Assistant Secretary Boucher's Interview With the BBC Regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan

Richard A. Boucher
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Washington, DC
March 27, 2009

QUESTION: Richard Boucher, thank you very much for joining us on the BBC.




QUESTION: A lot of attention being paid to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Can you tell us a little bit more about the details of the plans being made in this building in terms of the numbers of people and the kind of projects you’re going to undertake in Afghanistan?


ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: We don’t have quite final numbers yet, because we’re finishing the actual budgets to do this. But the idea is that we need to put in place a significantly increased number of civilians and that they will go out to help with governance, to help with agriculture, to administer aid projects on the ground where they make a difference both in Kabul, but also out in the provinces and even down to the district level, so a very significant increase is anticipated. We’ve put a couple dozen more people out in the last few months. We continue to do that. But once we get the budgets, we’ll make a big increase.


QUESTION: There’s talk of hundreds of people going to Afghanistan. Is that accurate – hundreds?


ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: That’s – yes, that’s possible. We just haven’t settled the final numbers yet.


QUESTION: And what about Pakistan? The President is calling on Congress to approval a bill to give $1.5 billion a year over the next five years to Pakistan. How will you play a role in that aid?


ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: We’re going to have to look at that money. We’ve already started to look at that money and figure out how – what’s the best way to program it? How do you make sure it goes to do what the President said, that it goes to support the Pakistani people, create opportunity, economic opportunity, energy projects, improve schools, improve the ability of the government to really take care of itself, and that’s what it’s all about.

QUESTION: In the past, aid efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been described as uncoordinated, chaotic. How will you and other U.S. Government agencies, along with your allies, make sure this doesn’t happen again, that the money – and it’s a lot of money – the money that you’re spending actually has an impact?


ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Well, I think there has to be very careful monitoring of it to make sure it goes into good places. And then metrics, as the President talked about, something to measure periodically to make sure it’s accomplishing its end. But there is a very, I think, a real determination to take a strong hand in all this. Ambassador Holbrooke has been appointed as the Special Representative to really make sure these projects are coordinated and that they deliver.


QUESTION: And finally, briefly, a lot of focus is put on civilian aid projects. Why is that focus there? What is the idea behind this? What is the strategy? And why is it so important?


ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: You know, I had a Pakistani military officer visit us this week and he said you have to offer people something more than work, you have to offer them peace, you have to offer them opportunity. And I think that’s the essence of what we’re doing here and the President almost said so in his statement. We’re offering people a chance to say the United States wants to have a long-term relationship with you that gives you a different future than the one that’s being offered by the militants. It gives you a better future and an opportunity for that future. And we’re going to come in there and we’re going to be there to help you achieve that.


QUESTION: Bring the civilians to your side.




QUESTION: Richard Boucher from the State Department, thank you very much for joining us here.