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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

President Obama's Afghanistan-Pakistan (AFPAK) Strategy

FPC Briefing
General James Jones
National Security Advisor
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
March 27, 2009

Date: 03/27/2009 Location: Washington, DC Description: General James Jones, National Security Advisor, Briefing at the Washington Foreign Press Center on President Obama

3:00 P.M. EDT


MODERATOR: Good afternoon. I know this is a serious group to be here on a Friday and a full house. It is my pleasure to introduce a man who has served the country for over 40 years as a Marine and is now the – President Obama’s National Security Advisor, General James Jones. Thank you.

GEN JONES: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m surprised that so many of you didn’t have anything better to do on Friday afternoon in springtime in Washington. (Laughter.) But I’m delighted that you’re here and I hope that we can have a good exchange.

It’s an honor -- always an honor for me to be before this distinguished group of journalists in Washington to present one of President Obama’s most important foreign policy announcements, which you’ve no doubt heard about this morning. I trust that you have already, in the 60 days since the Administration took its post -- that you’ve noticed a change of tone and a change in the conduct of American foreign policy. We’re working very hard to bring a new level of dialogue and a new level of discussion and consultation with all of our allies and friends around the world. The United States is interested in listening. It’s interested in, obviously, leading, but in partnering with countries around the world to confront common challenges. Afghanistan and Pakistan and the region certainly is one such challenge.

And so this morning, the President announced a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and for Pakistan and, indeed, for the region that is the culmination of a careful 60-day interagency strategic review. During this process, we consulted with not only Afghan authorities and Pakistani authorities – governments, partners, and NATO allies and other donors and international organizations and, of course, here at home, members of Congress.

And it’s clear that -- as the President rolled it out this morning, that our strategy now starts with a clear and concise and, we think, attainable goal which is to disrupt, dismantle, and prevent al-Qaida from being able to operate in its safe havens – not only al-Qaida, but all forms of terrorism that would seek to destabilize our countries.

So the President’s new approach will be flexible and adoptive and it will be inclusive and it will be full of frequent evaluations of the progress being made. In other words, we will have standards and metrics, we will have benchmarks for progress, and we will be carefully measuring how we’re doing as we implement this new strategy.

The cornerstone of this strategy, I think, is that it’s a regional approach. And for the first time, we will treat Afghanistan and Pakistan as two countries, but as – with one challenge in one region. Our strategy focuses more intensively on Pakistan than in the past, and this is normal, because it’s a newer problem. Calling – and this calls for more significant increases in U.S. and international support, both economic and military, linked to performance against terror.

We will pursue intensive regional diplomacy involving all key players in South Asia and engage countries in a new trilateral framework as – at the highest levels of the countries, being Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States. Together in this trilateral format, we will work to enhance intelligence sharing, military cooperation along the border, and address common issues such as trade, energy and economic development.

For several years, the resources that our commanders in the field needed for training have been not provided, simply because of demands elsewhere, such as Iraq. Now this will change. The 17,000 additional troops that the President decided to send to Afghanistan just this past February have already increased our training capacity in Afghanistan. Later this spring, we’ll deploy approximately 4,000 more U.S. troops to help train the Afghan National Security Forces so that they can increasingly take responsibility for the security of the Afghan people themselves, which is obviously our ultimate goal.

And the President’s strategy for the first time will fully resource our effort to train and support the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. Every American unit in Afghanistan will be partnered with an Afghan unit and we will seek additional trainers from our friends and allies in NATO and elsewhere to ensure that every Afghan unit has a coalition partner.

As the President said, a campaign against extremism will not succeed with bullets or bombs alone. As a part of this strategy, we’ll devote significantly more resources to the civilian efforts in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The President will submit a budget that includes indispensible investments in our State Department and foreign assistance programs. These investments relieve the burden on our troops and contribute directly to our safety and security.

We have consulted with the Congress during our review. The President has been personally involved in numerous meetings with senior leaders on both sides of the Hill. And we are committed to working closely together to provide the resources needed to carry out the strategy. The President supports the bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Senators Kerry and Lugar to authorize $1.5 billion a year in direct support to the Pakistani people over the next five years. He also calls on Congress to pass the bipartisan bill creating reconstruction opportunity zones in Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan to develop the economy and bring hope to places plagued by violence. The President also believes that we need to provide more resources for the civilians’ aspects of the mission, working with the Afghan Government and all of our partners in NATO and the United Nations and the European Union.

As America does more, we will ask others to join us in doing their part. Together with the United Nations, the Administration will forge a new contact group for Afghanistan and Pakistan that brings together all who should have a stake in the security of the region: our NATO allies and other partners, the Central Asian states, Gulf nations, Iran, Russia, India, and China. All have a stake in the promise of lasting peace and security and development in the region.

So I will now turn to Jim Dickmeyer to moderate the questions and answer session. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jim and his team for hosting us here today at the Foreign Press Center. It’s an honor to be with you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, General.

GEN JONES: Thank you.

MODERATOR: It’s a great, great pleasure for us and an opportunity. I ask you to keep your questions short and let’s just try to keep it to one. I know that’s hard for you all. And state your names and your organization.

Faiz, we’ll start with you. (Inaudible) with a microphone, please.

QUESTION: Faiz Rehman -- Faiz Rehman from ARY. Thank you, General. My – the President mentioned the regional report and also the contact group in which India, China, Russia and Iran will be the participants. With what’s going between India and Pakistan, do you also expect to address those issues, especially the Kashmir issue, to turn the heat down in the region so that Pakistan can focus totally on the war on terror? Thanks.

GEN JONES: Thank you. We don’t intend to get involved in that issue, but we do intend to help both countries have a – build more trust and confidence so that Pakistan can address the issues that it confronts on the western side of the nation. But no, Kashmir is a separate issue. But we think that the times are so serious that we need to build the trust and confidence in the region, so that nations can do what they need to do in order to defeat the threat that I discussed a few minutes ago.

MODERATOR: Laszlo. Back there. Doris (inaudible) Laszlo.

QUESTION: Thank you. Laszlo Trankovits, German Press Agency. The President today said that the United States are not only seeking simply troops from the allies, but more civilian help and assistance. What does this mean concrete? Does it mean for the future that there are no more requests for additional troops from the allies or does it mean that there could be additional requests for more troops?

GEN JONES: Well, what it signals is a recognition that – something that I think most people know, that a military solution is not – probably not going to be achieved all by itself, and that for the past several years, there’s been – in most of our discussions, it’s been about troops and helicopters and reinforcements and the like. The – so – but that’s an important pillar. That’s the security leg of the three-legged stool that I was talking about.

The second leg that we wish to focus on now, which represents the significant – most significant portion of our strategic shift is the capacity building. And having been in NATO for almost four years and having been to Afghanistan and Pakistan many times, I can tell you that the – while there’s been a lot of effort in capacity donations, it’s largely been uncoordinated and has not been – has not had the same – the effect – the synergistic effect that we think it should have had, despite the original organization at the G-8 level back in around 2003, 2004, where on the issues of judicial reform, on the issues of raising enough police, on the issues of agriculture, on the issues of a successful counterdrug strategy -- that’s been lacking and deficient.

And we hope that on the 31st of March in The Hague, where over 75 countries have expressed a willingness to join, we can begin a new discussion where the framework requirement for what’s needed in a prioritized way can be the start of a new effort to enhance that capacity, bring about more focus on the need for rule of law, more focus on eliminating corruption, and a better organized international effort that will show the Afghan people that what they hope for when they voted so overwhelmingly a few years ago is still achievable and still a better alternative to living under the threat of terror and oppressive rule.

MODERATOR: In the middle, Anne Davies. In the middle. Doris, right here, the microphone.

QUESTION: Anne Davies from The Sydney Morning Herald. As you know, the Australian army is in Uruzgan province. Would you like to see Australia play a bigger role when the Dutch withdraw – drawdown from that area? And what other contributions could a country like Australia make to this effort?

GEN JONES: Well, I think that first of all, all contributions are very, very much appreciated. And we have long since recognized, I think, the incredible courage that our men and women in uniform and civilians have played throughout Afghanistan.

Commanders – and I was one, but commanders always have a strong desire to ask for what they think they need. Obviously, that’s – it would be irresponsible not to. And then – but we haven’t always been able to provide that for one reason or the other. But I would think that -- in this particular case, that while military contributions are always welcome, that this new focus on capacity building, on trainers for the Afghan army, on trainers for the “gendarmerie” (ph.) type of capacity in Afghanistan; these are the things that need to be done. We need a more robust Afghan army and police so that the Afghans can take over the countryside and provide that permanent security blanket that will preclude the terrorists from coming back.

We need more engineers. We need more irrigation projects. We need more teachers. We need more schools. We need more hospitals. And it needs to be prioritized in a way that – within the international community. When you think of all of the organizations that are there – the EU, NATO, the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, and you think of all of the NGOs that are there and all of the countries that are trying to do wonderful things; if we achieve that coordination under the leadership of the United Nations with the support of the Secretary General and his representative in Kabul, a very fine and distinguished diplomat, Ambassador Kai Eide of Norway -- if we can get that same cohesion and organization in the civilian side as we have on the military side, then I think you’ll see some dramatic shifts in the progress that we can make in Afghanistan. And that’s really the goal, is to do on the civilian side, identify the requirements and organize ourselves internationally in such a way to provide those things in a prioritized way so that we can make a difference.

MODERATOR: Zuzanna. Right here. Doris has the microphone.

QUESTION: I’m Zuzanna Falzmann, Polstat News, Poland. There was one thing that Barack Obama didn’t mention today. It’s the question of the cost in Afghanistan. Right now it’s $2 billion, but it will increase for sure. Could you provide us some more details, please?

GEN JONES: Well, I can – I can’t speak to the individual international capacity for doing more. I can tell you that the President was clear about what the United States is going to do: 17,000 troops, 4,000 more for trainers, $1.5 billion for five years in direct aid, and participation within the international monetary organizations and the United Nations, and beginning a very comprehensive discussion under the leadership of Secretary Clinton at The Hague on the 31st. We will put this together and -- but we will do it in a much more focused and organized way so that we don’t have a lot of redundancy and a lot of waste.

It’s also very important that those who are entrusted with the disbursement of those funds from all of our countries give assurances to our taxpayers that those funds are going to their intended – for the intended purposes. So better efficiency, better accounting, better supervision on how those funds are disbursed will result in greater efficiencies. We will – obviously, it’s not going to be cheap, but together, after the 31st of March, I think we’ll have a clear example of not only what nations are willing to do, but what we have to do because we’ll be better organized to do it.

MODERATOR: Tsukasa Arita, right there.

QUESTION: It’s Tsukasa Arita with Kyodo News, Japanese news wire. To implement this new strategy – to implement this new strategy, what – how do you – how do you envision future Japanese role on this context? So do you still expect any military assistance from them?

GEN JONES: Well, Japan has a significant role in Afghanistan, going all the way back to 2003, 2004, with Japanese leadership on disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration, and did a very good job for several years. I think nations, once you come to the – once nations come to the conference on the 31st in The Hague, we’ll get a sense of the vast potential where nations can bring to bear the things that they are capable of doing and that they wish to do. We will obviously try to guide it a little bit to make sure there is some structure by setting out the clear requirements in a very detailed way.

But at the end of the day, it will be up to each individual nation to decide how it wishes to make a contribution. In some cases, it might simply be a monetary contribution. In that case, it would be very well – very welcome. In other cases, they can apply their resources for some of the critical needs, such as more police trainers, which is a critical shortfall; more military trainers, another one that will help so dramatically increase the Afghan National Security Forces development. And in some cases, it might be economic advisors that can work behind the scenes in the government. There might be people who work at the local and regional level to help good governance and to help local officials learn how to be effective mayors and effective leaders.

So you’ll see – you’ll see in my words here there’s a very large civilian component which will augment what we think is general sufficiency in terms of military component to enact this particular strategy. With the benchmarks and the metrics that we hope to bring to bear, we will be able to see, I think very quickly, whether we’re progressing in the right direction or not and make adjustments as we go along.

MODERATOR: Back here.

QUESTION: Willie Lora with CNN International. Thank you, General. Two things; with the root of the problem – security problem in Pakistan, what makes you think that all of this is going to work? And also, a lot has been said about the drug problem in Afghanistan and a lot of the analysts are saying that that’s part of the big problem. And there was little said this morning by the President about that issue. What do you think about that?

GEN JONES: About drugs?

QUESTION: Drugs and drug trafficking.

GEN JONES: Well, I think all of us who have spent time on this issue know that the production of poppies has grown exponentially every year until this year. If I’m – if I read the reports correctly, this is the first year where we’ve actually had a decline, and that decline has been – has been fairly impressive. My information tells me that of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan, 18 are now poppy-free, if I could use that term, and we hope to continue that progress.

Now, part of it is climate change. We’ve had droughts. And part of it is the fact that wheat is producing more revenue on the market and so farmers are growing more wheat in Afghanistan. And part of it has to do with the fact that we’re paying a little bit more attention to the drug trade.

But this is an example of a problem that is a regional problem. It affects every country, including Iran, including Russia, China, including Pakistan, and certainly Afghanistan. And those are the – these are the kinds of economic discussions and legal discussions that I think nations can now have with this regional approach to confront a problem.

And the first part of your question was?

QUESTION: Pakistan is the root of the security problem –


QUESTION: -- what you’re saying is (inaudible).

GEN JONES: The – you know, the international relation, at least our U.S. relation with Pakistan, is one that is – I would characterize as in a restart mode; that is to say that we are having very intensive dialogues. We’re building trust and confidence between the armed forces. Admiral Mullen and General Kiyani have developed a very, very close relationship. We welcome the Afghan and the Pakistani delegations in our strategic review and we consulted with them extensively during their visits to Washington. And we recognize that there is a lot of work to do in Pakistan. But the President really believes that the efforts that we undertake in Pakistan are extremely important and will materially effect, you know, how, ultimately, Afghanistan turns out and how the region itself turns out.

So while one relationship is not as developed as the other, we’re working very hard to do whatever we can to help the Pakistani Government be successful and to enable the Pakistani military to also be successful in helping bring about a satisfactory resolution to a very, very serious problem that exists between the two countries right now.

MODERATOR: Andrei, you want to --

QUESTION: Thank you. And thank you, sir, for doing this, for talking to us. Andrei Sitov from TASS, from Russia. Earlier today in Moscow, there was an international conference on Afghanistan called by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. They seem to be willing to work with you and partner with you. Are you willing to work with them and partner with them? And will this be a part of the agenda for our two presidents when they meet in London? Thank you.

GEN JONES: The answer to all those questions is yes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Could you --

GEN JONES: Could I explain that? Well, yes, I mean, there is a – there have been numerous contacts at various levels between the Russian Government and the U.S. Government as recently as today, where I met the Ambassador in my office just an hour ago, telephone calls to my counterparts yesterday, the presidential phone calls, foreign ministerial meetings, defense ministers. And we are very much looking forward to our dialogue with our Russian friends starting with the presidential dialogue in London.

All of the things that you asked about have been talked about and they are on the table. We very much appreciate Russian offers to help facilitate the logistics train from different countries through Russian airspace, and the landscape needed to continue our efforts in Afghanistan. And we intend to bring and to encourage Russia to be a fully participating member of this dialogue, because the proximity of the Russian border to Afghanistan is real and there are problems that I know our Russian colleagues would have liked to have talked about for many years. We’re going to create the format where we can do that, and we look forward to it. Thank you.

MODERATOR: And Lalit, this will be the last question.

QUESTION: Lalit Jha from --

GEN JONES: I can take a couple more.

MODERATOR: Okay, great. Now I have to figure out who to choose. (Laughter.)

GEN JONES: I’ll take it until there’s one that’s too hard and then – (Laughter.)


QUESTION: Lalit Jha from Press Trust of India

GEN. JONES: En français, bon.

QUESTION: (In French.) (Laughter.)

GEN. JONES: (In French.)

QUESTION: Lalit Jha --

GEN. JONES: Okay, all right.

QUESTION: Lalit Jha from Press Trust of India. When you went into – or when the U.S. forces went into Afghanistan with 300 forces, you were very much popular there as compared to now. The reason being one, corruption, and second being the civilian casualties. The policy addressed the issue of corruption. What about civilian casualties, and how do you intend to win the hearts and minds of the local Afghan people?

GEN JONES: You know, you’re absolutely – you’re absolutely correct. I mean, the basic – two basic rules, at least in my book, on how you fight and win against an insurgency is you don’t do anything that’s not good for the people and you don’t make any more enemies than you already have. And to the extent that we’ve done that, we should change that.

I know that our military commanders are working extremely hard on the issues that you raise. We deplore the loss of life. One person is – one innocent casualty is too much. It’s a complex problem. Perfect is unfortunately maybe not achievable, but you always have to weigh your actions on the ground against, you know, the threat that you face. And so it’s a sophisticated problem. We’re extremely sensitive to it. We deplore the innocent loss of life and we grieve for those families who suffer losses of loved ones. We think that we are doing much better, and I think commanders at the local level are applying those kinds of sensitivities and under a set of guidelines that make sense.

But at the end of the day, we are trying to do something that makes Afghanistan – Afghanis free from terror, free from threats, and so that their children can lead really more productive lives, the lives that they wish to lead in a manner they wish to lead them. And that’s a noble thought. It’s hard to do. We’re going to do the best we can.

QUESTION: (In French.)

MODERATOR: Okay. We’re going to do this, then you’re going to leave the rest of us out, but that’s okay, because he’s got fluent French too, so go ahead. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: This review has been allotted for two months, this (inaudible) review.

QUESTION: Wait for the mike, please.


QUESTION: Renaud Girard from Le Figaro, which is a French daily. General, this strategic review has lasted for two months. During these two months, did you – did the Pentagon official and State Department officials study the reasons for the failure of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in – it was not – sort of the way they would put it, it was a help – brotherly help to Afghanistan. What went wrong according to you, and what kind of lessons you can draw from the failure of this kind of military and cooperation effort of the Soviet Union from ’79 to ’89?

GEN JONES: Well, of course, over the years, we have studied everything we could about the Soviet incursion in Afghanistan. We also studied other insurgencies. In Algeria, for example, we studied that. We’ve studied a lot of other historical examples in order to draw the proper conclusions for this one. And I don’t propose to stand up here and tell you what went wrong during the Soviet effort. I’m much more concerned about getting what we do right.

And for some time now, as both – as the NATO commander, I was always concerned that we did not have the civilian piece – the civilian piece right. Fundamentally, when you’re dealing with an insurgency, you’re talking about who wins the battle for the spirit of the people. My first experience in combat was in Vietnam in 1967. And I learned a lot of lessons as a young officer there, watching exactly how the people reacted. And an early lesson for me in life was, if you get a sense that the people are willing to fight for and support what it is you’re trying to give them, then you have a good chance of winning. If you lose the people, then you probably are in an unwinnable position. And you lose the people by making them less secure, by not giving them a better alternative that they can visually see, and by not providing the things that they need in order to be safe and secure so that they can build better lives.

And I believe that our efforts have been wonderful in terms of effort. We have – look how many countries we have and how many organizations we have. And so the question that we asked ourselves in this strategic review is, why haven’t we been more successful? And we’re addressing those issues very directly with President Karzai and his government, which we hope will do more and be subject to more metrics for progress, real terms, whether it’s judicial reform, corruption, the legal process, more evidence of governmental capability throughout Afghanistan, good governors, good chiefs of police, and showing the Afghan people that in fact, there is a better way through this better organization and this greater strategy.

But if you – but I come back to my main point, that if you lose the people, then you probably lose the struggle. And so I – we hope to show the – both the people of Afghanistan and also in Pakistan that there is a better way, and there is a real possibility that they can live in – live their lives in peace and security if the – if we will join together in a coordinated way to stamp out the terrorist insurgents that live among them and that as we saw today, cause them -- you know, more Muslim lives to be lost. It’s not just about us; it’s about them. And I think it’s a very worthwhile and noble undertaking. I’m excited about the reorganization. I’m excited that the President reached out to so many countries, not just our European friends, but our Afghan friends, our Pakistanis, our Russian friends. And we can all unite, hopefully, in a comprehensive way to bring about a good change in this – in an area of the world that really deserves better than what they received.

QUESTION: Al Jazeera here.

GEN. JONES: Sorry?

MODERATOR: (Inaudible.)

GEN. JONES: Take one from Al Jazeera, good.

QUESTION: Sir, we had a response today from the Taliban on President Obama’s new strategy, and their feeling was that the President is making the same kind of mistakes by sending more troops that the former Soviet Union did in their conflict. Do you think that the new strategy of sending extra troops over there risks turning Afghanistan into the same kind of quagmire that the U.S. finds itself in with Iraq?

GEN JONES: No. I think the – these – at least the U.S. troops that are going into the Kandahar and Helmand provinces principally are to react to a – to bring about – to stabilize a region that is not going as well as we’d like, but also to -- as part of a bigger package of helping prepare Afghanistan for a safe and secure election. And other countries will be, hopefully, sending troops for that very reason (inaudible). It is extremely important that the Afghan people have a voice and their voice be heard and they can go to the polls as securely as possible. So I think that the – we’re not committing, with all due respect to the Taliban’s comment – we’re not committing to a military strategy here and a military strategy alone.

We’re trying to bring a certain level of sufficiency in terms of security. But what will change is on top of that, you will see the economic impetus that will come in on top of that, and also more focus on governments and rule of law. So it’s that three-legged stool that has never been completely balanced. It’s been tilted very heavily in favor of military and kinetic efforts, and sometimes that’s necessary. But ultimately, you want to have that stool leveled off so that the capacity building -- turning more over the Afghans themselves, but doing it in a very intelligent way, where they have the mentorship and the guidance and the support and the resources that they deserve in order to be successful. It is not wise to simply say, okay, we’ve got the military here; we’ve stabilized it, now you go fix it, when they don’t have the means. So it’s a way to better coordinate both the military and the civilian effort and to incorporate and inculcate the very essence of Afghan governance in society as a fully contributing member to that effort.

MODERATOR: One more. One more. One second, please. Please, Cordulla Meyer (ph) in the back, please. Cordulla. Yeah.


MODERATOR: No? Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you had your hand up.

QUESTION: On Turkey.

MODERATOR: Umit Enginsoy From Turkey.

QUESTION: This is Umit Enginsoy with Turkish NTV Television. General, thank you. Specifically, how do you think Turkey contributes to the cause in Afghanistan? And would you want to see Turkish combat troops physically fighting the Taliban? Thank you.

GEN JONES: Well, as a matter of record, Turkey has already contributed enormously to Afghanistan. Turkey has commanded ISAF two times with very, very distinguished generals. They have always been a reliable ally and have also contributed enormously to the economic viability in a country with, I think – as I recall, I think, Turkey built the U.S. Embassy, if I’m not mistaken, and we appreciate that very much. It’s a very nice embassy. You did a good job. (Laughter.) And General Eikenberry, and now hopefully soon Ambassador Eikenberry, will -- who was there back in 2003 will enjoy the benefits of Turkish workmanship.

But I think Turkey is a – Turkey has a very special role to play in Afghanistan by virtue of its history and by virtue of its performance. Nations, when they provide their troops to international efforts such as these, can put whatever restrictions on them they want. We prefer that – we commanders prefer that they have no caveats in terms of what they do. But the reality is that nations at the end of the day can decide what it is they wish their troops to do.

So I think that from a military perspective, obviously, the more unified the command, the more unity of effort you have, and the more likely the success that you can expect. But Turkey is very much on record in Afghanistan as a very important contributor. And the leadership role that Turkey plays in the outcome of whatever we do next is going to be critically important.

MODERATOR: General Jones, thank you very much.

GEN JONES: Thank you.

MODERATOR: We really appreciate it. Thank you all for coming.

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