The New Afghanistan Strategy: The View from the Ground

Jacob J. Lew
Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources 
Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC
December 9, 2009

Chairman Kerry, Senator Lugar, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am honored to be here with Ambassador Eikenberry and General Petraeus.

Over the past week, Secretaries Clinton and Gates, Chairman Mullen, and National Security Advisor Jones have testified on the importance of the President’s strategy to our national security. Today, I want to focus on the civilian components of that strategy – which, as President Obama and Secretary Clinton have emphasized, will be essential to long-term security in Afghanistan. For truly sustainable progress, our troop increase must be matched by a stronger civilian effort and additional foreign assistance. We are working with OMB to ensure that our civilian programs are fully resourced, and we will work with the Congress to ensure that our funding levels match the requirements identified in the President’s strategy.

The State Department, USAID, USDA and other civilian agencies are working with our Afghan partners to bolster institutions at every level so that they are ready to take more responsibility when our combat troops begin to depart. The President’s timeframe for transition to Afghan responsibility gives the Afghan government and President Karzai a sense of urgency in making necessary reforms. Better governance and stronger institutions will enable the Afghans to guarantee their own long-term welfare and security when our combat troops begin to depart. Our civilian effort will continue long after our combat forces have begun to draw down, as a key part of our enduring commitment to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region.

In the past eight months, I have made two trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and I am planning a third in January. I have seen the challenging work situations at our embassies, out in the field at the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan, and at our Consulate in Peshawar in Pakistan. My appreciation for our men and women, both civilian and military, who are carrying out our nation’s policy and making extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our security, has grown with each visit. As Secretary Clinton said last week, and Karl just reiterated, we really do have our best people in these jobs.

Our civilian effort is one important reason why we can be hopeful, despite the serious situation in Afghanistan. The same is true with reference to Pakistan, about which I will speak more in a moment. Civilian experts are helping build Afghan government capacity, in the ministries as well as at the provincial and district levels. They are also providing development assistance in the field and working in scores of other roles.

In the revised strategy, we will increasingly focus our resources at the provincial and district levels, partnering with local officials and Afghan citizens to deliver high-impact economic assistance. We will continue to expand our programs to bolster Afghanistan’s agricultural sector – the traditional core of the Afghan economy - focusing on increasing farmers' productivity and ability to enter higher value markets, rehabilitating degraded watersheds and irrigation infrastructure, and greatly building the Ministry of Agriculture’s capacity to deliver extension and other services. This will create jobs, reduce funding that the Taliban receives from poppy cultivation, and draw insurgents off of the battlefield.

Alongside our efforts to train more capable police, we are also focusing our rule of law programs on helping the Afghan government and local communities develop responsive and predictable dispute resolution mechanisms that offer an alternative to the brutal Taliban justice. And we are launching a comprehensive communications effort to empower Afghans to challenge the extremists’ narrative and offer their own vision for Afghanistan’s future.

We will support an Afghan-led effort to open the door to Taliban who abandon violence and want to reintegrate into society. We understand that some who fight with the insurgency do so not out of conviction, but due to coercion or money. All Afghans should have the choice to pursue a better future if they do so peacefully, respect basic human rights of their fellow citizens, and renounce al Qaeda.

It is, of course, also critically important that the Afghan government makes progress on addressing corruption. In his inauguration speech last month, President Karzai pledged to combat corruption, improve governance, and deliver for the people of his country. The Afghan people, the United States, and the international community will hold the Afghan government accountable for continuing to make good on these commitments. We have seen some promising first steps. We have also been told that that Attorney General’s office is currently investigating several cabinet level officials – for legal reasons neither the names nor the charges can be disclosed until there is a conviction. In addition, a Major Crimes Task Force is expected to be fully operational by the first of the year and the Afghan Government announced that it will establish a national anti-corruption court. We will know more on December 9 when the Afghan High Office of Oversight will hold a press conference to announce past and future efforts to combat corruption.

I would like to say a few words now on our staffing and training. As Karl described, we are on track to triple the number of civilians in Afghanistan to 974 by early next year. We anticipate that we will need to further increase our civilian staffing in 2010 by another 20 to 30%, again concentrating on positions in the field and at key ministries that deliver vital services to the Afghan people. It is important to remember the multiplier effect that civilian personnel have. On average, each civilian leverages 10 partners, ranging from locally employed Afghan staff to experts with U.S.-funded NGOs.

To ensure we get the right personnel with the right skills, we have expanded and improved our recruiting and training efforts, from language skills to civ-mil integration. We are now conducting a one week, joint civ-mil training exercise every month at Camp Atterbury in Indiana. All civilians, from across the inter-agency, who are deploying to field positions or who regularly travel to the field as part of their duties must attend the course. I visited it a few weeks back and saw firsthand how this training immerses civilians and military in real-life exercises. They train side-by-side – with Afghan Americans playing the roles of local interlocutors - to plan projects, hold meetings with local officials, and, importantly, practice safety and security. State, USAID and USDA experts who recently returned from serving at PRTs contribute to the training as subject matter experts and bring their real-life experiences.

We are building a cadre of Afghanistan and Pakistan experts who will continue to contribute to the mission even after they have returned. Besides the PRTers who help train at Atterbury, we have also recruited numerous State Foreign Service Officers with Afghanistan and Pakistan experience to positions in the Department on the desks, at the Foreign Service Institute, and in Ambassador Holbrooke’s office, as well as at USNATO and other posts. I want to assure you Mr. Chairman that we will do everything we can to make sure that our men and women are well prepared and supported -both from Kabul and Washington - so that they can succeed in their efforts to make our nation safer.

When the Secretary was in Kabul in November, she heard from an American colonel that while he had thousands of outstanding soldiers under his command, none had 40 years of agricultural experience or rule of law and governance expertise like the USDA and State Department civilian experts serving alongside his battalion. He told her that he was happy to supply whatever support these valuable civilians need. And, he said we need more of them. The President’s strategy – with Congressional support -- will make that possible.

I would also like to take a few moments to address how the recently completed strategy review impacts U.S.-Pakistani relations. As the President made clear in his December 1 speech, our partnership with Pakistan is inextricably linked to our efforts in Afghanistan. We are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We are not only strengthening Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, we are also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development. As the President said, “… going forward, the Pakistani people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.”

The United States is committed to security assistance programs that strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target violent extremists that threaten both of our countries. To that end, the State Department manages two complementary programs: Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund (PCCF). FMF assists Pakistan with long-range strategic development of Pakistan’s military services, building a long-term security relationship and reinforcing the U.S. commitment to a strategic partnership; PCCF provides Pakistan with the military equipment and training necessary now for Pakistani forces to win the current fight against insurgency in its border regions.

We are also committed to deepening our relationship with Pakistan to foster a stable, civilian-led democratic government that is supportive of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan and is a partner in regional stability. We have affirmed this commitment through the Kerry-Lugar-Berman authorization of $7.5 billion ($1.5 billion annually over five years) in civilian assistance to Pakistan – funds that will support Pakistan’s economic development, energy, education, water, agriculture, and governance. We have developed a civilian assistance strategy to reduce poverty and the susceptibility to terrorist recruitment that poverty breeds. We will assist Pakistan to address the country’s profound infrastructure needs with highly visible projects in energy and agriculture.

On my trips, I heard repeatedly from Pakistanis their desire to be more involved in the design and implementation of projects. I spoke with our personnel at the Embassy about how this would be feasible. We will work through Pakistani institutions to implement programs wherever possible, with the goal of enabling and expanding Pakistani capacity. I was also impressed by the drive and capacity of Pakistani organizations; I am confident that there are skilled and eager local NGOs with whom we can productively partner.

Just as we need strong local partners for our assistance programs to succeed, so too we need our international partners to join us in supporting Pakistan’s development and democracy, and helping Pakistan build on its success against militants. We are working closely with the Government of Pakistan and the international community to meet the relief and reconstruction needs in Malakand, impacted by military operations earlier in the year, and we are supporting the UN Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan’s efforts to coordinate assistance in vulnerable areas. We are also encouraging other countries to follow through on their Tokyo Donor Conference pledges.

As we strengthen our partnership with Pakistan, we are forging trust and cooperation on a broad, government-to-government basis that emphasizes institutions, not individuals. In addition to the President, Prime Minister, and other ruling party federal officials, we are reaching out to provincial and local officials and have developed strong working relationship with parties and civil society leaders across the political spectrum.

Building on the Secretary’s personal and direct engagement with the people of Pakistan during her October trip, our efforts in Pakistan will be supported by a new public diplomacy effort to redefine the U.S.-Pakistan relationship as one that goes beyond our shared security objectives. This communications effort will expand people-to-people contacts and challenge the extremists’ narrative. It will involve greater engagement with Pakistani media, academic and business exchanges, and reaching out to the Pakistani-American community.



We are also pursuing high-level policy dialogues to encourage the Government of Pakistan to undertake the necessary policy reforms that will lead to long-term economic growth and development. For instance, our consistent diplomacy on energy issues, backed by our commitment to invest in energy infrastructure projects that will improve the lives of the Pakistani people, will reinforce Pakistan’s resolve to implement critical electricity pricing reforms. I have also had multiple meetings with Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, and we have talked about the importance of moving forward with government reforms that will put Pakistan on a path to economic prosperity.

Creating new economic opportunities in Pakistan and Afghanistan is a core component of combating violent extremism there. That is why we continue to work with Congress to pass legislation to create economic opportunities in this region, including through initiatives such as the proposed Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs), a trade preference program that is essential to our national security objectives in the region. ROZs would provide duty free treatment to certain goods produced in all of Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan Such initiatives can create much needed employment opportunities. We are also supporting Pakistani and Afghan negotiations to finalize a transit trade agreement that will allow goods produced in either country to more quickly reach markets through Pakistan’s ports or via Afghanistan’s ring road to Central Asia.

As we consider how to best support Pakistan, we should remember the enormous costs that the Pakistani people are bearing as they courageously confront the threat of violent extremism. In response to the government taking military action against extremist groups, these groups have launched a string of violent attacks against women and children in markets, and families worshipping in mosques. In recent months, hundreds have been killed and many more injured.

We recognize that there will be ongoing humanitarian needs in Pakistan. As the government takes military action against extremist groups that threaten not only Pakistan but also the region and the world, it is in the US interest to support Pakistan's efforts on the basis of the long term partnership that the President described.

In closing, I would only add that we share these responsibilities with governments around the world. Our NATO allies and other international community partners have already made significant contributions of their own in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the NATO Ministerial last week in Brussels, Allies and ISAF partners pledged to contribute approximately 7,000 additional troops for Afghanistan. In all, 25 countries pledged to do more in terms of troops, trainers and trust fund monies.

The task we face is as complex as any national security challenge in our lifetimes. We will not succeed if this effort is viewed as the responsibility of a single party, a single agency, or a single country. We owe it to the troops and civilians who face these dangers to come together as Americans – and with our allies and partners – to help them accomplish this mission.

I thank you again for the opportunity to testify today, and I welcome the opportunity to answer your questions.