By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
April 1, 2009 - Defending the homeland by defeating al-Qaida is at the heart of the new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, the undersecretary of defense for policy told the Senate Armed Services Committee today. Michele Flournoy, one of the architects of the strategy that President Barack Obama announced last week, said defeating the terror group that has launched attacks across the globe must be an international effort.
The effort to garner international support already has started, Flournoy said. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke yesterday to representatives of 80 nations at the International Conference in Support of Afghanistan in the Netherlands, and Obama will seek support at the upcoming NATO summit, she said.
Flournoy assured the Senate panel that the administration will "make sure that our allies are alongside with us, putting on the table what they can provide to make this effort successful. We believe that keeping the American homeland and the American people safe is the bottom line goal of this effort and this is a challenge that we all must meet together."
The United States must eliminate the terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Flournoy said, and al-Qaida actively is planning more attacks on the United States and its allies from areas in Pakistan.
"We have learned in the past, at too high a price, the danger of allowing al-Qaida and its extremist supporters to have safe havens and access to resources to plan their attacks," she said. "This is why we have troops in Afghanistan and why we are going to heavily engage and intensify our efforts in Pakistan."
The president's strategy is more comprehensive and uses all the instruments of U.S. national power and those of allies, Flournoy said. "We need to devote the necessary resources to implement it," she added.
Pakistan, she said, must move to dismantle the safe havens on its territory and defeat the terror and insurgent networks within its borders. "[These] are absolutely critical to the security and stability of that nuclear armed state," she told the senators.
The comprehensive plan invests in economic and governing capabilities in both nations, Flournoy explained, and also will stress building a partnership with Pakistan that "will encourage and enable it to shift its focus from conventional war preparations to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism preparations."
Afghanistan is a poor nation, which exacerbates political problems. "These are the root causes of the insurgency that al-Qaida and the Taliban are seeking to exploit," Flournoy said. "Building Afghan capacity to address these causes while simultaneously taking the fight to the enemy are important components of our efforts going forward."
The strategy aims to reverse Taliban gains and protect the population from the group, especially in the southern and eastern Afghanistan, she said. It also fully resources training efforts for the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police to shift the lead in the counterinsurgency effort in the country from NATO's International Security Assistance Force to the Afghan security forces.
"Building the [Afghan national security forces] should enable us, over time, to transition from an ISAF-led effort to an Afghan-led counterinsurgency effort," Flournoy said. The president has announced an additional 4,000 U.S. soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan solely for the training mission.
While security is important, civilian agencies must step up their efforts, she said. "We will intensify our civilian assistance and our efforts to better integrate that assistance to promote more effective governance and development," the undersecretary said. "Working with the United Nations and our allies, we will seek to improve coordination and coherence in these efforts in support of Afghan development priorities."
In August, Afghanistan will hold elections, and Flournoy said the coalition will work with the Afghan government to ensure a free, fair and secure election.
Defeating the insurgency also will require breaking the narcotics industry in Afghanistan.
"We will work very hard to build more effective Afghan law enforcement, develop alternative livelihoods to deny the insurgency lucrative sources of funding and reform the agricultural sector on which so much of the Afghan population depends," she said.
Once the coalition regains the initiative in Afghanistan, America will support an Afghan-led reconciliation process designed "to essentially flip the foot-soldiers, to bring low and mid-level leaders to the side of the government," she said. "If this process is successful, the senior leaders, the irreconcilables, should be more easily isolated, and we should be better able to target them."
Money will be needed, Flournoy told the senators. Defense Department officials have not yet finalized their budget request for a fiscal 2009 supplemental funding measure or the fiscal 2010 base budget, she said.
"I can just tell you that we will be coming back to you to ask for your assistance in several areas," she said. These include funding the additional troop deployments, accelerating the growth of the Afghan forces, continuing to support counternarcotics funding, increasing Commander's Emergency Response Program funding for local construction projects and continuing humanitarian assistance support in Afghanistan.
Defense Department officials also plan to talk with the senators about a security development plan and funding for counterinsurgency capabilities for Pakistan, as well as counternarcotics funding, continued coalition support funds and other issues, she said.