Remarks Upon Receiving the Augsburg Prize for Reconciliation and International Understanding

Richard Holbrooke
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan 
Augsburg, Germany
December 8, 2009

Lord Mayor Gribl, Dr. Heubisch, Dr. Haindl, Ambassador Ischinger, Konstanze Froehlich, ladies and gentlemen, Ambassadors, Consuls General, distinguished guests, members of the government:

I am deeply touched by this honor, to be given an award so beautifully conceived, so perfectly in harmony with the setting we’re in, with the history of this great city and with the vision of the man, Dr. Haindl, who conceived of this award. I am deeply touched by the honor, and even equally touched by Wolfgang Ischinger’s very kind remarks in advance of my receiving it.

I’m honored to see so many friends here from Munich and Berlin. My friend Kurt Viermetz, one of the founding members of the American Academy in Berlin - who would really have preferred to have the American Academy here in Augsburg, but we persuaded him it really should be in Berlin – has given so much of his life to this great city; Director of the American Academy, Gary Smith; our Consul General here in Munich, Conrad Tribble; and other distinguished representatives of many countries.

I am particularly honored to receive this today, and I would like to state that I will dedicate and donate the cash portion of the award to the American Academy in Berlin, because I think it symbolizes what we all work for in this room. This is an award for reconciliation and international understanding. The American presence in Germany and in this city after World War II was committed to that, and the American Academy in Berlin continues that tradition. So, it’s a great honor to be able to have the award go directly back into the cause of international understanding.

When I was Ambassador in Germany, I had a wonderful year. I was only here a year before, as Ambassador Ischinger said, I was called back to Washington. I had a wonderful year learning about Germany, getting a different insight into my own family roots, and leaving behind the legacy of the American Academy in Berlin.

That was a dramatic year in transatlantic relations. It was only three, four years after unification of Germany, and Germany was looking inward on how it would build a unified, democratic Germany. And yet, just a few hundred miles from here, the war in Bosnia was breaking out, and as Bertolt Brecht had warned, people were ignoring it. Hundreds of thousands of people died there before the war came to an end with the Dayton agreement. And I was so proud that at Dayton, the representative of the Federal Republic of Germany was my friend, Wolfgang Ischinger, who represented his country and its interests and worked so hard for that peace, as well.

I’m particularly honored that I receive this award in this city tonight, which has as its sister city, Dayton, Ohio. This is a coincidence, perhaps, but one that to me symbolizes what is good. Dayton, like Augsburg, is a small, middle-sized city with a great spirit for peace. Coming here tonight, although the city looks so different, I feel the same spirit that I felt in Dayton, Ohio, in those three long weeks in which Ambassador Ischinger and I and our colleagues struggled to end the war in Bosnia.

We did end it, and 14 years later – 14 years after the guns fell silent – they have not resumed. Of course, things are far from perfect in Bosnia-Herzegovina today, as those of you following the situation know. But the war is over, and with international support, prosperity and stability can return to the Balkans.

Today we are engaged in an even more difficult situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I have said elsewhere that this is the most difficult problem I have ever worked on, and I will say it again today. We are in that region – the United States, Germany, our NATO allies, and many other nations – not because we want to be there, but because we have to be there.

The story begins, quite obviously, on September 11, 2001, when New York and Washington were attacked by people who had been trained in Afghanistan by an international movement known as Al Qaeda and then not much well known at all. Today the whole world knows about Al Qaeda. They remain in the areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, preaching the same nihilistic hate, and calling for more attacks, inspiring and directing attacks, and now calling for nuclear facilities in Pakistan to be turned over to them.

So the danger continues to exist, and it is for that reason that our alliance – the NATO Alliance, the United States and Germany and our other friends – really have no choice but to persevere in that region. Never before have the United States and Germany fought together on the same side in such a difficult venture. Never before, however, have we faced a more difficult problem. NATO had invoked Article 5, the UN had given unanimous support to the effort, and now as it enters its ninth year, that effort is facing new challenges.

At first, progress was made in Afghanistan, but then the United States, in a historic mistake, turned away from Afghanistan not once, but twice. First, in 1989, after an American-inspired effort drove the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, and then less noticed but equally serious, when the United States refocused on Iraq and took its resources away from Afghanistan.

In recent years, as you all know, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. Meanwhile, other cities besides New York and Washington have come under attack. London, Madrid, Bali, Casablanca, Ankara, Mumbai, Islamabad itself have all been attacked. And recently, in the United States, two terrorist groups inspired and directed by Al Qaeda have been broken up. One was a relatively small group. The other one was a very extraordinary group, found in Chicago and directed by a man named David Headley – Pakistani by birth, with an Americanized name. Mr. Headley was conducting operations through the front of a visa and travel service in Chicago.

The point I want to make as the indictments are becoming public, is that he was not working on terrorist attacks in the United States. He was part of a very sophisticated network whose targets were terrorist attacks in India and Denmark. India and your neighbor, Denmark. Why Denmark? Because of the cartoons.

So any place on earth that holds up the vision of freedom and tolerance, democracy, is now a potential area of attack. The center of this effort is well known. It’s that area on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

So we fight on in Afghanistan. Our objectives our clear. What the President said a week ago tonight, in his speech at West Point, needs underscoring. He reminded the American people and the world that we still have the same goal we’ve had since he took office. Our goal is Al Qaeda: to disrupt it, to dismantle it and to defeat it, in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, so that it can no longer threaten our people, our nations, our allies.


This is not an easy task, because as you all know, our troops are in Afghanistan, but Al Qaeda has moved over to Pakistan, and we cannot send ground troops into Pakistan. It’s simply not possible, not desirable. It’s a sovereign country which does not wish foreign troops in it.

So, why do we fight in Afghanistan against the Taliban when the Al Qaeda that I just mentioned are in Pakistan? Since I entered the government, or re-entered it, in January of this year, I spent a lot of time thinking about this problem and examining all the available information about the relationship between the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

I tell you, quite frankly, that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are, so far, inseparable organizations. The Taliban leadership is in Pakistan. Mullah Omar and his supreme council – his shura, as it’s called in Pashto – are in Pakistan. They are integrally related with Al Qaeda.

Many, many of the soldiers fighting for the Taliban are not ideologically committed to either Al Qaeda or the Taliban. They are free to return into their villages, into the political structure of Afghanistan – and many have done so. But the leadership is integrally related.

President Obama spoke last week, and President Karzai of Afghanistan spoke just yesterday on this problem, each saying that if the Taliban breaks with Al Qaeda, there’s room for them in the political life of Afghanistan. So I want to be very clear on this. The Taliban are a terrible social movement. No one in this room can applaud or appreciate their social values, their treatment of women, other things they’ve done. But the reason we are fighting in Afghanistan today is not to defeat every last Taliban, but to encourage those fighting with the Taliban to re-enter the body politic while we focus on the enemies of both Germany and the United States: Al Qaeda and the leadership of the Taliban. There is room in the region for reconciliation with Taliban, but Al Qaeda remains our acknowledged, undisputed adversary.

Our goals in Afghanistan, therefore, are very clear. We must deny Al Qaeda safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and weaken their capabilities. And then, in order to have an orderly process, we must build up Afghanistan’s capability to defend itself and take the lead in their own security and governance.

We have just concluded weeks of intensive review in Washington and consultations with our allies and the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over the course of this review, the President determined that the rapid increase in international military support is the best way to reverse the slow deterioration of the situation that we’ve seen in recent years. When he announced 30,000 additional troops last week, he was making a very important decision.

We were immensely gratified that immediately, other countries began coming forth with additional contributions of their own. We look forward to more contributions in the coming weeks.

I want to be clear in what the President said, and what he did not say. Some of the reporting was a little unclear. We are sending 30,000 troops over the next six to 10 months. By the summer of 2011, the President plans to start withdrawing some of our troops as the Afghan security forces are trained, equipped and prepared to take over the responsibility.

Our commitment in Afghanistan is not open-ended. We do not wish to stay forever, nor can we stay forever in a combat role. But the civilian assistance, the development assistance that is so important – building up agriculture, helping with rule of law, the role of women, education, health – those issues must continue.

Also, we must continue to help the Afghan police and army train, be trained and improve. Germany has a very important police training center in Mazar-e-Sharif. At least one gentleman in this room has visited directly in the course of his duties on behalf of the government. I greatly appreciate that. We appreciate everything Germany does in Afghanistan.

To repeat the President’s core goal: By the summer of 2011, we wish to have trained up the Afghan forces so that we can begin, in his exact words, “a responsible transition” on the security force front, but we are not going to walk away from Afghanistan again. We – the United States, Germany and our NATO allies – face a common threat, a common danger, and a common challenge, and we have a common task. That is to work together as we have so successfully in other parts of the world.

I want to conclude with a brief word on Pakistan. Without Pakistan’s participation in this project, we will have great difficulty achieving these goals. We speak about Afghanistan, but I end where I began: The core of the problem are the people in sanctuary in Pakistan.

In the last few months Pakistan has done a great deal to start military actions in its western areas against some of the terrorists. We think more can be done. And on the economic front, we feel much, much more can be done. For too long, the United States looked at Pakistan as simply a strategic issue, and gave money only to the military. Well, the money to the military will continue, but we are vastly increasing our economic aid.

On every trip I’ve made to Europe this year, I’ve said the following, and I’ll repeat it here today in this great city, and in this great room: I believe that the European Union should do more to increase its assistance to Pakistan as well. At the Tokyo pledging conference earlier this year, the European Union pledged $500 million. That was a very substantial gift of support. But the job is far from done. The United States is giving about $7.5 billion in economic assistance over the next few years, and I personally believe we should increase that number, too.

So I hope that we can join forces again to bring the issues, the underlying causes of the problem in Pakistan under control: poverty, energy, water. Pakistan has got fantastic problems, and Europe has a great role to play in its reconstruction.

Well, this award was given to me not for what we have done in Afghanistan and Pakistan, because our work is just beginning, but for the efforts that I and my colleagues – including Ambassador Ischinger – made to bring peace and understanding to the Balkans. I thank you so much for the honor, and I accept it on behalf of all of the people who worked with me at Dayton, including Wolfgang Ischinger.

But our job is far from done. We solve one problem and another pops up. This one is even more difficult. But I am convinced, as I always have been, that in transatlantic unity is the kind of strength that can deal with these problems. The efforts that this prize recognizes – reconciliation, a word we use every day in Afghanistan when we hold out an open hand to those fighting with the Taliban who should recognize that it’s time to come in, and international understanding, the other part of this award, which is what we all strive for. It’s so important.

So, in that spirit, I thank you, and I – for this great honor that you’ve paid me this evening. Thank you very much