanctuary, then you have a completely different problem and it’s much more manageable.

So the idea is to take care of those safe havens, take care of those sanctuaries, and at the same time be able to have a much more cohesive effort to do the five or six things that I just outlined simultaneously.

Now is it ambitious? Yes. It’s ambitious. But I believe that the President’s decision and the idea of a timeline in order to focus us on this mission will have a galvanizing effect and it will help both in Afghanistan, it will help our allies understand what we’re all trying to do.

And I think this wasn’t a unilateral decision. We consulted with many many countries, all 43 troop contributing countries in the effort have generally signed onto this. So there is as much unity of purpose here as I’ve ever seen in the last half dozen years that I’ve been studying this problem.

Arab News: Barbara Ferguson with Arab News.

I appreciate the fact that you’ve talked about the need for outreach to the different levels of the government, but also the tribal leaders and the communities. My question is what are you going to be doing with the troops to change their behavior? Are you going to be developing any operational culture and language studies that you haven’t used before? And do you also intend to have any sort of discipline or training for the contractors that are going in to represent us as well, whom I hear are equaling the amount of troops that we have on the ground.

General Jones: I think General McChrystal has already started a program with regard to making sure that we don’t make any enemies than we already have by virtue of accidental civilian casualties or obviously even worse, poor behavior on the part of the men and women, any one of our men and women in uniform, from any of our countries. It is simply something that we have to stay on and work with, and General McChrystal as the military leaders certainly has that responsibility to make sure that it happens. As do all of our embassies who are in charge of civilians who are out there working, trying to do the right thing and bring about good change and a better condition in Afghanistan.

So these are tasks that are omnipresent, that we are focusing on, we’re all aware of, and we will continue to emphasize.

Le Monde: I’m Corine Lesnes from Le Monde.

I’m curious, how do you think the President is going to address the apparent contradiction between getting the Nobel Peace Prize and sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan?

And second, is it impossible that the President would return to Copenhagen on the 17th or 18th of December when the other heads of state will be there?

General Jones: I will leave it to others to discuss the, to use your words, the contradiction. I think the President’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize is a testimony to the promise of the future and the vision that he has globally that has inspired millions of people to rally to the message.

With regard to Afghanistan, I think, well I’m sure that part of this decision was taken in order to bring about peace in Afghanistan. Unfortunately the violence, before we can do all of the things that we want to do in Afghanistan there has to be some measure of security and of this is what it’s going to take to get it, then so be it.

But it will always be accompanied by an emphasis on reconciliation, the reintegration which President Karzai will be leading. I think obviously the best thing is to reconcile with your opponents and lay down your weapons and settle problems over a table if you can do that.

It’s not given that this conflict has to go on forever. So that would be my general response to your first question.

The second question is right now the President has a plan to go to Copenhagen on the 9th. There are suggestions that he should be there on the 17th and 18th. Those discussions are underway and there is no decision at this time as to whether that schedule can be adjusted. So right now he’s still planning to be there on the 9th.

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