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Diplomacy in Action

Readout on the January 28 London Conference on Afghanistan

FPC Briefing
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
February 3, 2010


Date: 02/03/2010 Location: Washington, DC Description: Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Briefing at the Washington Foreign Press Center on the January 28 London Conference on Afghanistan. - State Dept Image


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Ambassador Holbrooke: Thank you, Doris. It’s great to be back here with all of you.

I just want to say a word since it’s the first time I’ve been in this center this year. I just want to look back on last year and look forward on this year.

Last year in Afghanistan and Pakistan was an enormously challenging year for all of the friends of those two countries. In Afghanistan, from January 20th to November 19th, ten months, the election process hung over all other issues. So ten of the first twelve months of the administration were spent dealing with that issue. Other issues too, of course, on which we made progress, but on that issue there was a constant shadow and great, great problems. The election was admittedly messy. But in the end, through a process that was wholly in accordance with the laws and constitution of Afghanistan, President Karzai was reelected and inaugurated and is once again the legitimately elected leader of Afghanistan. Make no mistake about that. We deal with him on that basis, and we went to London among 70 other nations to hear from him on that basis.

During that same year we had a change of ambassadors, a restructuring of the American embassy, a change of military commanders, a restructuring of our military strategy, two major troop decisions by President Obama. When he came into office there were about 31,000 troops in Afghanistan. The buildup that he announced in December at West Point will take us to more than triple that number.

It was a year of significant increase in civilian efforts, and some major changes in our strategy. We ended support of eradicating poppies; moved agriculture to the very top of our non-security agenda; put into place a new command structure for training police and army; and started a whole series of other programs which were by necessity delayed because of the election.

That was 2009 in Afghanistan.

In the year that just started with a great momentum from the London Conference, we are going to focus on implementing the plans that were laid out last year.

The American civilian buildup is continuing. When we took office there were only 300 American civilians in the whole country in the U.S. government. Today there are 900 and that number is growing. A tripling of the overall number, a six-fold increase in the field. These issues are not without risk, these deployments, as the tragic loss of three Americans in Pakistan illustrates today.

In Pakistan we faced a decision, we made a decision to increase our support for Pakistan in the economic field while continuing significant support in the military field. We worked closely with Pakistan throughout the year. It was once again, a very challenging year but a very productive one. I believe firmly that in both countries our relations with the government are better today than they were a year ago today and that while difficulties remain, and you all know what they are, and I’m sure you’ll want to focus on them, that we are moving in the right direction.

In Pakistan, of course, we suffered a tragic loss today as did the people of Pakistan when terrorists detonated a mine under a vehicle and killed three American military personnel and wounded two others -- not life-threatening wounds -- and killed Pakistanis. They were all traveling to a girl’s school that was going to be inaugurated, reopened in Dir, and I think it illustrates once again the sharp dichotomy between the two sides in the struggle in western Pakistan and in Afghanistan. So we express our condolences to the people and the families of the Pakistani victims and to the Americans who died today.

With that, I will take your questions. Thank you.

Pahjwok News: Lalit Jha, of Press Trust of India and also Pahjwok News, Afghanistan’s wire service.

On Monday a couple of tribal organizations in the (inaudible) province asked the international community to help them remove the name of Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar from the blacklist of the UN. What’s your response to that? Then I have a question related to the list.

Ambassador Holbrooke: The five names that were delisted were people who had left the Taliban and are living openly and peacefully in Kabul. I don’t think that the people you mentioned qualify for that kind of treatment. I cannot see that under the current circumstances anyone could realistically remove those names.

But let me remind you that this is not an American decision. It’s a UN Security Council decision, and other nations have a vote, and indeed four other nations have a veto on this issue. So whatever the U.S. did, it would require the consent of other countries and I’m virtually certain that wouldn’t be forthcoming anyway.

Pahjwok News: Another question. Admiral Mullen at the congressional hearing yesterday spoke about the need for India and Pakistan restarting the back-channel diplomacy on the issue of Kashmir and here at this center around two months ago Admiral Mullen had spoken about how Kashmir is important for reducing tension between India and Pakistan. You have been responsible for bringing peace and stability in Pakistan. How do you view Admiral Mullen’s view about Kashmir and its role in the region?

Ambassador Holbrooke: I haven’t seen the exact text of Admiral Mullen’s comments so I’m not going to comment on those specifically, but he’s a very close friend and colleague. We traveled together last year. We’ve planned a trip together this year, and I’m sure there’s no disagreement between us.

On the specific you talked about, we are not going to negotiate or mediate on that issue and I’m going to try to keep my record and not even mention it by name. But I want to be clear, that anything that the two countries do to reduce tensions or improve relations will be something we would applaud and encourage, but we are not going to act as intermediaries between Islamabad and New Delhi. That is not what we are here to do. I’m not just talking about myself.

Tass: Andrei Sitov from Tass, from the Russian News Agency. Thank you for coming to talk to us.

What seems to be the problem with the lethal transit project with Russia? It was touted as a great success after our two presidents met in Moscow last summer, and it doesn’t seem to be flying.

Ambassador Holbrooke: Flying literally, you mean. [Laughter].

Tass: And also sir, you mentioned that you stopped supporting eradicating poppies. That’s the biggest issue for the Russians. What can you do to stop the flow of drugs? Thanks.

Ambassador Holbrooke: On your first question, I would suggest you address that to the Russian government. I don’t know why the bureaucracies get hung up on this flight thing. I’m not working on it. Many other people are.

On your second question, I went to Moscow a few months ago and I met with many members of your government including General Ivanov who is the head of your equivalent of the, well you’ll know better than me.

Tass: DEA.

Ambassador Holbrooke: It’s more than the DEA. It’s kind of like, like it combines two different parts of the U.S. government, but it’s a very important job.

We had an honest disagreement about poppy eradication. The Russian government thinks that poppy eradication is the key. We think it was creating opportunities for the Taliban to recruit farmers. We do not think it’s the key to getting control of the drug trade. We shifted our emphasis to interdiction and destroying large drug bizarre. We have had much greater success and we have done more damage to the drugs by this policy and we’re no longer giving the Taliban a free recruiting tool.

We agreed on a wide range of areas of cooperation first outlined in the Obama/Medvedev communiqué of July; and then followed up on by constant work. We’re refining that now. Russia is getting more involved in a cooperative relationship with the United States in Afghanistan. I talked to Foreign Minister Lavrov about this and other issues in London last week. He of course is an old friend of mine. He was my counterpart at the United Nations and I think an excellent diplomat. And on this one issue, we have a difference of view, but we’re not going to -- but on the core issue, Russia’s concern about drugs, we share that completely and we particularly focused on precursor chemicals and other related issues.

Der Tagesspiegel: Christoph von Marschall from the German daily Der Tagesspiegel. It’s good to see you. It’s obviously the directest way from London to Munich to fly through Washington, D.C.

You’re a diplomat but you also like straight talk. If you look at the dynamics in the United States, multiplying the effort with now the year ahead in Europe we don’t have the same dynamics. They are not pulling out directly, they promised to stay as long as U.S. might stay, but they are not really putting in much more troops and multiplying the effort that the U.S. is doing.

Isn’t that disappointing? Is it the old school that Europe is not the problem but often not the solution?

Ambassador Holbrooke: I’m not going to repeat the ad hominem criticisms of our greatest allies in the NATO Alliance that occurred in my presence at the Bayerischer Hof in Munich on several occasions in the recent past. I’m sure you know what I’m referring to. There’s no point in that. The Germans are sending more troops. The Germans have a large economic assistance program. I was fortunate and honored enough to be American Ambassador to Germany. I’ll be in Munich the day after tomorrow. I will see leaders of your government again. I have private meetings scheduled. General Jones is going to Munich as well, so he and I will conduct some meetings jointly and some separately.

This is the greatest peacetime alliance in history now being tested in its first shooting war.

I was Ambassador in Germany in July of 1994 when the High Court of Karlsruhe laid down the ruling which allowed Germany to deploy troops outside its borders for the first time since 1945. I remember the great ambivalence and trepidation as the first German forces went to Bosnia and then to Kosovo. Now they’re engaged in a very difficult conflict. Over 30 German soldiers have given their lives in their sector, and more troops are on the way. For anybody to criticize them without understanding the complexity of the German decisionmaking process and without due respect for your own political processes strikes me as inappropriate and I will not do it. I’m very grateful for the German participation.

Would we like countries to do more? Of course. Of course. But I’m not going to go around telling countries what they should do.

Chosun Ilbo: Hawon Lee, I work for South Korean Newspaper, Chosun Ilbo.

Ambassador Holbrooke: They used to run my columns in Chosun Ilbo. Not the Tagesspiegel, but Chosun Ilbo. [Laughter].

Chosun Ilbo: Ambassador, can you verify and elaborate the reports that the United States is looking forward to cooperate with the Taliban, and I’m wondering how you evaluate the South Korean government’s contributions to Afghanistan? South Korean government announced that they will send more troops and put protection to PRT and protection troops to Afghanistan. Thank you.

Ambassador Holbrooke: On the second question, as you know I’ve been going to Korea now for 38 years as a government official, as a private citizen, as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia. One of the first trips I made was to South Korea in April of last year. I had excellent talks with your President and your Foreign Minister and your other officials.

The Korean contribution in Afghanistan is very important and I’m very mindful of the extreme trauma that your country suffered. My assistant here, Kim McClure, was in Gazni Province when the 23 Korean students were released. She was in charge of the logistics for that dramatic event. She’s a Dari speaker. Stand up, Kim, so everyone can see you. Kim was involved in this very important event for Korea. I am very pleased to see the Koreans increasing their efforts despite that history. And the fact that they also made a significant contribution to Pakistan aid at the April 18th Tokyo Pledging Conference last year.

On the first part of your question, I’m not quite sure where you were coming from on the question but you were asking about the stories and rumors about discussions with the Taliban, is that correct?

Chosun Ilbo: Yes.

Ambassador Holbrooke: Quite honestly, your colleagues have written a lot more about this than the facts justify. So I want to start by just making a very clear distinction between reintegration and reconciliation. Some of you have heard this before, but it’s absolutely essential we start with that.

Reintegration is the program that President Karzai and his Ministers announced in London and which the international community strongly supports led by Japan. Reintegration is a program to give people fighting with the Taliban a chance to lay down their arms, renounce al-Qaida, renounce violence, and participate in the political process of Afghanistan. It is a much needed program. It is a gap in the existing programs. And it is something that the ISAF Command considers of the highest importance, as does Secretary Clinton.

The reconciliation is something quite different, and all too often people have confused the two. Reconciliation is a reference to the possibility of discussions with the leadership of the Taliban about bringing a peaceful end to the war. This is what has gotten confused in people’s minds because people are talking about contacts with the Taliban, about negotiations with the Taliban. President Karzai was in Saudi Arabia yesterday and of course he’s publicly called on the Saudis to assist in that effort.

So let me be very clear. First of all, the United States is not in direct contact with the Taliban.

Secondly, there’s plenty of indirect track two or private channel contacts between Taliban and Pashtun families, other people in other parts of the world. We’re not part of that. It happens in all wars, it’s happening in this one particularly because almost every Pashtun family, at least the Pashtun families in the south, have friends or family on both sides. But it’s not happening now and the United States is not involved in it.

Is it important in the long run? Yes. Is it something we want to watch carefully? Yes.

The United States position on this was clearly stated by Secretary Clinton last July and President Obama in December. Anyone involved in either reintegration or reconciliation has to renounce al-Qaida. That is the core objective, after all, of our presence in this region is to defeat al-Qaida, and recent events show what a threat they continue to be.

So let’s not let the speculation get out ahead of the reality.

Times Now: Good afternoon, Ambassador. My name is Natasha Israni. I’m a reporter with Times Now which is an India television news network.

I just wanted to get your take on the evolving role of India in Afghanistan and also how do you respond to the jostling between Pakistan and India with regard to greater influence in what happens in Afghanistan?

Ambassador Holbrooke: India is part of the region, the largest country in the region. And although I have no responsibility for U.S.-Indian relations, because of their great importance in these issues I go to New Delhi as often as I can. I was there two weeks ago. I look forward to seeing Indian officials at the Munich Security Conference the day after tomorrow. And there were Indians represented at the talks in London with whom I spoke.

The Indians have a legitimate series of security interests in that region, as do a number of other countries including, of course, Pakistan, China, and all the other countries that neighbor on Afghanistan. And any search for a resolution of the war in Afghanistan requires that the legitimate security interests of every country be understood and taken into account.

The dilemma arises when those security interests tend to be in conflict. Afghanistan has suffered throughout history by the fact that it has sometimes become the terrain for surrogate struggles for power. We do not want to see that happen. I hope that that will be something we can continue to work on.

Haberturk: Thanks Ambassador, this is Tulin Daloglu with Turkish daily newspaper Haberturk. Thank you so much for coming to the Foreign Press Center to talk to us.

I’d like to ask you a question about the Turkish role. Turkish President Abdullah Gul recently led the fourth trilateral meeting with his Afghani and Pakistani counterparts in Istanbul. I wonder whether you can talk to us as to how you qualify the Turkish participation in these trilateral meetings in your bigger picture in the AfPak policy. Do you see that Turkey is playing a role in somehow easing the tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan on the security dilemma? And are you getting any help from the Turkish side in somehow indirectly talking to Taliban? Thank you.

Ambassador Holbrooke: Turkey is a very important factor in the region. I mentioned earlier, a moment ago in answer to the question from New York, the legitimate security interests and legitimate strategic interests of countries in the region, and I definitely would include Turkey among those. I am fortunate enough to know all of the current leadership of Turkey -- your President, your Prime Minister, your Foreign Minister, other Ministers -- and I have been in extensive discussions with them.

We have sent a team to Ankara to discuss deepening our cooperation. Turkey has sent a team to Washington, a fantastic team representing about 15 different elements of the Turkish government to discuss these things. We have parallel interests. Turkey is, of course, a NATO member and a key member of ISAF and one of the PRTs is a Turkish PRT. The Turks have done some extremely valuable work in fields like agriculture where they build the first cold storage facility since the end of the war. A very important issue, I might add, because agriculture is so important and without cold storage everything rots. And we have the highest respect and attach the greatest importance to deepening our cooperation with Turkey and it gives me a chance to thank the Turkish government and the Turkish people for their support and involvement.

I can think of no country in the ISAF alliance that has a role that is more important than Turkey’s in terms of operations inside Afghanistan.

On the second part of your question, contacts with the Taliban, that has not been a major subject between us and the Turkish government so I will suggest you address that question to Ankara.

NTV: Mr. Ambassador, this is Kahraman Haliscelik with Turkish Television.

I know you answered some part of the question but UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon last week here in New York said that there should be balance between civilian efforts and military measures in Afghanistan. While he was making these comments his Special Envoy, Mr. Kai Eide was holding talks with Taliban in Afghanistan. Do you support UN’s efforts to engage with Taliban? And do you believe that Taliban is capable of melting back into Afghan society?

Ambassador Holbrooke: I really have answered that question already. Let me be clear that the overwhelming majority of people fighting with the Taliban are not members of the Taliban as a political movement. They’re fighting with them either because they’ve been intimidated and scared into doing so, or because they’re getting paid. Until recently they were paid more than the police or army in the Afghan government. Or out of a local grievance, a civilian casualty, an action of corruption. Or simply because they didn’t understand what the international forces were doing in their country and they had ISAF confused with the Soviet Union or something like that. Those people are welcomed back if they renounced al-Qaida and join. And that’s what the reintegration program is.

This other thing you’re talking about, again, I say there’s much less there than meets the eye. I’ll let the United Nations speak for itself, but anyone here who thinks there are significant talks going on with the Taliban on reconciliation is seeing something that I am not aware of.

India Globe: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Raghubir Goyal, India Globe and Asia Today.

You are instrumental about the peace in the region as far as Afghanistan is concerned. Of course your role is very important. Even the President is relying on you.

As far as this having discussion to bring these people into the mainstream so they are misled by one or another region. So you think this policy will work now which we have been trying in the past? Because don’t you think that if the government do more for these people and bring them into the mainstream then they might not join or work for the Taliban?

Second thing, as far as Taliban is concerned, there is warning here in the U.S. including by the CIA Director, and as you know the British and Indian government also on high alert. Do you suggest to President Obama that this country should be also, have elevated as far as terror alert is concerned?

Ambassador Holbrooke: On the first part of your question, I agree with your premise. There’s not much dispute here, of course. That is why the Kerry/Lugar/Burman legislation advocated such a large civilian assistance -- $7.5 billion over the next five years. Not just for the people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, but for the whole country. That’s why Secretary Clinton and I on our recent trips have emphasized energy and water. That’s why we want to help the people of Pakistan on their basic needs, starting again with energy and water. That’s why the international community is doing so much for Pakistan. It isn’t enough, however. Pakistan faces enormous difficulties and it’s borne the burden of a war which spilled over from its neighbor to the West, and it has done so with great, it’s been a very great challenge. We command and applaud the Pakistani military for their efforts in Swat and South Waziristan under difficult circumstances.

On your second question, on the comments made yesterday by my colleagues in the intelligence briefing, of course I reaffirm that. We are not able to discuss everything that we know is going on in public. But what you all know about ought to be sufficient to justify their comments. The Headley affair in Chicago, the Zazi affair in New York and Denver, the Nigerian who tried to blow up the Northwest Airliner plane on its way to Detroit, the Jordanian doctor who infiltrated the base on Khost. These are the ones you all know about. There are others out there as they pointed out in the hearing yesterday that are still in planning.

So you’re talking about the status of our alert capability. I’ll leave that to the professionals in that field. I have talked to Secretary Janet Napolitano about that, and we are doing everything we can.

India Globe: A question on Afghanistan, Mr. Ambassador. Many Afghans are saying, Mr. Ambassador, that they of course thank the U.S. for the freedom they got from the years of war, but they relied on their government and also on the U.S. and NATO and others in the international community, but they did not get what they expected. Then Taliban offered them more than their government. So where should they go, or we should go from here in the international community?

Ambassador Holbrooke: Let me say two things.

First of all in the ARD/BBC/ABC poll that came out two or three weeks ago of the Afghan population, they showed a huge, huge distaste for the Taliban and considerable support, growing support, for the international presence and for the Karzai government. So with great respect, I don’t think that your premise is correct.

Now it is true, however, that the initial enthusiasm of 2002, 2003, 2004 dissipated in the reality of the resurgent Taliban. Why did that happen? Well, it happened for two fundamental reasons. One is inherent in the government in Kabul and I won’t comment on that any further. I’ve had my say. The other one is inherent in the fact that the United States as Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, and Senator Biden -- now the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State -- all said in the campaign, that the United States took its eye off the ball and we stripped our resources out of Afghanistan for the other war and the consequences were inevitable.

Some of us in the private sector warned about that. Argued not to do it. Said that Afghanistan would be the more serious of the two problems in the long term. Now we’ve been given, for better or worse, an opportunity to see if we can do better.

I would maintain that we have significantly changed the course of our policy in 2009 in ways already outlined, and that 2010 you will see the beginning of improvements on the ground. I think we’re beginning to see it in agriculture and elsewhere.

The National: Steve Stanek from The National in the UAE.

I’m just wondering what specific incentives have been offered in the reintegration program to improve the numbers of people who are coming over.

Ambassador Holbrooke: First of all, before I answer that since you’re from The National, let me just say again that the last meeting of my collective, the 28 or 29 counterparts that have assembled from all over the world was hosted by Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and they brought together about 40 countries including countries that hadn’t previously been involved like Jordan and Egypt. The leadership of the UAE on this issue has been extremely important.

In regard to your specific question, Minister Stanisai and President Karzai laid out in London the outlines of their reintegration plans, but they’re still quite general. Other countries then came forward with various forms of commitments and resources.

There will be another conference in Kabul probably in two and a half, three months. We haven’t got a date yet from the Afghan government. And by that time I hope it will be fully fleshed out, so forgive me for not giving you a detailed answer, but I would rather just, lots has been written on this but we think there’s a lot more specificity is going to be needed here.

Asia-Plus Media Group: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. My name is Umed Babakhanov, and I represent small and not so powerful country, but country which has more than 1,000 kilometers of common border with Afghanistan. I am talking about Tajikistan, one of the closest neighbors, countries to Afghanistan.

I know that Tajikistan now plays a role in cooperation with the U.S. and the world community in Afghanistan, and I know that Tajik Foreign Minister in conference in London made some suggestions how Tajikistan could play a more active role in Afghanistan settlement. What do you think about his suggestions and what he has proposed?

My second question is that being closest neighbor and standing on front lines of drug trafficking from Afghanistan, Tajik people now are suffering from this problem, and there are some fears now that military operation in Afghanistan could affect to my country as well. Some Taliban movements could come to Tajikistan. What do you think about this possibility?

Ambassador Holbrooke: We very much appreciate Tajikistan’s participation at the London Conference. I spoke to the Tajik leaders in New York in the General Assembly session. They invited me to come to Tajikistan. I hope to visit Tajikistan in the very near future. I’m just working out the logistical details now.

Your second and third points are absolutely correct. And I said earlier that all the neighbors have legitimate strategic and security interests. I was thinking very specifically of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Canal Plus: Benoit from Canal Plus, French Television.

About a week ago French President Nicolas Sarkozy was on a televised debate with a French audience on several points of his policies. During the 19 minutes of this televised debate he never mentioned Afghanistan or Pakistan. What do you think about the way that the French President communicates on Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Ambassador Holbrooke: I missed that debate. I’m sorry. I don’t get Canal Plus in Washington. I miss TF1, too, but why it didn’t come up is between him and his interlocutors.

I was in Paris recently. I spoke to the Elysse and to the Quai d/Orsay, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Jean-David Levitte whom I actually ran into in New Delhi and we talked even in India. The French are very engaged in this effort. Just as I said in answer to an earlier question concerning Turkey and Germany and South Korea, I’m not going to go around laying out what individuals, specifics -- All I can say is that the French involvement in Afghanistan is a vital part of the effort. I don’t know what more you want me to say. I’m not going to get into French politics.

Canal Plus: Do you think that European leaders or in my case French leader give enough explanation to their voters and to [inaudible] in their policies in Afghanistan and their cooperation with the United States?

Ambassador Holbrooke: I don’t watch French media and French politics on a regular basis right now. I’d like to. France is one of the countries that I have the closest personal ties to in the world, as you may know. But I’m not going to get into the French debate. The French government has said they will stay in Afghanistan as long as necessary. That’s a direct quote, if I’m not mistaken, from President Sarkozy.

The French have put $200 million into their effort; they have almost 4,000 troops there. It’s a very important contribution. As I said earlier, I’m not going to go around criticizing our closest allies.

Canal Plus: [Inaudible]. [Laughter].

Ambassador Holbrooke: Why not?

VOA Afghanistan: [Inaudible] to Afghanistan, a live daily show from the Voice of America, Afghanistan [inaudible]. They have a one hour news show which they are talking about the R&R.

If you want to skip the reconciliation and just talk about the reintegration that’s fine with me. We need details.

Ambassador Holbrooke: For the details, as I said earlier, the details must come from Minister Stanisai and from the government. I can’t stress that highly enough. I’m not avoiding your question. This is an Afghan led program the international community is going to support. So please understand when you report back that I’m not avoiding your question. It’s got to be an Afghan led program.

VOA Afghanistan: Ambassador, do you think it can work in the heaviest combat areas where there are a significant number of foreign troops? And secondly, other than corruption what are some of the potential risks attached to the R&R process?

Ambassador Holbrooke: Let’s just talk about R, reintegration. Not the other R.

My own experience in wars of this sort, and I’ve been involved in some others in my career, the area where the fighting is heaviest is likely to be where you’ll have the most productivity. If people are under military pressure, if they’re getting hammered in a firefight, they’re going to say what am I doing here? I’m not an al-Qaida follower. I don’t believe in the principles of Mullah Omar. I was just fighting because I was getting paid or because there was a local grievance. Let’s look into this program. And especially if agriculture programs develop. And I want to stress that.

Earlier today Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack and I held another press conference over at the State Department. Several of the reporters pushed the connection between reintegration and our agriculture programs. Now we’ve never said there’s a formal connection. One is under Minister Stanisai, and others under Minister Rahimi. They’re funded differently in the U.S. Other countries like Turkey, India, Japan, France, the European Union are all involved in agriculture. But the more effective the agriculture opportunity is, the more likely it is that people will move away from two things. The Taliban and poppy cultivation. And to go back to the question of our friend from Tass. This is, in a sense, the agriculture program is a critical component of what we’re trying to do.

Let’s take Helmand Province. Let’s get very specific. Helmand and Kandahar used to have vibrant agricultural programs before 1978 and after the Soviet invasion everything went to hell and the export market blew up and so on. But there are tremendous opportunities here. People need land, they need seeds, they need time. If they’re going to go into pomegranates, for example, which is a much better cash crop than poppies, they need three to five years for the trees to grow. There are programs for that called Cash for Work programs which allow people to get money for work while the trees grow.

This is the way, and this is my indirect answer to your question about eradication. This is the way that if we’re going to succeed in Afghanistan, if what people call counterinsurgency, a word I don’t like to use much because it’s such a jargon-filled word, but let’s use it for a minute. If counterinsurgency is supposed to succeed, it will succeed through a combination of security measures -- security always comes first, which General McChrystal is now in the process of doing with the additional troops. Secondly, with programs like our agricultural program and the reintegration program which gives people alternatives. This is complicated work. It has to be carefully coordinated and it has to be coordinated under circumstances which are very difficult. An infrastructure that’s been torn apart by 30 years of war, a very low literacy rate, the highest poverty rate of any country outside Africa. It’s a very very complicated issue with a lot of moving parts.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, last year was the year we put the plans into place and started to fund them, because with the long lag in our funding programs the money that we requested has only started to get to us. This year is going to be heavily the year of implementation.

If things work correctly, all of these things will be mutually reinforcing. There will be no single factor that will turn the tide. It will be the cumulation of all these things moving together in an interrelated way. And no one should think it’s going to be easy but we are committed to it as are our allies.

Thank you very very much.

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