A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

A U.S. Army soldier searches a mud hut during a weapons cache patrol
in Bagram, Afghanistan, March 2, 2009.
The soldier is assigned to the 101st Airborne Division’s Company A,
1st Platoon Personnel Security Detail.

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Phoebe R. Allport

In announcing a new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, Pres. Obama said that an additional 4,000 trainers and advisors will be sent to the region to assist the Afghan army. In his remarks, the President stated that “The safety of people around the world is at stake”. The video is here; will try and see if I can embed it here later.

Excerpt below from the Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama on A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Washington, DC March 27, 2009. Read the full text here.

To advance security, opportunity, and justice – not just in Kabul, but from the bottom up in the provinces – we need agricultural specialists and educators; engineers and lawyers. That is how we can help the Afghan government serve its people, and develop an economy that isn’t dominated by illicit drugs. That is why I am ordering a substantial increase in our civilians on the ground. And that is why we must seek civilian support from our partners and allies, from the United Nations and international aid organizations – an effort that Secretary Clinton will carry forward next week in the Hague.

At a time of economic crisis, it is tempting to believe that we can short-change this civilian effort. But make no mistake: our efforts will fail in Afghanistan and Pakistan if we don’t invest in their future. That is why my budget includes indispensable investments in our State Department and foreign assistance programs. These investments relieve the burden on our troops. They contribute directly to security. They make the American people safer. And they save us an enormous amount of money in the long run – because it is far cheaper to train a policeman to secure their village or to help a farmer seed a crop, than it is to send our troops to fight tour after tour of duty with no transition to Afghan responsibility.

As we provide these resources, the days of unaccountable spending, no-bid contracts, and wasteful reconstruction must end. So my budget will increase funding for a strong Inspector General at both the State Department and USAID, and include robust funding for the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.

And I want to be clear: we cannot turn a blind eye to the corruption that causes Afghans to lose faith in their own leaders. Instead, we will seek a new compact with the Afghan government that cracks down on corrupt behavior, and sets clear benchmarks for international assistance so that it is used to provide for the needs of the Afghan people.

In a country with extreme poverty that has been at war for decades, there will also be no peace without reconciliation among former enemies. I have no illusions that this will be easy. In Iraq, we had success in reaching out to former adversaries to isolate and target al Qaeda. We must pursue a similar process in Afghanistan, while understanding that it is a very different country.

Read the full transcript (pdf)