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Middle East Digest - August 11, 2009

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Washington, DC
August 11, 2009


The Middle East Digest provides text and audio from the Daily Press Briefing. For the full briefings, please visit daily press briefings.

From the Daily Press Briefing of August 11, 2009

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QUESTION: Yes. There were two motions filed in a Virginia courtroom accusing the former CEO Erik Prince of murder, and then there were some reports about Blackwater engaging in rape in Iraq. And there’s a GAO report that just came out indicating that there’s – it’s still unclear what laws govern Blackwater and how they will be prosecuted if they engage in these kind of activities. Is this worrisome, given the fact that Blackwater is – the State Department contracts Blackwater?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure – look, let me take the question. I’m not – I’m just hesitating because since this is a legal action it may not be appropriate for me to comment. Obviously, anyone who is working for the State Department has to abide by our laws and our professional standards. And we have taken action in the past when we feel that the contractors, whether it’s Blackwater or someone else, has violated the standards of their contract.

QUESTION: But there’s still more information coming out about the misconduct of Blackwater. And usually when I ask these questions, do you file it the same way?

MR. CROWLEY: And as we learn more, obviously, we’ll judge whether that has an impact on any ongoing relationships that we have.

QUESTION: Will it hinder your increase in your personnel in Afghanistan, or will you decrease that?

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t prejudge it.

we think it’s carefully sequenced here.

To the extent that we are able to, in light of any progress that’s made on the ground, adjust our deployment of civilians, we’re prepared to do that.

QUESTION: One more question: With the crop substitution program, it’s failed in other countries in the past. Why do we – why does the U.S. think that it’s going to work this time in Afghanistan?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, it’s one thing among many. Obviously, this is a very complex and multifaceted aspect, but crucially, we are changing our strategy on counternarcotics. Part of that involves going after the middlemen. But clearly, if we want to convince Afghan farmers to grow something else, we’ve got to come up with proposals that are viable, we’ve got to give them the support that’s toward the fields’ transition, and we’ve got to create the markets for them for these goods.

So this is a comprehensive strategy that leads to a development of a large and viable and legal Afghan economy. So it’s not just about one component; it’s about one component among a broader strategy. But clearly, getting the farmers to change requires us to do other things so that they can have a viable living doing something else other than growing poppies, which, in part, fuels the violence that we’ve seen in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: A military delegation from Central Com is going tomorrow to Syria with Mr. Hof. Have you – do you have anything on this issue?

MR. CROWLEY: Mr. Hof will be in Syria with the CENTCOM delegation following up on the meeting that they had in June. I would expect that a significant topic of discussion will be, again, ongoing efforts by Syria to help stabilize the situation in Iraq.

QUESTION: On Pakistan, please?


QUESTION: Pakistan’s High Commission says it’ll arrest former President Musharraf if he returns. Does the U.S. have a position on that?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a decision for the Pakistani Government.

QUESTION: Different issue in Kuwait. Can you talk about the detail – any details about the arrest of alleged al-Qaida members who were targeting American targets?

MR. CROWLEY: We don’t have a lot of detail other than what has been – what we’ve heard in early reports. But certainly, the United States is grateful to the Government of Kuwait for taking steps to prevent an attack on this facility, and we will continue to cooperate with the Government of Kuwait in any way necessary as the investigation continues.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about what you might know about the threatened attack?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we’ve heard that there’s some sort of relationship between the six individuals that have been arrested and al-Qaida. Obviously, an investigation will continue.

QUESTION: Can I ask another on Kuwait, just to follow up on that? When you said you’ve heard that there is some sort of relationship between the six individuals who were arrested and al-Qaida, you’ve heard this through – this is just reports, or is this like what you’ve heard?

MR. CROWLEY: I think details at this point are very sketchy.

QUESTION: Going back to Afghanistan, President Karzai said yesterday that if he wins the election he’ll talk to Taliban and also his (inaudible). Now, do you have any concern on that approach of President Karzai?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think, first and foremost, we look forward to the election on August 20. And we’re not going to prejudge whether a candidate will win in the first round, and if so, who that – who will actually – eventually be successful. Obviously, we value the fact that this is an election is that is run by the Afghan Government for the benefit of the Afghan people. So what the policy implications of the election will be, I think it’s too early to tell. We look forward to working with whatever government is formed after the election is completed.

As to political steps in the future, this is primarily an issue that needs to be addressed by the Government of Afghanistan. Obviously, we are pledged to work closely with them on the security front, on the development front, on the economic front, and on the political front. But I think we should make sure – let’s get through the election first, and then we’ll be able to see, once there’s a new government in place, what it decides to do.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:42 p.m.)

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