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John J. Kruzel - American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 27, 2009 - The Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review President Barack Obama unveiled today "refocuses" the U.S. mission, the Pentagon's top policy official said today.
"In Afghanistan, this administration is committed to refocusing our operations to achieve a very clear and core goal. And that is disrupting, dismantling and defeating al-Qaida and its extremist allies and ensuring that Afghanistan does not return to being a safe haven for terrorists," Michele Flournoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said at the Brookings Institution here.
Flournoy said the new strategy shifts Afghanistan from an "economy-of-force mission" to a "renewed commitment" to counter-insurgency effort.
"Afghanistan for a while was an economy-of-force mission, as the strategic focus shifted to Iraq," she said. "Now it is time for a new strategy and renewed commitment."
Reversing Taliban gains and securing the population, helping to build a self-reliant Afghan security force, and providing a secure environment in which Afghan governance and development programs can take root and grow are the top priorities, she said.
"The review that we've just conducted offers not only a refocused strategy based on core American interests and objectives, but also a commitment to provide coalition commanders and civilians on the ground with the resources they need to execute it," she said.
Flournoy's remarks echoed Obama, who said the future of Afghanistan is "inextricably" linked to the future of Pakistan, as al-Qaida and other extremists have moved freely across the two countries' shared border since 9/11, planning attacks and training.
Speaking today at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building here, the president called the border region "the most dangerous place in the world" for the American people, but added that the issue is "an international security challenge of the highest order."
"The safety of people around the world is at stake," he said, noting that terrorist attacks in London, Bali, Islamabad and Algeria over the past two decades were all tied to al-Qaida elements and safe havens in Pakistan.
Flournoy said efforts should be "whole of government approach" with greater emphasis on increasing aid to both Afghanistan and Pakistan and broadening the civilian and international support roles.
"The focus of our military forces on the ground will be both protecting the population and securing the environment, and training, mentoring [Afghan national security forces] so that they can eventually take the lead for security," she said. "But beyond the strengthened military mission, strengthening civilian assistance and better integrating the civilian and military efforts will be critical to success."
The administration's plan hopes to grow the Afghan army from 82,000 to 134,000 as well as increase the size of the police to 82,000 by 2011, which could occur as the United States and NATO work to turn over security responsibilities to Afghan national forces.
Administration and defense officials have stressed that increases in troops and military resources must be accompanied by civilian efforts, too, including State Department personnel and the U.S. Agency for International Development as well as their NATO and international counterparts.