On January 28, the United Kingdom will host a conference on Afghanistan in London, where the international community will gather to align military and civilian resources behind an Afghan-led strategy. Secretary Clinton has made it a top priority to elevate diplomacy and development alongside defense in U.S. national security. Nowhere is this more urgent than in our efforts to defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Last week, Special Representative Richard Holbrooke presented the Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy to Congress. Ambassador Holbrooke said, “President Obama outlined a strategy in March 2009 that includes supporting the Afghan government's efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda and its extremist allies. As he made clear at West Point on December 1, our civilian engagement in Afghanistan will continue long after our combat troops come home. While our military mission in Afghanistan is not open-ended, we are committed to building lasting partnership with Afghanistan.”
“To help implement this strategy, we have bolstered our diplomatic and development presence in the field, and work very closely with Ambassador Eikenberry and his team in Kabul. In Washington, we are also pursuing a whole-of-government approach. I lead a team of experts and senior advisers from ten U.S. government departments and agencies, headquartered at the State Department. They represent USAID, Treasury, the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, FBI, CIA, OSD, and USDA. We work seamlessly with the NSC and CENTCOM, as well as in close coordination with Ambassador Eikenberry and his strong team in Kabul. Together, we are implementing our political, economic, and diplomatic efforts.”
Ambassador Holbrooke continued, “[W]e have no illusions about what faces us in Afghanistan. The challenges there are immense. The Afghan government is under assault from the Taliban and struggling to provide security, jobs, and basic justice to a society devastated by more than 30 years of war. One weapon that the Taliban and Al Qaeda use very successfully is information, seeking to dominate the information space through direct communications or intimidation, and by working through religious or nationalist media outlets. They have a well-oiled rapid-reaction propaganda machine that constantly uses graphic images, intimidating telephone calls, and CDs and DVDs distributed in local bazaars, while disavowing responsibility for bombings they conduct which kill large numbers of civilians. Therefore, while our previous strategy focused largely on traditional public diplomacy and communications tools, we are now elevating our communications efforts in importance and innovation. We are helping to build communications infrastructure and capacity; conducting sustained media and outreach strategies in both countries; and fostering a localized grassroots movement on the ground through mobile and radio initiatives -- including leveraging new technology to foster socio-economic benefits though e-banking, learning and health.”
Read the full strategy here.