REAR ADMIRAL PITTMAN: Ladies and Gentlemen, we have Ambassador Holbrooke and General Petraeus. We’re going to go ahead and do about 30 minutes on the record, and we’ll play it by ear. We’ll go around and if we finish early we may do a little bit more.
MS. HAYDEN: Just for those of you [who may not recognize them], I also wanted to mention that Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew and the USAID Administrator, Dr. [Rajiv] Shah, are joining us, as well. So, you get four for the price of two.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: We’re delighted to be back, and I want to emphasize what Caitlin just said -- Rajiv Shah, our new AID Administrator, on his first trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan; and Jack Lew on his third trip. We consider it a very important day in the progress in our efforts to have good civilian-military coordination and work with the Afghan Government. I’ll ask General Petraeus to brief you first on the events of the day, then we’ll take your questions.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: If I could actually, I’d like first to offer our condolences to the Polish people and to our Polish partners. I was actually just in Poland. I left three days ago. Almost everybody who was sitting on the other side of the table during my meeting with the Chief of the General Staff is no longer with us. We met with the Polish President, with his National Security team, again, many of whom were on that plane. So again, I just want to offer heartfelt condolences upfront to our Polish partners.
Ambassador Holbrooke and I did what’s called a ROC drill last year, a civ-mil ROC drill. That’s a [Rehearsal] of Concept. So it’s “R-O-C”, not “R-O-C-K.” And last year, frankly, it was done in Washington; it was virtually all U.S. We had one or two other country representatives there in Washington. I think he and I both realized that, frankly, there were quite a few tasks that needed to be undertaken.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Areas for improvement.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: There are what are called “sustains” and “improves” and we had quite a few of the latter.
Frankly, over the course of the last year, two policy processes, a host of other initiatives, we have sought to get the inputs right for the conduct of a comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency campaign.
The inputs in this case have been to get the right organizations and structures, because there were a number of those that we learned in Iraq we needed for the conduct of a counterinsurgency campaign plan that frankly did not exist. The operational level headquarters, the three star-level headquarters, now commanded by General Rodriguez; a financial threat finance cell; a reintegration cell; a whole host of organizations -- a really beefed up what is now NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, and a number of others.
Then to get the very best people leading each of those organizations, and of course there have been a number of personnel who have taken the reins of these outfits -- General McChrystal; his NATO Senior Civilian Rep, Ambassador Sedwill; Ambassador Eikenberry; a whole host of others. So you’ve got organizations, the leaders, then the concepts. There’s been an enormous effort, of course, including President Obama’s policy process, but then with NATO and with our Afghan partners, to get again the right civil-military campaign plan, the right counterinsurgency guidance, the tactical directive to reduce civilian casualties to an absolute minimum, the interim reintegration guidance, and a whole host of other concepts -- then, of course, to get the resources necessary to conduct it. Of course last year we deployed tens of thousands of additional U.S. forces. We literally went from about 30,000 or 31,000 at the beginning of last year to some 68,000. We’re now deploying the additional 30,000 forces that President Obama ordered and directed in the 1 December speech at West Point when he announced the policy.
By the way, we are on track with those deployments. Over 13,000 of those 30,000 are now on the ground, many of them already in operations. And we will meet the commitment that we made to President Obama to have them all on the ground by the end of August with the exception of one unit that is not required. It’s a divisional headquarters that is not needed until a month or so later.
Again, get the structures right, get the right leadership in place, get the right concepts, then get the right level of resources. Of course it tripled the number of civilians -- Deputy Secretary Lew being instrumental in that, along with, of course, AID. Then the coalition contributions -- again, some 9,000 additional or so, as well and an authorization of 100,000 additional Afghan forces between now and the fall of 2011, and the resources, of course, to underwrite all of that.
The inputs now generally, again, we’ve got them about right or we’re in the process of deploying them, so what we’re here today to do is to now ensure that all of this is coordinated, synchronized if you will, so that every element of this overall effort is joined up. And this means now not something you can do in Washington any more. This is something that has to be done in Kabul. It’s an undertaking that we have carried on here. Today was day one of two days, and substantial Afghan participation, coalition, ambassadors, contributors and so forth. So it is not just U.S. civil and military, it is very much all coalition civil and military, and as I said, Afghan partners out in force as well. We had very very good discussions.
We were joined by President Karzai. He returned from his trip to Kunduz with General McChrystal, offered words to the group there, and tomorrow after it is all done Ambassador Holbrooke and I will meet with him again. We talked to him briefly here today before he offered remarks to the attendees. Again, this is several hundred people, by the way. It’s probably a couple of hundred in the room, and even a couple of other rooms to which it is videoteleconferenced because of the space limitations. We will go tomorrow afternoon and essentially outbrief him, if you will, on what we took away from this. And I can tell you that the initial take away and the basis of day one is that this has been a very productive and a very positive endeavor.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: What made it different today, of course, was that we were in Kabul and the most senior members of the government were participating. While President Karzai’s participation was relatively brief, the fact that he visited us at all, the fact that he heard what we were doing, the fact that he endorsed it in front of his ministers carries great importance to us, and we greatly appreciate the fact that he took time to do it.
The ministers’ participation was equally critical. They were so pleased with the outcome of the day that in some way, I don’t remember who suggested it first, but there was a consensus we should do this again here in Kabul with Afghan ministers.
It seems like a relatively simple thing, but in both Afghanistan and Pakistan when we started our work 14 months ago we found that the United States, in its assistance programs, was simply not consulting the government of the country we were trying to help. The Pakistanis were very publicly critical of this. Upon examination, the criticism had merit and we have changed our policies in that regard in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Point number two. A year ago today 8.8 percent of AID’s money flowed through the government according to its own statistics, in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, I don’t know the exact number, but it was also very low. An enormous amount of the money was dissipated through the contracts and the double contracts that were in place.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton had both, during the 2008 campaign, said very explicitly they were going to end that practice or reduce it substantially.
So there were two issues here. We’re dribbling money away that never reached the people, and the people weren’t being consulted. In both the countries we have made major steps forward. I won’t say it’s perfect yet, and it never will be, but we are rapidly increasing the percentage of money that flows through the government. Rajiv Shah’s undertaken that as one of the many missions in his mission-impossible new job. And I say that because I worked for AID as my first assignment in the Foreign Service, Raj. It’s an extraordinary job you’ve undertaken and my hat’s off to you. If I had a hat. [Laughter].
And so we’re increasing the percentage going through the government very substantially in both countries. Today symbolized in a very physical way that we’re consulting the government. It will take a while to see what the results are, but I think this is my tenth trip here in the last 14 months, and my third trip here this year. I would have made a fourth with Admiral Mullen if it weren’t for the fact that the Pakistanis had remained in Washington [for the strategic dialogue] and I had to stay behind. This was a meeting that would not have been imaginable a year ago.
And as General Petraeus said, when we first met at the National Defense University 11 months ago we couldn’t have brought other people in, because first we had to fix our own house. We’re very very pleased with that.
So we feel today was a good step forward, and that it will be converted over time into results on the ground.
QUESTION: I have one really quickly on the money changing hands for the government. I think the London communiqué said 50 percent in two years, but it’s got these caveats hooked onto it that could just allow the donor nations to do what they…
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: We have…
QUESTION: …want. And also you said it’s increasing. Do you know what the percentage is now?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Before I give you the percentages, let me be very clear -- and then I’ll ask Raj to comment and Jack -- let me be very very clear on the fact that when you start funneling money through another government, whether it’s this one or some other one, the Congress will always start by saying “accountability” and “abuse?” And we stress this. And we have to certify ministries to receive the money. The certification process which Jack has spent a great deal of time on is a complicated process and not every ministry has been certified yet, in fact we’re just starting.
So the goals of the London Conference…the EU has been much better than we have on this, but we have rapidly increased, and the percentage we now have, according to AID, is around -- if my memory’s correct -- it’s about 20 percent now. Is that right?
ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: I think it’s 13.5.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Thirteen and a half, going to 20 by the end of the year.
ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Yes.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Do you want to comment, either of you?
DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: I would just make two comments. One, the goal of having more money go through the Afghan ministries is based on a number of things. It’s the desire to build capacity in Afghanistan. But it’s also the desire for there to be a plan that each of the ministries has that’s going to be the object of the aid.
In addition to moving more money through the Afghan ministries, much much more of our money is moving into plans that are directed by the Afghan ministries. So in agriculture, even though the ministry has not yet been certified, our agriculture plan is being put out in fulfillment of the Afghan ministry’s plan, the agriculture plan developed by the Afghan ministry. So it’s a little more complicated than just how many dollars flow through.
In terms of the certification process, one set of considerations is what Ambassador Holbrooke referred to, which is accountability. I think we’re making good progress on the accountability side, working up through mechanisms.
There’s also a question of capacity. Do they have the personnel, the people in the middle levels, the working levels? These things take some time. There’s a good working relationship, I think, between the two -- having plans that are the Afghan plans that we’re supporting and rapidly increasing the amount of money going through the ministries. We think we’re going to be on target to very substantially hit the goals.
ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: I would just add, stepping back for a moment, that that policy is part of our larger “Afghan First” approach to assistance in Afghanistan. And we’ve recognized…and it’s a major part of the President’s policy to be a better partner with the Afghan people and with the government of Afghanistan, with private sector institutions here.
To do that, we’re doing a number of things. We are listening deeply, accepting critique of our programs, and making changes to be a better partner. That’s what today was about -- eight, nine hours of listening, learning, and adaptation. It’s what I’ve been doing all week here, meeting with the ministers, meeting with the country team, learning about how we can make improvements to the portfolio, be responsive.
Second, we’re actually sourcing as much as we possibly can locally. So in construction, for example, we have moved much of our contracting to hire local firms and we’ve even worked with those local firms to help them build capabilities so they can participate in our contracting mechanisms.
In the past year that’s resulted in…about a year ago there were 3,000 Afghans employed through our contracts. Today that number is closer to 26,000. So you start to see big changes there.
Then this part about doing as much as we can through country Ministries and the Government to implement programs, that’s what this conversation has been about. That’s very important, but, even in addition to that, we can do a better job of just allowing…of being very transparent with what our programs are, and moving them and adapting them so that they align with the priorities of the ministry, even if they don’t all flow through the ministries. That’s been a big part of the transformation program.
Hopefully that helps address the question.
QUESTION: Relations between Washington and Kabul have come under strain recently. I know the timing of your visit may be coincidental, but you see that your presence here also part of confidence building between leadership on both sides?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Let me be clear. To get 300 people out here to have a conference like this took us many many months. General Petraeus and I began discussing this conference as soon as President Karzai was reinaugurated November 19th. And then it was suggested that it be moved here. We talked about Tampa, Qatar, Washington. We ended up with the perfect outcome. So there is no connection between…
QUESTION: But it…
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: But I want to underscore that what happened today is an indirect answer to your question, because the vibes in that room, the presence of President Karzai, the content, the fact that we made a significant advance in relations between the Afghan government and the United States and our international partners -- remember Staffan Di Mistura was there, the former Foreign Minister of Lithuania Usackas -- I hope I pronounced that right --who is now the first Unified EU Rep in the world, I want to bring that to your attention; this was his debut on the international scene today; this is a very important step forward -- and all the other ambassadors in the room, Mark Sedwill. This is the real answer to your question
QUESTION: But it is a time for confidence building?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: It’s always a time for working together closely with our ally. We work closely with the government of Afghanistan. I have said repeatedly my views on this. So has General Petraeus. We have good relations with this government. I said after the inauguration and after the cabinet was announced: this is a government we can work with.
Secretary Clinton came here November 19th for the inauguration. I was with her. She was very positive about this. And she echoed those comments in her joint appearances with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates yesterday -- actually today, excuse me. They’re actually on the air as we speak. But they were taped in advance so some of you may have seen the transcripts. That’s that.
Meanwhile, General McChrystal took President Karzai and some of the cabinet, who joined us later on, on a very important trip to the provinces today.
So as far as the four of us are concerned, this is not an issue. We look forward to President Karzai’s trip to Washington on the week in which May 12th is the middle day. It will be more than the day trip. And tomorrow when General Petraeus and I and Jack Lew call on him -- Rajiv Shah is leaving for Pakistan; he’s already seen President Karzai -- when the three of us call on President Karzai, one of the main subjects will be to outline to him our ideas about his trip to Washington and get his response. We don’t have anything more on that today, but that is part of what we’re going to do.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: This is the third such outing, I think, in what is it now maybe three weeks or so. But you had the outing, each of these has been -- Marjah, Kandahar and Kunduz, and Tarin Kowt. There are four of these now. President Karzai as the commander in chief, really, in one case reinforcing, if you will, operations that have been conducted; in other cases helping with the so-called shaping operations ongoing in advance of operations. And they’ve been inclusive. And in each of those he’s been accompanied by Ambassador Mark Sedwill, the NATO Senior Civilian Representative, and also General McChrystal.
QUESTION: Last week in Kandahar President Karzai seemed to suggest, if not outright said, that there would not be a military operation in Kandahar until the locals signed off on it, that they would be consulted.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Your question [pointing to General Petraeus]. [Laughter].
QUESTION: Is that in fact the case? Do they have to approve of it or will there be a delay or will there not be a delay in an operation?
GENERAL PETRAEUS: You notice what he just said. He said: “your question.” I was going to say that.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I knew if I waited one more second he was going to say: “your question.” [Laughter].
GENERAL PETRAEUS: I was waiting for some policy guidance here.
President Karzai is the commander in chief. He is the President of a sovereign country. And as was the case with the operation in Marjah, again -- and we are, at the end of the day, guests in this country -- so again, yes, there’s a partnership but he is the commander in chief.
By the way, a lot of this is not unlike what we went through in Iraq. And the elected leader of a sovereign country and the commander in chief of his armed forces is the one who will give the go-ahead, the direction for any operation. Again, none of these operations are unilateral. These are joint Afghan-ISAF operations. And obviously it is a partnership. Neither side can move without the other.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Just a footnote -- I honestly believe, with all due respect, that some people in your profession made a lot more of the statement than it deserved.
The way to test a statement like that is to try the alternative and see if it makes any sense. And it doesn’t. Of course he’s going to answer the question that way. That’s exactly the right answer.
QUESTION: The concern would be, just a month ago he stood by while the Iranian President implied that, in fact, the U.S. and coalition forces were not…
GENERAL PETRAEUS: This one’s for you [pointing to Ambassador Holbrooke]. [Laughter].
QUESTION: …occupiers. So it doesn’t really jive with what was being said both times. He stood by and basically allowed the Iranian President to imply that you guys are here as occupiers.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I have no problem with what…I’m not going to second-guess what he says when he’s got someone else in town. What he said about the American effort in the south, and the very fact that he has visited twice, as General Petraeus said, in the south plus today’s trip, this is more travel into the provinces to see combat than I believe he’s made since -- I don’t know, I can’t say since he became President -- but he had in the first year that I had this job. Lyse will know better than me, how often has he done this?
GENERAL PETRAEUS: And this is of huge significance. Again, this is not Iraq. But it was when Prime Minister Maliki went to Ramadi, went to Tikrit, went to other of these areas where there were the beginnings of the awakening movements, and met with sheikhs from the Sunni community, met with sheikhs from different…and then, of course, ultimately also directed operations against the Shia militia extremists as well. So these are very significant. Again, these are supporting these partner operations.
There is a message out of the…there are a couple of messages, I think, out of today’s session. One of which is, again, the enormous emphasis that has been placed on partnership by both sides in this -- by ISAF and the international community, and by the Government of Afghanistan. And that did come through very clearly.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: And I want to be very careful and very precise on your question. And Lyse knows more about this than I do. If he hadn’t gone to these places in the past and he goes to them now with the ISAF Commander, he’s doing something we greatly appreciate, and that is the important part of it. And he’s asked a question and gives a perfectly reasonable and logical answer.
So I think you have to be careful not to misrepresent the impact of things. And that particular quote, to my mind, was taken somewhat out of the context of where he said it, the fact that he hadn’t made trips like that before, and I leave you to draw the obvious conclusions. We were very pleased with those trips.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: One other point, I think, as someone who’s perhaps really studied the composition of the members of these meetings, the shura councils and so forth, but they have been quite inclusive. The footage -- if you don’t think so, just watch the footage of the one from Kandahar or also Marjah. And I think that is also very important. These operations, particularly Kandahar -- Marjah were a bit more of a conventional military operation; it was a true clearance operation, albeit with a degree of announcement in the sense that: “here we come,” in part because this is a case where you don’t want to destroy Marjah to save it, kind of thinking -- the Kandahar operation, though, is as much about in a sense about politics, if you will. It’s about tribal relationships. It’s about, again, inclusivity and transparency in activities.
And so it is again hugely important that he visits there. I think it was 1500 individuals in that particular shura council, and indeed…did not receive…not everyone in there was applauding wildly about what has taken place there in the past. I think he quite forthrightly, in fact, said at one point that he pointed a finger at himself as well, which is something that is I think quite courageous and frankly heartening.
QUESTION: We’ve seen the successes in military cooperation, but you talk about financial attempts to kind of clean up the finances, clean up corruption. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s happening on that front, what kind of cooperation you're getting there? If there have been successes, we haven’t seen it.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: We spent a lot of time on this today, Matt.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: Two sessions on it.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Two sessions. You’ve written about it, but for the benefit of others in this room, let me be clear: a year ago today the U.S. government had various agencies doing their own thing. DEA worked on drug kingpins and FBI worked on this and that and the Treasury Department had one policy person in the Treasury Department [working on threat finance] and that was it. That person, Rami Shy, moved over to our office, is now in Kabul with us today. Under the leadership of Secretary Clinton and with the support of Tim Geithner, Treasury set up a task force which worked closely with us, which now has 30 people on it. It works in an integrated manner with DEA, FBI, the Department of Defense, which is absolutely critical here, and I’m leaving out a lot of other agencies that are involved. INL in the State Department, the intelligence community, AID has a very big role in this, Raj, as you know.
And this is very slow work because the loopholes are everywhere. But we already have bilateral efforts in United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and here in Afghanistan. There are some soft spots we’re focused on. And we all recognize that this is as important as any kinetic operation because it’s paying for the kinetic operations.
I’d rather not advertise our early successes because they’re tentative, they’re preliminary, but we have picked up millions of dollars in various places. We have…each country has its own form of cooperation. The Russians are focused on drugs; in the Gulf, we’re focused on money moving through. There are some huge loopholes that are hard to pin down, and again, your reporting has led the way on this. We’re happy to discuss more of this with you in Washington.
All I want to say is, as Dave Petraeus just said, we spent two whole sessions on this today and we are looking for international cooperation in many many other countries which we’re not ready to name right now. This is a big deal, and I’m glad somebody’s asked about it because I want to emphasize that it’s a new effort that we’ve put into place over the last year.
QUESTION: One of the biggest hindrances when it comes to the Afghan people in supporting the coalition troops and the international community is the fact that they say they always leave. And with this new timetable, July 2011, depending on conditions on the ground, is that going to give you enough time to clear, hold and build? If so, what can you accomplish in that time?
GENERAL PETRAEUS: First of all, you can accomplish a great deal between now and July 2011, but it’s even more important to understand what July 2011 actually is. In fact, we’ve mentioned this several times today.
Let’s go back to when the President announced the policy in early December, because there were really two key messages out of that policy and none of them was that we’re going to head for the exits and turn out the lights in July 2011. There was a message of enormous additional commitment -- what I talked about earlier: troops, civilians, money, authorizations -- and there was a message of urgency. That’s really what July 2011 was designed to be. It was a recognition, an explicit recognition, that we really have to get on with this, and it wasn’t, I don’t think, just for American domestic opinion or perhaps for domestic public opinion in other NATO countries. I think it was for perhaps some here in Kabul, perhaps some of us in uniform, and so forth, and that’s really what that was about. But the words were very precise, and it talked about beginning in July 2011, a process of transitioning some tasks to some Afghan forces in a responsible manner, so that we can indeed begin to draw down our forces in a responsible manner.
So I think, first of all, yes, there can be a lot accomplished between now and July 2011. Remember, there’s still another 17,000 additional U.S. forces and thousands of additional NATO forces to come in, and indeed, the growth of the Afghan security forces between now and the fall of 2011 of some 100,000.
You’re just beginning to see, really…I talked about the inputs, getting the inputs right. We’ve just seen the very initial stages of outputs. Of course the first was the central Helmand operation where you had, in Marjah and Nad-e Ali in particular…and of course it’s well known that the next area of focus, and really overall the main effort, will be in the greater Kandahar area, and then other locations over time.
But there is every intention to not clear if you can’t hold. Again, we learned this in Iraq, and we are trying to apply those lessons that we learned in Iraq that are applicable. You have to obviously apply it with a keen awareness of local circumstances and of the many differences between Afghanistan and Iraq. But I think that we have shown in Marjah the determination to hold and then indeed a new Afghan National Army Corps Headquarters has been stood up there now -- there are additional forces. One of the last briefings today was the Afghan National Security Force Development Plan, and described how the additional forces will be employed as well, in coordination with those of NATO-ISAF.
So I think that gives you a flavor of how we intend to go about this with our Afghan partners.
QUESTION: If you have the best plan, and even if you execute it perfectly, one critical part is public opinion, public support for it back home. The President of Afghanistan says things that the White House says are disturbing. And the State Department says [inaudible]. Doesn’t that undermine public support for this entire endeavor back home [inaudible]?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: That’s for you to judge. You can make your own decision on that. All we’re saying today is we’re very comfortable and pleased with where we are. Secretaries Clinton and Gates spoke to that in this morning’s Sunday shows. We echo that. We’re here to do our job. And the fact that President Karzai came here today with his ministers, the fact that we’re seeing him again tomorrow, the fact that we’re planning for what we hope will be a very successful major trip to Washington -- his second of this administration on May 12th; actually that’s the central day -- should speak for itself.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: And the planning for the peace jirga and the Kabul conference, frankly, again, both of those ongoing. And we got some amount of preview on some of this. Frankly, the peace jirga, and to hear Minister Stanekzai explain in enormous detail just his thinking of the whole…of all that is involved in reaching national consensus -- that’s the key element in the conduct of reintegration and also of course reconciliation. You know the difference. Reintegration: more local, mid-level; some of that ongoing already, has gone on, but in accordance with interim guidance, not yet the final guidance. That won’t come until after the conduct of the peace jirga because, again, of the importance of this national consensus element of that.
MS. HAYDEN: I think we only have time for two more questions.
QUESTION: There have been some reports today, I guess, of the Pakistanis releasing some of these Taliban, [inaudible] arrested, and also there’s a lot of Afghan suspicion, I think, on the Pakistani role in reconciliation or negotiations with the Taliban. How do you see Pakistan’s role?
GENERAL PETRAEUS: Let me try to talk about it in a little bit bigger picture, if I could. First of all, I actually haven’t seen the intel on that. I’ve seen just, sort of, headlines on that and I really need to see what we think has taken place, if something.
I think in a bigger picture way -- and Ambassador Holbrooke and I were talking about this earlier today; in fact, we did do a civ-mil ROC drill for Pakistan, as well, about a month or so after we did the one in Washington, and we’ll do one of those coming up here soon, a date to be determined, ideally in Islamabad -- but if you had asked us at that time if we thought that the Pakistani Army and Frontier Corps would have by now cleared Swat Valley, Lower Dir, Bunir, basically the Northwest Frontier Province -- Malakand Division anyway -- Bajaur, Mohmand, Eastern South Waziristan, be operating in Orakzai, conducted operations in North Waziristan, and all the while other activities ongoing of a complementary nature, to put real pressure on all of the extremists in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, I think we probably would have accused ourselves of slightly wishful thinking, although we had seen a plan. I have to be fair in noting that, that General Kayani has had this concept for quite some time. And that the Pakistani people would be so determined and supportive of what their military has done, their political leaders, and the bulk of their clerics also supporting them, given what they saw of the Pakistani Taliban in action in Swat Valley together with the [inaudible] and some of their other colleagues.
And there have been, indeed, various arrests, detentions, and so forth -- Mullah Baradar and others -- and these accounts of him being detained because he was talking to the government just don’t square with what we know about the conduct of the detention.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: It’s not true.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: How that went down, if you will, and so forth, it just doesn’t…I don’t buy that.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: There’s no evidence for that, Josh. There’s no evidence for that. I know you and your colleagues have reported it as something some people believe. That’s legitimate. Some people do believe it. But to underscore what Dave has said, there’s no evidence to support it that we have.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: I just want to underscore this point because it comes up over and over again. And in truth, there has been really vastly improved coordination between the activities of, again, the Pakistani military -- the Army and Frontier Corps particularly -- and ISAF forces -- especially those in Regional Command East, given that the, again, the Pakistani operations largely in the FATA area and Northwest Frontier Province -- to the point where as they have conducted operations, the Pakistanis say -- and Bajaur is an example, and actually ended up pushing some Taliban into, and other extremists, into Regional Command East areas. Our forces have been waiting for them and have taken them under fire.
So again, there’s been, that…I think has really been quite impressive and they have taken substantial casualties. Military casualties, and of course, predictably, the enemy has fought back as their sanctuaries and safe havens have been taken from them. And they have done what extremists do and blown up, innocent civilians and infrastructure and, of course, earlier assassinated Benazir Bhutto and so forth.
So I think, again, as a general picture -- innumerable challenges. It’s hard all the time in Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan. And no one should get carried away with our reports today. We anticipate this is going to be hard. It has been hard. It will be hard. It is always hard. But again, I think that the components are generally in place, and what we discussed today shows that there is a good degree of coordination and synchronization between the various elements that are all engaged in the campaign here.
QUESTION: One name that’s come up numerous times is Ahmad Wali Karzai, the President’s brother. He has been alleged to be involved in drug dealing and corruption. Are we in talks with him in lieu of the June operation or is the President going to be speaking with him on these allegations?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Is which President going to…
QUESTION: President Karzai.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: President Karzai speaking to who?
QUESTION: To his brother.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I think you ought to ask the brothers those questions. As far as we’re concerned, first of all, I can’t speak for everything that’s going on in Kandahar. I haven’t been there the last several trips. And I can’t tell you everything that goes on down there. But this issue is well understood, it’s been widely discussed, and there’s nothing really that I have to add to it today. There’s been no change and there’s nothing…I don’t see anything that you’ve asked that is…the answer would be the same as the answers you’ve had over and over again.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: Let me try to put it in the frame of what, again, the objectives, again…the joint objectives of the coalition, of ISAF, and of also our Afghan partners. And this is to come back again to the concepts of inclusivity -- which you have seen when President Karzai went down there; he didn’t just meet with his tribe or his, if you will, his campaign committee from the previous presidential election; he met with a broad spectrum including those who were critical -- and then transparency. And those two together, I think, are the guiding…the watchwords, if you will, for how we all together want to conduct the operations down there.
That’s why I talked about the importance of the political component of the Kandahar operation. It’s true, it’s important wherever you are and always, that security and politics go hand in hand, and you know all the old saws about counterinsurgency [being] 20 percent military and 80 percent political. There’s no question that they complement each other. And so do, of course, development efforts and basic services and a variety of other activities that all work together to get you into a spiral upward after you have arrested a spiral downward, which has been the case in the past couple of years in a number of areas in the south and east in particular.
If you just put it in that context, I think, that would describe the approach that you’ll see ISAF and the Afghan government trying to pursue.
I think you said that was about it?
MS. HAYDEN: Unless you have any final comments, that’s about it.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: I will let my diplomatic wingman have final comments.
ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: I’ll just add one thing, because you mentioned spirals downward and upward, and I had the chance to visit Arghandab and see one of those spirals that was going downward change and start to go upward. And that’s an environment where across a population of almost 50,000 people, and maybe 30,000 east of the river basin, where since September, really, there’s been a coordinated civilian and military effort working with the local district governor, where they have developed a very inclusive and transparent shura that brings people in.
We’ve had expansion of programs in agriculture, and most notably helping farmers get access to seed and fertilizer, improving the canal and the quality of the irrigation. All of that -- helping to improve the road -- all of that’s been done with the community, in consultation with the local government, and it’s making a real difference.
I had a chance to actually visit the farmers and talk to them and they’re saying they appreciate these programs. The programs are done in coordination with the government. In fact, the government agriculture extension officer was there talking to and helping and supporting farmers.
As a result of a range of those activities and deeper engagement in that community, an area that was considered less safe last September is now considered…now there’s more mobility and safety and stability and the community is on the rise. That’s just an example of that spiral, and it was a nice chance for me to visit there.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: If I could build on that, because Raj has really raised something, I think, that’s very important to always emphasize, and that is the comprehensive nature of what it is that we and our Afghan partners are trying to do. This means everything from, on the very high end, our special mission units that are out to kill or capture the “no kidding” irreconcilables, those who are never going to be part of the solution in Afghanistan. Then certainly conventional military operations which are very obvious, of Afghan and ISAF forces together, to clear and hold and then to enable the rebuilding, which is again the development piece that complements and builds on and reinforces the security operations.
In Arghandab there are also at least two of the so-called local defense initiatives or community defense initiatives -- we change the name periodically -- but where we have small special forces teams that are literally living in villages and are essentially empowering locals in an agreed process that’s supported by the Ministry of Interior, to allow them to help defend themselves against the Taliban trying to encroach.
The Arghandab has been a very very difficult place. You will recall that our Stryker Brigade, in particular -- which did really good work in there, but took very tough casualties in the initial clearing of that to enable some of the efforts that have been conducted subsequent to it. Then, of course, you have the initial stages of reintegration using interim guidance, as I mentioned, and then over time that will become a more substantial component, one would expect, as well, as the enemy feels more pressure, as they see formal programs that are followed through and so on.
DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: I just wanted to add a closing thought, that it’s easy to forget that there actually was something quite historic done today. This is the largest bilateral assistance program the United States has. We spent the day with our partners listening to their advice as to what we need to do with them in order to be effective. It will and already has changed our thinking and it will continue to.
There was a kind of partnership in the conversation today which is critical to building the confidence that the programs are not just about today and tomorrow, but they’re about long-term consequences. And one of the things that I found very impressive was that the ministers who joined us today were thinking with extraordinarily sharp intellectual acuity about their concerns about having a stable Afghanistan many years from now, how the actions that we take will have an impact on institutions in this country. And that’s the kind of conversation that should take place in our whole development program. And here in one of the very hardest places, we did it here today.
I think the combination of the size and the nature of the conversation and the partnership is very hard. That doesn’t mean that everything is going to be accomplished on a set schedule. But it was a historic moment.
GENERAL PETRAEUS: In fact there were, on several occasions, discussions about how do you balance the desire for long-term sustainability with the imperative of short-term security and stability. Again, that’s quite a sophisticated conversation, candidly, and it’s one that you’re always grappling with in counterinsurgency.
You remember in Iraq, we ultimately hired 103,000 Sons of Iraq, had them on our payroll, and we didn’t exactly know what we were going to do in the future. But when you have 220 attacks per day, you take some risk.
Again, different circumstances. They had some better [short-term] prospects in terms of revenue generation, obviously, so you have to keep that in mind here.
But again, that’s the kind of dialogue that was had today and it was a very rich discussion.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate on that? I’m sorry, I know it’s…
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: That helicopter…
GENERAL PETRAEUS: It’s going to leave without us.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Sorry.