Mr. Feldman: Thanks very much. I’m happy to be here. Happy New Year.
I just want to give some opening comments about the international coordination efforts by our office, broadly, and most specifically, the collective of other Special Representatives that have come into being over the course of the last year.
One of our office’s central objectives is increasing international support for the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan and for the international mission in the region. Support, as you know, can be delivered in a wide range of ways. Financial and development assistance, trade, assistance through ISAF into the security sector, capacity building and political support.
Increasing the levels of support requires ever closer international coordination to ensure that assistance is well used, minimizing redundancies and gaps, that messages of political support are consistent and well timed, and that international supporters learn from each other’s best practices.
In an effort to do all this we are meeting the requirement for improved coordination with new and strengthened tools. One of the most important of those is the international group of Special Representatives for Afghanistan and Pakistan, what we term SRAPs.
Since Ambassador Holbrooke’s appointment as the U.S. SRAP at the beginning of the administration - just a year ago he was first to be appointed in this special role - and since then at least 26 other countries and international organizations have also appointed counterparts. I say at least because the number can be fluid in terms of who’s actually representing a country, the expressed interest of some countries or participation in some meetings but not others, but it has been a fairly flexible group and a very inclusive one and one that we continue to hope to expand.
The members of what we refer to as this international group of SRAPs have different titles as well. Some, like Ambassador Holbrooke, are full-time SRAPs. This is their sole portfolio. Others hold the position as part of their larger duties, typically at the Foreign Ministry in their countries. They are linked, however, through their regional purview.
Among the countries and international organizations with SRAPs are the following and I’ll just read this list. Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, the European Commission, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, NATO, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and UN with offices represented from both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Germany under the coordination of the German SRAP, Ambassador Bernd Mutzelberg, coordinates the international SRAP group, and we have developed a secretariat here in Washington which supports the German leadership and helps to do all the logistical work to increase this coordination.
In addition to the countries I just read, a number of countries have also participated in some SRAP meetings or activities including as observers. The governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan are also active participants.
To give you a sense of the regularity of these meetings, since the collective first started they’ve met quite frequently, including in April last year in Munich; as well as in Tokyo on the margins of the Tokyo Conference; in June in Trieste; in August in Istanbul on the margins of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting; in September in Paris; and then again on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September.
There have also been smaller sub-groups of the fuller SRAP collective meeting that have met from time to time including most recently on the margins of the NATO Foreign Ministerial just after President Obama gave his address. In fact it was the very first international meetings directly after President Obama’s address that we had, Ambassador Holbrooke had in Brussels with a number of members, the European members of the SRAP collective in Brussels.
The next meeting, and a reason for the kind of timeliness of this press conference is in Abu Dhabi next week. I can give a little bit of a preview of that meeting as well.
In addition to these formal meetings, the SRAP mechanism gives us avenues for faster coordination including frequent calls, meetings of embassy representatives in Washington, and meetings of partial SRAP groups on the margins of other international conferences such as the NATO Ministerial I just mentioned.
This is particularly kind of new news here. We’re trying, in an effort to continue to better coordinate, to meet quite regularly now in Washington. So as of the very end of last year in addition to these meetings of the SRAPS themselves, many of them who have very busy calendars and it’s hard to carve out a time, and we want to make those meetings as productive and substantive as possible, we have sought to develop a liaison group of SRAPs.
So every country that has an SRAP, every institution that has an SRAP has asked a liaison in Washington to be appointed, typically a senior political counselor in the embassy or someone with jurisdiction or portfolio over Afghanistan or Pakistan to be appointed and to serve as that liaison. We had the first meeting of these representatives, liaison representatives, at the State Department at the very end of last year. We’re going to try to meet at least twice a month, so basically almost every other week. We had the second meeting of this whole group hosted by the Japanese embassy yesterday.
It provides a great opportunity for us on the working level to hear about future meetings, conferences, initiatives, political activity, and perhaps most importantly, it gives us - we’ve asked that - we’ll rotate the host on a regular basis and whoever is hosting it will have an opportunity to give an overview, 15 or 20 minutes, of that country’s civilian assistance efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So at the very first meeting we did that for the U.S. At the meeting yesterday Japan did that. And it then gives an opportunity to everyone else around the table to ask questions about exactly how money is being spent, what’s working, what’s perhaps not working, what are opportunities for joint partnership and better coordination, and to really help us coordinate far more effectively in Washington, and we’re trying to do the same thing in Kabul as well.
These SRAP meetings both at the liaison level here in Washington as well as whatever happens among the SRAPs themselves, as I said, the next time being in Abu Dhabi next week, provide an opportunity for open discussion. We don’t provide a complete list of topics that we would cover, but among the critical issues that will be discussed next week include Pakistan’s economic development plans and the UN’s effort to support Pakistani development and humanitarian assistance, as well as strengthening democratic institutions in Afghanistan.
At that meeting next week - in addition to all the SRAP Ambassadors, Ministers, Representatives - we’ll be joined by the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan as well as the Foreign Minister Qureshi from Pakistan. The UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdallah, will be hosting it, and we may have at least another Foreign Minister in attendance.
We’ll also have an opportunity at the meeting next week in Abu Dhabi to advance international planning for the Foreign Ministers Conference in London later this month which will be held January 28th, and of which the main purpose is to give the international community an opportunity to demonstrate its support for the government of Afghanistan’s ambitious agenda.
So this is all a work in progress. But it’s a very very significant effort to control resources better, to coordinate better, to work internationally much more effectively, and something that within the U.S. government is something we’re putting more and more resources into as well. I’m one of two Deputies to Ambassador Holbrooke. We have a team of about five full time people just helping to manage international engagement, donor coordination. One of the key members of that team, Jarrett Blanc, is here with me. He can help answer specific questions on donor coordination. We’re working obviously very closely with our Afghanistan/Pakistan desks on this effort and at the working level in Washington and abroad.
We wanted to make sure that you were aware of the ongoing efforts and the fact that we’re getting more and more aggressive with them, including this effort at meeting more regularly with the liaison group and I’m happy to entertain any questions about it.
Question: Thank you, this is Tulin Dalogu with the Turkish Daily Newspaper Haber Turk.
Can you please talk about the Turkish participation in this? I know that Ankara initiated a trilateral meeting amongst the Turkish, Afghani and Pakistani leaders. They take a lot of credit in terms of contributing to the stability and reaching of peace in the region among the Pakistani and the Afghanis. So can you please talk about the Turkish participation in that regard?
Mr. Feldman: Sure. The Turkish government has been a very very core component of the overall collective and has taken a real leadership role. We’ve been working very closely with Ambassador Soysal who has been the Turkish SRAP. In addition to holding the Ministerial in Istanbul in August, that’s when we had the meeting of the SRAPs as well on the margins of that.
The meetings that you spoke about are not necessarily coordinated through this SRAP collective. Turkey has taken the initiative to launch its own trilateral process. Actually I think this will be the fourth in a series of meetings that it has held, which it has announced for January 25th with - I believe the Presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan will both be there on the 25th - and it will be followed the next day with a regional summit. We appreciate Turkey’s leadership in the region and its continuing and very substantial role in helping the SRAP process.
In my capacity of working closely and helping to coordinate the international effort, I’ve already been both to Istanbul for those meetings in August as well as to Ankara to follow up on some specific particular projects that we may be able to coordinate better on the development front and very much appreciate the Turkish leadership and initiatives in the development field in particular.
Question: Thank you, this is Arshad Mahmud. I am from the BDNew24.com, Bangladesh.
I just want to draw your attention to a statement made by Kai Eide who is the UN representative to Afghanistan. He made a statement at the Security Council yesterday. He very bluntly said that things are not working in Afghanistan and this is not going to work unless Afghans are put in charge of the reconstruction. And the increase in the number of military boots on the ground are actually hampering the whole effort. So this is an indirect indictment of what the United States is doing there. I would appreciate your comments on that.
And he said unless all this is not stopped immediately, things are not going to change and it will get worse.
Number two, the Americans, you must have seen all the polls. The Americans don’t want the war, the Afghans obviously don’t want the war. The only beneficiary, it looks like, are the defense contractors who have made about $40 billion out of the whole exercise in Afghanistan and Iraq. People are getting increasingly suspicious about the role of this because they are now turning out to be CIA agents, working for the CIA.
How is it going to help the United States efforts in Afghanistan? Thank you.
Mr. Feldman: Let me address your question about Mr. Eide’s comments first. In fact, Mr. Eide is here in Washington this morning. He met with Ambassador Holbrooke. I talked with him very very briefly on the margins of that. We’re aware of his comments and sentiments.
I don’t think there is any disagreement with the fact that what I believe he was saying is that the military component must be matched by a very very robust political and civilian component. And I think that’s exactly what the U.S. is currently doing.
So in particular, when he was talking about the civilians, the number of civilians on the ground and the types of programming, and I think he spoke specifically about education efforts and jobs and agriculture, that is the absolute core of what our office is committed to and is spending the vast majority of our time on.
I’d note on the civilian side specifically, a year ago, when Ambassador Holbrooke took this position, we had about 320 U.S. civilians in the country. I think by the end of this month it will be close to triple that number, so we’ll be right around the 900 amount. And as Deputy Secretary Lew has said, that number is likely to go up another 20 to 30 percent to match the military numbers, although the specific numbers are still being reviewed. Those civilians are having tremendous impact on the ground.
On something like agriculture, I think we had about 13 agriculture advisors in the country at the beginning of last year. By the time the civilian increase is over or is fully resourced by the end of this month or sometime next month, we’ll have 64. In a country that’s 80 percent dependent on agriculture this is what’s helping to create jobs, this is what’s helping to create stability. This is the long term solution for this country and this is exactly why Ambassador Holbrooke will be having a press conference with Secretary Vilsack later this afternoon, talking about some of the specific agriculture efforts, how they’re wrapped into the broader development efforts.
We’re very much looking forward to working with the new USAID Administrator, he’s being sworn in today, on many of these issues. On our staff, on the SRAP staff we have three detailees from USAID alone working on development programs; one from USDA on specific agriculture projects. And I think that we are doing exactly what Kai has suggested needs to be done.
On the broader issue, this effort has been going on for a long time and I understand the war-weariness of Americans and the international community, but I think that the President laid out a very well reasoned, thought out and ultimately successful approach in a speech in December, and I think the American public and Congress and ultimately the international committee will stand behind that because we have to achieve success. I think the mechanisms and methods that he laid out to do so are the right ones.
Question: Hello, thank you very much. My name is Olivier O’Mahony. I’m the U.S. correspondent for Paris Match Magazine, which is a French magazine.
My question is about how the SRAP works in cooperation with the humanitarian groups which are in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the NGOs. And especially I wanted to ask you about the role and the mission of Ronan Farrow. He said a few months ago that he has been appointed as the liaison between the SRAP and the humanitarian NGOs. I wanted to know why him, and what his mission, what he does basically.
Mr. Feldman: The role of non-governmental organizations, the very critical role that they play in the region, is obviously one that’s discussed by the broader SRAP collective quite a bit. Whether it’s in helping to build capacity in country, whether it’s administering aid, whether it’s meeting needs that can’t be met through other avenues and mechanisms. It’s obviously critical to the success of the mission in the region.
So the topic and role of NGOs is brought up quite a bit, particularly through some of the multilateral representatives from SRAPs. So there has been attendance at various times not only from the EU and EC and NATO and UN, but also from World Bank and other funding mechanisms. The role that they have and their relationships with NGOs has been the topic of discussion at times between all the collective of SRAPs.
Your question, though, seems to be far more about the role of the U.S. SRAP, Ambassador Holbrooke and his office. Because of the importance of NGOs, Ambassador Holbrooke took the initiative - which is one of the first times if not the first time that we know about it in the history of the State Department - to hire a specific liaison for NGOs. One is Ronan Farrow, who is remarkably talented, has a very long, despite being young, has a very long history of working with NGOs, helping to lead some NGO movements with regard to Sudan. And is a recent Yale Law School graduate and has been committed to working in this part of the world.
So he’s on our staff with the sole purpose of better helping to coordinate the work of all the NGOs there. He’s had a number of outreach meetings in Washington. He’ll probably do so in the region as well. He’s working very closely, in fact he works in the same office, the same room, with a desk next to all three of our USAID detailees. So in the continuing effort to better coordinate assistance, civilian assistance in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he’s part of those discussions and helps inform the NGO community. He’s been part of our Hill briefings when we’ve spoken about NGO outreach. And he’s a great resource for us.
I hope it will become more of a – I think it’s a very valuable role that I think would be benefited in other offices as well. So considering that we’re doing it as among the first in the State Department, I think it will be a model that will be followed because of its utility.
Question: I’m Sabine Muscat with the Financial Times, Deutschland and Washington.
You mentioned these meetings and how you all sit together basically and discuss what everyone is seeing and their civilian approaches. I’m wondering at these meetings, how would they actually play out? Would they also involve the U.S. trying to get things from their allies? And Ambassador Holbrooke yesterday was quoted in a German newspaper interview asking the question whether or not Germany would be ready to make its commitment to the whole process. And be that troops or be that enhanced civilian effort, what are you actually asking in these meetings from your allies?
Mr. Feldman: These forums were, first of all, Ambassador Mutzelburg is the one that actually chairs them, so it’s not necessarily the U.S. or we chairing it or asking them anything. They were designed as a forum for better and more and greater discussion. And so in my recollection of attending the meetings I’ve attended, I can’t ever recall an instance in which a specific member has made a request like that as an ask. I think we raise topics that need to be discussed. In the course of that there are a number of options presented and opportunities highlighted, and if countries want to take those opportunities afterwards then they have the ability to do so. But we never yet said “this is our request.” And it’s certainly never been used as a forum for troop requests or something like that. It has focused solely on the civilian and political side.
Question: Following up, in the run-up to the conference at the end of this month, there must be a little more going on than just brainstorming. Are people actually putting things on the table and then there is a discussion about that? How does it work?
Mr. Feldman: I didn’t say it was just brainstorming. I said there would be a topic introduced - strengthening democratic institutions in Afghanistan as I said will be on the agenda for next week, as well as increased economic assistance to Pakistan.
And in fact Kai Eide and Ambassador Ripert will be there both in Abu Dhabi, as well, as I said, the Foreign Ministers of both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
So topics are introduced, but no one has, no one writes an introductory paper. SRAPs come prepared with their views on some of those topics. If there’s a particular question in play, a number of options are typically identified. But no vote is taken at the end of it, no specific decision is necessarily taken. I think whoever is leading that part of the discussion, and it’s frequently not an American, it’s typically been Ambassador Mutzeleburg, or others, but someone will lead that aspect of the discussion. They may well sum up the views of the room and say here’s where a majority of, it sounds like there’s a consensus emerging, that this is a way forward on something like this, or this is a majority of views, or this is a distinct view that we have to take into consideration on this, or these are potential avenues that we can proceed with including follow-up meetings with X or Y, or calls or with something like that.
But there’s never a decision taken that, or hasn’t been to date where, and this is the considered response of the international community, or this is what we will do coming out of the meeting. It’s far more the forum for discussion and coordination.
Let me check with Jarrett on one thing. I think we have made decisions that the SRAPs as a whole will not make any sort of joint decision together, right? Wasn’t that a decision taken? They won’t issue a statement as one entity.
Mr. Feldman: If you couldn’t hear Jarrett, that’s a key point, we haven’t talked about that that much today, but the London Conference is not anticipated as a pledging conference and it is just a forum for a variety of these other discussions on security, in particularly on political issues, on development issues. And so again, those conversations are not going to be had in the context of the London planning.
Question: My name is Narzira Karimi. I’m correspondent for Ariana Television Network from Afghanistan.
I need to get some information, some detail about the London conference. What exactly, what is the topics about Afghanistan to discuss in this conference in London?
Mr. Feldman: I’m probably not the best person to do that since the UK is planning it and is in the lead in terms of giving information about it. I think there are a number of planning sessions still ongoing for it, including one that was held yesterday in London. But I think that the broad parameters of the conference have already been laid out by the British including on security, on politics and on development.
Is there anything else in addition to –
Mr. Feldman: Right. And also the issue of civilian coordination in Kabul. President Karzai will be in attendance. It was intended as a conference for the international community, as I said, to endorse the initiatives that the government has already taken and is going to take on these key subject areas. But I’m sure that the British will release more about it in the days leading up to it.
Question: This is Lalit Jha, from Press Trust of India, and I also contribute for Pajhwok Afghan news in Afghanistan’s wire service.
First on India. Can you give us a sense of India’s contribution in the region – in Afghanistan, Pakistan? And on Ambassador Holbrooke’s interaction with India, how frequent and how regular is it, and at what level?
Secondly, in Afghanistan local media, there is an impression that Ambassador Holbrooke has been interfering with the politics of the country which is very counterproductive. What’s your reaction to these two questions?
Mr. Feldman: With regard to India, Ambassador Holbrooke repeatedly, his title is Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is nothing about India in there. And his focus is exclusively on the two countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
That said, obviously India plays a very key role in the region and it’s important for them to be kept apprised of everything that’s occurring. As a result of that Ambassador Holbrooke has frequent communication with his counterparts and others in India. He tries to stop there on occasion when he’s in the region to continue the conversations and update the Indian government on what he’s doing and to be inclusive in the efforts that are going on.
So the role and importance of India is certainly recognized, but his portfolio is solely Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In terms of the internal politics of Afghanistan, Ambassador Holbrooke has very good working relationships with the Afghan government. He was there last for President Karzai’s inauguration. He’ll be going again next week. He leaves this weekend to go to Abu Dhabi and from Abu Dhabi he’ll be going to both Pakistan and Afghanistan and will have a full range of high level governmental meetings to talk about all the critical issues that we have in front of us and to help advance the agenda before the London Conference as well.
So he continues to do his job exactly as it was foreseen by the President and the Secretary and as effectively as he can.
Question: Will he stop in India?
Mr. Feldman: I’m not sure whether he’ll do a trip prep beforehand. There’s been nothing about India announced thus far, but he will be in the region for several days.
Question: Christina Bergmann, Deutsche Welle, German international radio and on-line services.
Coming back to the process of the SRAP meeting you just described, can you please tell us now what is the role of the Afghan Representative in this process? Is it just everybody’s saying what, every Representative just telling what they think is appropriate and then a consensus is made? Or are they listening to the Afghans? Tell us how this works out.
Mr. Feldman: There is not an Afghan representative in SRAP but we obviously work extremely closely with the Afghan government in every way. So as a result, for instance at this meeting in Abu Dhabi next week, Foreign Minister Spanta who is still the Foreign Minister as of now, will be there representing Afghanistan as will Foreign Minister Qureshi from Pakistan.
It works -- the idea was that we needed a forum for the international community to discuss donor issues in particular, but obviously a key part of that is working with Afghan government, Afghan institutions, building Afghan capacity. That’s why you’ll see at least in U.S. donor assistance there is a significant increase in the percentage that’s going directly into Afghan institutions, the ARTF, and the National Solidarity Program. We are in the process of certifying particular Ministries so we can fund programs directly through them. I think three are already certified with another three in the works.
So the actual logistics of donor work is very closely in sync with the Afghanistan governments, and a key person for us in that is Ambassador Tony Wayne, who has the portfolio on the ground in Kabul of doing all economic assistance, donor coordination. In the course of his work, he works daily with all the Afghan Ministries and also helps to coordinate on the ground in Kabul with the international community.
So there’s not a formal role for an Afghan representative in SRAP because the purpose was to coordinate the rest of the international community, but it obviously, by nature of being able to do its job effectively, has to work very very closely with its counterparts and colleagues in the Afghan government.
Question: Xavier Vila, with Spanish Public Radio.
Is there a budget for this? And pulling this network together shows that it was not enough good coordination so far.
Mr. Feldman: There is no budget for it as far as I know. I think everything has been just done through the delegations of the various countries and relying on the generosity of various hosts to help host these meetings.
There’s no -- the secretariat that we’re in the process of helping to form here in Washington which will potentially be made up of some representatives of some of the member countries will all be here on a detailed basis. So it has worked budget wise on a fairly ad hoc basis thus far. I don’t think anyone has an appetite to try to formalize that and come up with the budgeting and everything else. They really want to focus on the discussion and the coordination. It’s been quite effective to date. I think this liaison group in Washington will further that and it’s something that we don’t need a budget for because we can meet locally.
The second part of your question was?
Question: Whether there’s enough coordination so --
Mr. Feldman: I think there’s been a wide amount of criticism that you can always use more and better coordination and this is absolutely an effort to address that. We will continue to need to do more and we will and hopefully this vehicle is one of the chief ways of doing that.
Question: Hi, this is Aylin Yazan from CNN Turk Television, Turkey.
My question is about the civilian effort in Afghanistan. I wonder how is the relationship basically in the U.S. civilians and Afghan people. The U.S. civilians, can they really reach Afghan people? What are the Afghan people’s reaction to them?
Mr. Feldman: From what we’ve heard anecdotally the reaction to the U.S. civilians is extremely positive. In fact our goal is to get more and more of these civilians out beyond Kabul. In fact, of this close to a thousand people, a thousand civilians that the U.S. will have, the effort is to have more than 50 percent in the field based at various PRTs and elsewhere. They’re working hand in glove with the Afghans in terms of delivering services. So these 64 ag advisors that will be there are working on a whole range of specific ag programs, planting programs, connecting farmers to markets, doing a range of these issues.
The same on the range, we’ve got DOJ detailees, Department of Justice detailees helping on the law and anti-corruption programs. We’ve got Department of Homeland Security. So the bulk of the thousand, I think close to a third of it, will be the USAID civilians who will be working on education programs, health program. We’ve got others working on infrastructure.
So this is really the front line of civilian work. These are the people that do have the day to day interaction with the Afghans. I think that’s actually the relationship that’s working the best. And we’re spending a lot of time on making sure that it’s the right civilians in the right place doing the right type of work. We didn’t just throw a number of civilians out and say go do this.
This was part of the reason for developing the program at Camp Atterbury, which I think some of you may have attended. My colleague, Derek Hogan, gave a briefing on this a few weeks ago. A very intensive, one-week program which helps to ensure that the civilians going out there are aware of the types of issues, problems, concerns that they’ll have. Most of them have a lot of experience if not in the region certainly with these issues. They’re true experts in these areas. From what we’ve heard, the reception has been very positive.
Question: If you would be asked to use only two or three words to describe the main task of the international community for Afghanistan, what would you say? Is it nation building instead of defeating al-Qaida?
Sorry, Ansgar Graw from the German newspaper Die Welt.
Mr. Feldman: In two or three words I would say building capacity, ensuring stability, ensuring security, promoting governance. I would not say nation-building, if that’s what you are looking for.
Did that answer it?
Question: Raghubir Goyal, India Globe and Asia Today.
The question is that now we are focusing more and more on agriculture in Afghanistan. Once used to be field agriculture, exporting food and everything. But today there is nothing.
It has taken of course many many years, but now we are focusing that Afghanistan should be back on its own feet as far as agriculture is concerned. Just like India, 80 percent; Afghanistan also used to be 80 percent agriculture country.
What will India’s role be in this forum as far as agriculture in Afghanistan, since India has the same capacity?
Second, what is not working in Afghanistan as far as Taliban and al-Qaida is concerned? Because they keep going back and forth from Afghanistan to Pakistan, Pakistan to Afghanistan. So where they will go from that region? What will happen to them in the future?
Mr. Feldman: I’m glad you raised the issue of agriculture because, as I said, it is one of our truly core initiatives and the press conference with Secretary Vilsack this afternoon will, I think, continue to highlight some of the specific programs we’ve been working on there. Because the goal is to ensure stability, to build capacity, the quickest, the fastest, the best way of doing that is to continue to develop the agriculture sector which many years ago was extremely robust. We want to help return agriculture to its rightful role.
I think Ambassador Holbrooke frequently says we’re not nation building, we’re nation rebuilding. And agriculture is a key component. They had such a great agriculture exporting history with grapes, I think there was even some wine, with pomegranates, apples, with others. So we’re now refocusing on those issues.
I think the role of India, which I don’t know specifically on agriculture, but I think one of these very very successful projects was the export of apples grown in Afghanistan to India, and certainly a model that we would like to replicate.
The Turks have been very helpful in agriculture given their own history. There’s a cold storage facility in Wardak and it’s certainly something that is a model for other cold storage facilities, and one that we’re talking with the Turkish government about doing jointly in terms of future cooperative projects on agriculture.
One of our USAID detailees left earlier in the week to look specifically at agriculture, continued agriculture programs, and in part looking at efforts to better coordinate with the international community on that.
So on regional trade issues, on transit trade issues, on specific agriculture, I think there’s a very helpful and important role for India and others in the region on agriculture.
In terms of the broader al-Qaida, Taliban issue, I would refer you I think to the President’s speech. I think he tried to pinpoint this issue specifically. It’s obviously a very fluid border. The reason for the military troop increase is specifically to try to continue to target what we need to to build security and the military plans on that will continue to evolve.
Question: [Arshad Mahmud, BDNews24.com, Bangladesh]
Thank you. I’m sure you know who Greg Mortenson is, right?
Mr. Feldman: Sure. Three Cups of Tea.
Question: Yes. And Nicholas Kristof wrote a brilliant piece a couple of weeks ago about why the American efforts are not working in Afghanistan. How often do you confront him? Because he is the only successful American to have run 39 schools there and not a single one has been bombed so far by the Taliban. Do you really consult him and do you really ask for his advice?
Mr. Feldman: I’ve read the book. I think his work is remarkable. I know he’s got a very big fan base here in Washington. I’m not aware of anyone from our office talking with him specifically or consulting with him, but I think several people have met him. But the type of work that he has done there is exactly what we’re seeking to replicate in terms of the emphasis on education, the emphasis on girls and women’s education in particular, and girls and women’s programming broadly.
As you know Secretary Clinton has appointed a Special Representative for Womens Issues, Melanne Verveer. She’s been to Afghanistan on several trips. We work very closely with her and her team on continuing to promote these issues and to integrate them into not only educational efforts but also health efforts which include bringing more women doctors to Afghanistan from a number of nations that are part of the SRAP collective to help treat women, working on health issues. Then working as closely with the communities as possible through our civilians that are out there, through the PRTs and through other mechanisms.
So I think more broadly what he has laid out and what he has been successful in doing is exactly the type of thing that we’re striving to do as well.
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