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Middle East Digest - Septermber 22, 2009

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Washington, DC
September 22, 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 September 22, 2009

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1:47 p.m. EDT

QUESTION: I have a question, thank you, about the terror plot in New York was unfolded, several people were arrested, including imam from the mosque and his son. And those people are still having – they are saying that they still have camps trained in Pakistan.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: One, if you have new information on this. That means they have many more people around the U.S. or major places. And do you really still believe that Pakistan is 100 percent with the U.S., because there are still training camps existing, according to these people who were arrested?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I don’t have any comments about the arrests or indictments in New York. I will say that the Government of Pakistan has expressed its determination to eliminate dangerous elements and extremist groups within its borders. And we applaud this determination that they’ve expressed to deal with these militants who threaten not only our security, as we’ve seen in terrorist incidents and plots in the past, but also threaten the Pakistani democracy.

And as we’ve said before, we’ll work together with Pakistan to defeat extremism. We’ve offered them some very concrete assistance, and we look forward to continuing that assistance.

QUESTION: Is there any – just to quick follow, is there any terror alert in the U.S. or in New York, especially now during this UN General Assembly meetings and only because of this?

MR. KELLY: I’m sure that the very professional and vigilant law enforcement and – both on the local and the federal level, that these officials are stepping up their game, as we say. But I’m not aware of any specific threat information.

QUESTION: On Pakistan again, do you have any follow-up to the questions from yesterday about the article in the Sunday Times of London about A.Q. Khan?

MR. KELLY: I don’t. I don’t have any update. We may have something this afternoon, though, on it.

QUESTION: Can I just sort of address a more general point about what the article is saying?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The general point is that the narrative has been that A.Q. Khan is the man that was responsible for much of the proliferation, but that certain evidence has come out to suggest that most of his actions were done with the complicity of the Pakistani Government. Do you have any response to that sort of narrative framing of the A.Q. Khan story?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I think we’re not going to comment on a press report. We have said consistently that we have real concerns about Mr. A.Q. Khan. We believe that he remains a risk for proliferation. And for that reason, we stay in very close contact with the Pakistani authorities to ensure that there is no proliferation risk from him or from any other source in Pakistan.


QUESTION: What’s the latest on the conflict in Yemen? How much is the U.S. concern – have concern about what’s going – continuous conflict?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And the Saudis are worried that al-Qaida is coming back.

MR. KELLY: Right. Well, we’re deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict between the Yemeni Government and the al-Houthi opposition groups in northern Yemen. We call on both parties to declare an immediate ceasefire, to ensure the security and access of humanitarian aid workers in the region. And we call on all states in the region to facilitate the safe passage of emergency relief supplies to those in need.

So we are concerned, and we are also providing quite a bit of assistance to help, especially the internally displaced persons in Yemen. There are some 150,000 internally displaced persons. USAID has provided $2.5 million to the World Food Program to help feed some – 100,000 people over the next few months and a quarter million dollars to UNICEF to provide safe drinking water and hygiene kits to internally displaced persons.

Also, the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration has provided 1.2 million to UNHCR to facilitate IDP registration and distribute materials related to shelter, blankets, tents, and related nonfood items.

QUESTION: Do you see Iran having any role in igniting this conflict?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have any particular information about the role of countries in the region. Just – I’ll just say that we’re aware of these reports of involvement by outside parties, and we’re closely monitoring the situation.

Let’s go back here, and I’ll come back to you, Goyal.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about Japan’s Prime Minister Hatoyama’s speech on climate change, where he said that he would – Japan would cut emissions by 25 percent by 2010?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware of that particular offer. Of course, we would welcome such offers. As you know, we’re deeply committed to achieving a strong international agreement. We’re already implementing strong policies here at home to meet the environmental economic and national security challenges posed by climate change. Some of these actions we’ve taken, of course, over $80 billion in the stimulus package for clean energy investment, and we have new policies for increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

But we also – we recognize that there’s a lot more that we have to do, and we have to continue to work with partners like Japan and other partners around the world to reach an agreement that can bring in participation from all over the world, because it is a global problem.

QUESTION: Ian, I wanted to ask about Afghanistan with this whole debate roiling over more troops or not. Where does the State Department stand on this, and specifically Ambassador Holbrooke’s office, on whether adding more troops would help or hinder the civilian effort that you --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- guys are spearheading?

MR. KELLY: Well, I know there’s been a lot of discussion and debate on the report or assessment of General McChrystal, this report that he did on our military operations. The President has said that he wants to refine our strategy and keep the focus on what our primary goals are, which is to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida.

I think in terms of the State Department contribution to this, of course, this – I think it can be put in the category of enhancing good governance. It’s – we’re going to need to have an across-the-board approach to implementing the President’s new strategy. The President has told his senior foreign policy advisors that he wants an – what he calls an unvarnished assessment and wants their frank opinions. And I think you probably saw what the Secretary said yesterday, that she and her colleagues all believe that it’s much better to be very open and robust in deliberations of such important issues as this.

And there is a process, a very vigorous process, that runs through the NSC and will go to the President, but – and of course it’s up to the President in the end to make the decision.

QUESTION: So what area is the State Department weighing in on it at this point?

MR. KELLY: We will – I mean, we weigh in constantly, but once all of the assessments are in, there will be a deliberation in the National Security Council that the Secretary will participate in.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean in – time wise where you’re weighing in.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I meant what is your considered advice that the State Department is giving as you weigh in?

MR. KELLY: Well, the Secretary will give her advice to the President when the President asks for it. And of course, her advice to the President is confidential.

QUESTION: According to this news report, General McChrystal is saying that if no more troops, then U.S. or NATO might lose the war. What he meant by losing the war? I thought some of the think tanks are saying hat, unless you have cooperation, intelligence, and the – in many other ways from the neighboring countries, especially with Pakistan, you cannot win this war, no matter how many troops you send there.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, Goyal, I just – I don’t want to get ahead of – I don’t want to get ahead of the process. For one thing, the leaked report is a classified report. It is what we call a pre-decisional assessment, and that simply means it’s a frank assessment, by the guy on the ground, the one who has probably – the one who is best positioned to make such an assessment. And his assessment will be thoroughly evaluated, both at NATO and here through the National Security Council process, and I just don’t want to get ahead of that process.

QUESTION: Well, let’s forget the classified or unclassified report, but do you agree as far as cooperation from the neighboring countries is important than more troops?

MR. KELLY: Say that again, Goyal. I’m not sure I understood that.

QUESTION: Let’s say, rather than more troops, cooperation from neighboring countries, including Pakistan and intelligence is important, then no matter how many troops they send.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you agree with that?

MR. KELLY: Well, you’re asking me to make a value judgment. I’m not sure I’m in the right position to make that kind of judgment. But clearly, regional cooperation is extremely important.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:18 p.m.)

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