Chaired By: Rep. John Tierney
Witnesses: Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Rep. For Afghanistan And Pakistan; General Wallace "Chip" Gregson, Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Asian And Pacific Affairs
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REP. TIERNEY: Good morning. A quorum being present, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, the hearing entitled, "Afghanistan and Pakistan: Oversight of a New Interagency Strategy" will come to order.
I ask unanimous consent that only the chairman and ranking members of the committee and of the subcommittee be allowed to make opening statements. (No audible response.) Without objection, so ordered. I ask unanimous consent that the hearing record be kept open for five business days so that all members of the committee will be allowed to submit a written statement for the record. (No audible response.) Without objection, so ordered.
I want to welcome both of our witnesses here today and thank you for coming. Ambassador, we appreciate your forbearance last week when we had a day of unexpected and lengthy votes and are very respectful of the fact that you moved your schedule around, made yourself available today. And General Gregson, we're happy to have you here with us as well. Though you wouldn't have been here last week, we have the benefit of your presence here today.
The president's interagency strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan is a welcome shift in the approach to that region of vital national security interest. As the new strategy recognizes, our common goal with Afghanistan and Pakistan will require a closely coordinated effort between all three states. Ultimately, the United States must rely on the capabilities of Pakistan and Afghan governments themselves.
This hearing has come at a critical time. Afghanistan will hold presidential elections in August amid a long-deteriorating security situation. The United States has committed to significantly increase its troops on the ground, coupled with a so-called civilian surge of 450 additional aid professionals over the next 18 months. Finally, we have a new commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General McChrystal, who has arrived on the ground there this past week.
After years of seemingly inconsistent attention to the threat posed by extremist militants in the North-West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and, increasingly, Baluchistan and Punjab, Pakistan seems to have finally harnessed the political will and the manpower to engage in a concerted action to retake Swat and the adjoining areas of the Malakand region in the past eight weeks. It's important to recognize and honor the sacrifice that Pakistan and its soldiers have made during this campaign, and that has been substantial.
But tragically, the nature of the recent fighting has produced, by some accounts, approximately 3 million internally displaced persons, an expression I understand the ambassador doesn't like to use any more than we do, because of its impersonal nature. But there are 3 million people who are now without homes, without businesses, and having a difficult time struggling to survive and to get their lives back together and untold numbers of civilian casualties.
According to public reports, the Pakistan military will now turn its focus to the much more difficult terrain of South Waziristan, where Baitullah Mehsud and the most hardened Pakistani Taliban and likely senior al Qaeda leadership reside. Undoubtedly, the military and civilian toll will dramatically rise in this portion of the campaign, and Pakistan's resolve for the long struggle ahead will be sorely tested.
As the United States discovered in Iraq and Afghanistan, initially clearing extremist militants from an area does not, in itself, create long-term security. Long-term security will require a comprehensive strategy to secure, rebuild and implement the political, legal and economic enfranchisement of Pashtun populations that have been isolated for far too long.
Critically, the Pakistan civilian government must extend its writ to all areas of the country. For too long, Pakistan has ceded its authority in some regions and failed to establish a basic domestic compact between the federal government and the people residing in those regions. The United States must continue to support the Pakistani government as it provides more security, more governance and more basic services in those provinces.
I have a concern that as a result of its history of failure to adapt its national security priorities to the evolving circumstances of militant extremism, Pakistan currently lacks the resources and strategic doctrine to engage in a concerted campaign to win the hearts and minds of its own people in the affected regions.
The House of Representatives has recently taken an important step to address this issue by passing the Berman bill, also known as the PEACE Act. And the Senate has marked up its counterpart to the Berman bill, the Kerry-Lugar bill. These bills propose to triple economic assistance to Pakistan in the next five years to $1-1/2 billion.
We recognize that some controversy has been stirred over the question of conditions in the legislation. Some are concerned that conditions will offend the political sensitivities of Pakistanis.
Last Thursday's subcommittee hearing, we had various witnesses, one of whom was an expert, Dr. Samina Ahmed of the International Crisis Group, who testified and put in her report that the Pakistani population, particularly those in the embattled regions, distrust the military's historic involvement with the Taliban and other extremists. There are notable examples of inexplicable conduct, such as failing to target wanted leaders of visible anti-government groups and failing to dismantle their known bases. We have learned of the release from confinement of such leaders, even those believed to be implicated in the Mumbai bombings. We are painfully aware of the military's proclivity for entering into truces with extremists and ceding territory to their control, only to have residents there suffer egregious regression.
I support the conditions that are in the bill and hope that -- and wish that they were stronger and more pointed. They are applied only to the military and not to civilian assistance in the Berman bill. I hope that my colleagues and people in the other chamber and the administration will support the carefully crafted and negotiated legislation.
On the -- one of the principal aims of today's hearing is to address the serious accountability and transparency concerns that have plagued U.S. programs and operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan for the past seven years. For example, last year the subcommittee conducted a major investigation of the Coalition Support Funds program, by which the United States reimbursed Pakistan for expenses it incurred in certain counterterrorism operations. This program has represented the bulk of U.S. aid to Pakistan's military in the past seven years, amounting to over $6.7 billion to date.
Our investigation found that there were no receipts for a significant portion of U.S. reimbursements to Pakistan and that the program lacked basic accountability provisions. Further, this program has not improved the Pakistan military's capabilities for counterterrorism or counterinsurgency operations.
Another purpose of this hearing is to hear from our witnesses about implementing a fundamentally interagency strategy across the departments in the United States government. We want to know about the contributions by the various departments, their coordination amongst others and the strategic guidance and implementation directives that are coming from senior leadership. In addition, we want to know whether there are capacity problems at the civilian national security agencies that need to be addressed further by this Congress.
And finally, the most immediate and urgent task for the United States is to provide aid to alleviate the suffering of the Pakistanis displaced by current fighting. We've had the opportunity to speak with Ambassador Holbrooke about his recent trip to the camps, and I want to express my strong support for that trip, for his efforts and for the United States' efforts.
About a week ago last Thursday, the subcommittee held a hearing on the humanitarian crisis and heard witnesses testifying in this room and from Islamabad that reported that they expect the crisis to get worse before it gets better and that much more must be done.
It's our oversight capacity and our responsibility, and we have to continue to urge the United States aid for humanitarian crises, make sure that it's delivered to the field promptly, effectively and accountably.
With that, I defer to Mr. Issa, who will give his opening remarks.
REPRESENTATIVE DARRELL ISSA (R-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent that the gentleman from Colorado, Mr. Coffman, be allowed to sit in on the hearing today.
REP. TIERNEY: Without objection, so ordered.
REP. ISSA: Additionally, Mr. Chairman, I'd ask unanimous consent that the article from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace be entered into the record today. This was a witness we chose not to have, so as to keep the hearing simple.
REP. TIERNEY: Without objection, so ordered.
REP. ISSA: Thank you.
Ambassador, General, I want to thank you for being here today. As the new administration begins to implement its vision of a better, safer world, and particularly as to the deteriorating situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I'm comforted to know, Ambassador, that you will be first-hand involved in this. Over the years in which you've been out of the administration, I have had an opportunity to meet with you around the dinner table and throughout the circuit here of good thinkers who had a lot of thoughts and were often asked if they had been (aft ?), but seldom could they answer that they were.
The tools the previous administration used undoubtedly will be the same tools you use. What will be different can only be the tone and the amount of each of those tools. Certainly, as your administration inherits an Afghanistan dependent upon poppy production at a level far greater than at any time in history, it is particularly difficult to wean a people off of a corrupting influence like the production of tools for heroin. Additionally, the situation in Pakistan has only deteriorated during the previous four years. This is, by definition, a huge problem for the new administration.
So I want to say today that on a bipartisan basis we look forward to working with you as you attempt to reverse what has been, in many ways, the 9/11 failure. Notwithstanding that, it's no surprise to you that I would say that Iraq is, to a great extent, behind us and will allow you the opportunity to work on this troubled region.
This is the Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, not the Foreign Affairs Committee. And although I'm pleased, as is the ranking subcommittee member, to be a member of Foreign Affairs on leave of absence, I recognize that our job is not to discuss in detail your vision. Our job is to provide the oversight as to whether or not the plan has been properly thought out as to cost and effectiveness.
Additionally, as the chairman indicated in his opening remarks, there have been serious concerns about waste, fraud and abuse, both directly with our partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan and, in previous hearings of this committee, with our NATO partners. Large amounts of cash have been taken to the region and often with little or no oversight. I hark back onto a hearing in which we discovered that good allies, good NATO allies were given tens of millions of dollars simply on one general's signature. Although they're our allies, I rely on them to try to protect us, I recognize that we would not accept that one American general signed for $20 million and no further receipt. We certainly cannot expect less of our NATO partners than we expect -- than we expect of our own home-grown generals.
General, that will be one of our questions today, undoubtedly, is can we bring a level of transparency and accountability both to our effort at nation-buildings and to our cost and detailed work in the region? Without a doubt, that is the primary jurisdiction of this committee. I always remind my colleagues but particularly myself that we are a committee of broad jurisdiction, but we are not -- are not the Foreign Affairs Committee. And our efforts today will be in order to support you but, at the same time, let you know in no uncertain terms that this committee is dedicated to make sure the American taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.
With that, I thank the chairman for this important hearing and yield back.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you.
And I yield five minutes to -- well, Mr. Flake is probably gone voting. We're having votes -- I wanted to share that with my witnesses -- from time to time today. We're going to continue on through the hearing on that. But the absence of some members on occasion here is not any indication of their lack of interest, but rather their obligation to register their votes and also sometimes to be in other committees as well.
But we're going to continue on. We'll now receive testimony from the panel that's before us today. I'd first like to say a few words about each of the witnesses.
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke serves as President Obama's special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Prior to that, he served as chairman of the Asia Society. From 1999 to 2001 Ambassador Holbrooke served as the United States ambassador to the United Nations. He has also held a number of other senior diplomatic posts, including special envoy to Cyprus and Kosovo and United States ambassador to Germany.
Throughout his career, Ambassador Holbrooke has held a number of other distinguished positions in both the public and the private sectors. He holds a bachelor of arts from Brown University.
General Wallace "Chip" Gregson serves as assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs. Prior to assuming this post, General Gregson was owner and president of WCG & Associates International, a foreign policy and military affairs consulting organization. Prior to his retirement from the United States Marine Corps, General Gregson was commanding general of the Marine Corps Forces Pacific and Marine Corps Forces Central Command.
General Gregson holds a B.S. from the United States Naval Academy as well as M.A. degrees from the Naval War College and Salve Regina College.
Thank you for joining us here today, General.
Thank you to both of you for making yourselves available and giving us your expertise. It's the policy of this committee to swear witnesses in before you testify. I ask you to please stand and raise your right hand.
Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
GEN. GREGSON: I do.
AMB. HOLBROOKE: I do.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you. The record will please reflect that both of the witnesses answered in the affirmative.
As you experienced witnesses well know, your full written statement by unanimous consent will be allowed on the record. We ask you to summarize your statement. And Ambassador, we'd like to begin with you. Feel free to take a reasonable amount of time. We're not going to shut you off in five minutes.
AMB. HOLBROOKE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It's a great honor to appear before this committee for this first time. I've never testified before this committee before, though I've been testifying before the Congress and the House since 1977. And I'm very mindful of what your colleague Congressman Issa just said, that your main goal is, and I quote, "dedicated to making sure U.S. taxpayer dollars are being wisely spent." I take that very seriously, and I share that goal. And more importantly, it is a specific instruction that the secretary of State and the president have issued to us.
I would like to divide my opening comments into two parts, first the strategic issues and secondly and very briefly, in addition to this lengthy opening statement I'd like to submit for the record, to comment on the points you've just made.
First of all, on the strategic issues, I concur fully in what both you and Congressman Issa just said. This a strategic priority for the United States for reasons we all know. Pakistan contains within it in its western areas people who have attacked the United States and our European allies and India and the people of Pakistan repeatedly and have said they wish to do so again. They are -- there's no other word for it -- our enemy.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban continue to fight and they form a support group for the al Qaeda and the others who threaten the United States directly. So at this point, separating Taliban and al Qaeda is not something one can do, in terms of our policies.
In terms of our resources, of course, there's a huge mismatch. In Afghanistan, we have 68,000 troops there or on their way and we have a vast civilian and growing infrastructure and considerable involvement on the ground. In Pakistan, the government of Pakistan has made clear from the beginning that there's certain red lines which cannot be crossed -- most importantly, ground troops. They do not wish any American military presence on the ground, and we fully respect that. So we can take that off the table.
However, supporting Pakistan in every possible way is of the highest priority to the United States. For example, we have a(n) integrated White House, Treasury, State Department team on its way to Pakistan now to talk to them about how we can help their economy more. They're facing some deadlines from IMF loans. They're facing a very tough set of problems. And we want to show assistance in every way.
We -- with the support of this body, additional funds have been voted in the supplemental and, in addition to that, $200 million in the supplemental for the internal refugees in Pakistan. And thank you for noting my aversion to the initials IDP. These are human beings. They were farmers. They were pharmacists. They were jewelers. They're living now in hot, airless tents on the flatlands of Pakistan's west. They're from the highlands. They need to go home.
And by the way, Mr. Chairman, having read the testimony of the three witnesses you had earlier -- Ken Bacon, Sherry Rehman and a person from International Crisis Group whose name I don't remember -- I want to concur in virtually everything they said to you.
So we have the highest possible priority in terms of our national security interests at stake. Having said that, we all recognize this is a very difficult, difficult set of problems. The administration, building on what we inherited, has made significant adjustments in our policy, which I can refer to in more detail later.
If I had to give a headline, I would say massive increase in our agriculture, continued focus on stopping the drug trade -- but within that, Mr. Chairman, we are downgrading our efforts to eradicate crops with spraying, a policy we think was totally ineffectual. But we're going to increase efforts on interdiction and going after the -- after the drug lords. So we're not downgrading narcotics; we're downgrading crop eradication and upgrading agriculture. We have to improve the police and we have to work on governance.
I would draw your attention to one last point, and that is the elections. Fifty-five days from today there will be an election in Afghanistan which will have a direct bearing on the future of American and international policy in Afghanistan. If it is -- it must be a fair, open and legitimate election. If it is not -- if it, for example, looks like something resembling what's happening next door to the west -- it would be -- it would undermine the legitimacy of our effort and the legitimacy of whichever candidate won.
So to underscore the most important point we can make on Afghanistan, we are not supporting any candidate. We are not opposing any candidate. But we are actively supporting a fair, free and open process.
To this end, for example, Ambassador Eikenberry, our extraordinary new ambassador on the ground in Afghanistan, who twice was the commander of U.S. forces and brings to his job both his past and his present positions -- to this end, Ambassador Eikenberry, last -- the last few days, participated in press conferences with three leading members of the opposition in which he made an opening statement saying how strongly we were committed to a fair process without endorsing the candidate he was attending the press conference of. He then made no further comments during the meeting. Each candidate presented their platforms. He's challenging every candidate to come up with platforms.
Some people said he was intervening in the -- and showing a preference. Our position -- and I'm happy to discuss this for the first time publicly today with you -- our position was very simple. We're not supporting a candidate, but because of the high investment that the international community's made in Afghanistan, we are supporting a process, and the -- and it must result in a legitimate outcome.
He and General Jones, our national security adviser, are in Kabul today. And they have been talking to various leaders.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, on our organizational structure, as you yourself mentioned, the president and the secretary of State directed me to create a special office in the State Department which is a true interagency office, what Secretary of Defense Bob Gates after visiting us two days ago called "a genuine whole-of-government effort." General Gregson is one of the people who feeds into our effort through a new meeting which we are holding -- we held one yesterday; we'll hold one again tomorrow -- in which all the agencies send their own representatives. But inside our office, we have representatives of the CIA, AID, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Department of Agriculture, the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI and the Office of the Secretary of Defense person who used to work with General Gregson.
This remarkable interagency effort feeds directly into the National Security Council, and it is -- the documents I gave you, which I would prefer not be made public, outline the details of the result.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for holding this very important hearing. I look forward to answering your questions.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you. And I want to just say I believe everybody has read the written statement, which was even more extensive than your opening remarks. And we appreciate the time that went into that as well.
GEN. GREGSON: (Off mike.) All right. Let me try that again.
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am here today on behalf of undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Ms. Michele Flournoy, who is currently on travel to Beijing and Tokyo. She expressed her regret that she could not be here, but the written testimony that she submitted prior to last week's scheduled hearing remains the statement of record. I've come prepared with a short opening statement as well.
I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, for this opportunity to speak to you at this moment of opportunity. The issue today could not be a more apt subject, the interagency efforts of the administration to design and implement a whole-of-government strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. This unprecedented task relies much on the insight and guidance of Congress. Our assistance to the people and governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan is at a crucial juncture, and our ability to operate smoothly as a cohesive and agile team will, with your help, play as large a role in determining the outcome of the fight as anything else.
And with that, let me stop. I'll submit the rest for the record, and we can get on with your questions.
REP. TIERNEY: You weren't kidding when you said it was a brief opening remark. Thank you.
We'll go to the question period now on that, if I could.
And Ambassador, I just want to start off by asking you -- in reviewing your testimony, you made mention of the fact that you would support the expanding of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction -- we know it as SIGAR -- the mandate and responsibilities. Would you also support the expansion of those responsibilities to monitor our aid programs in Pakistan?
AMB. HOLBROOKE: Yes, I would, Mr. Chairman. In fact, my next meeting after this hearing will be with Major General Fields, the head of SIGAR.
We are very impressed with what the Congress established a year or two ago in creating SIGAR, but we noted two things. Its mandate is limited only to one of the two countries which -- and yet we all agree they're equally important. Secondly, we recognize, respect and support its total independence from the executive branch. They will follow your guidance, not ours. But both in -- but in Afghanistan, interest has been expressed by Afghans themselves to the possibility of SIGAR helping them in their anticorruption drive. And they can speak for themselves, but they think they need approval from your body or the body -- overseeing bodies to do this.
I will leave to you the discussion with General Fields as to whether his mandate needs to be expanded on the corruption issue in Afghanistan. But on Pakistan, there's no question. The legislation is restricted to Afghanistan.
I'm speaking for myself. Even within the executive branch, there's some disagreement on this. But since you asked and I'm under oath, I'll tell you what I believe, that the answer to your question is an unambiguous yes.
REP. TIERNEY: Well, I appreciate that, because some of us on this committee have been thinking along the same line and we have a meeting set up with General Fields to talk about what the potential for that is; also, you know, whether or not he's going to need more personnel to do that and whether or not he needs more legislative capacity as well.
Let me ask you another question. In the president's speech --
AMB. HOLBROOKE: Just -- may I just interject? Excuse me, Mr. Chairman.
REP. TIERNEY: Sure.
AMB. HOLBROOKE: General Fields has said that if he's given the additional mandate, he'll need additional resources. But I leave that up to you.
REP. TIERNEY: Okay. Well, that's good. That's good.
In the president's speech, when he announced this whole new interagency strategy -- I'm going to give a quote from it. He said, "We will set clear metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable. We'll consistently assess our efforts to train Afghan security forces and our progress in combating insurgents. We will measure the growth of Afghanistan's economy and its illicit narcotics production. And we'll review whether or not we're using the right tools and tactics to make progress towards accomplishing our goals."
It's been three months since he made that statement. Have you developed any metrics? And if so, how are we going to assess the United States' performance moving forward?
AMB. HOLBROOKE: The answer to your question is yes.
Let me explain, first of all, that because of the enormous combination of responsibilities our small office has, the metrics issue has been handled by other divisions of State, the intelligence community and the National Security Council. A -- metrics have been developed. They have been -- there's been extensive consultation with the Congress on this. And we're working them out at all levels. Some will classified; others will be public. Of course, you will have access to both the public and the -- and the classified.
REP. TIERNEY: When do you think they'll be released, at least the public versions?
AMB. HOLBROOKE: You know, I can't give you a date certain, Mr. Chairman, because the mandate on that rests -- the leadership on that rests directly with the National Security Council. Let me just ask -- do we have a date on that yet? (No audible response.) I do not have a date. Can I answer you in a -- in a written message this afternoon?
REP. TIERNEY: Sure. That would be fine. Thank you.
AMB. HOLBROOKE: It's -- the reason I can't give you a specific date is simply that the tasker went elsewhere and there was some initial -- it's a very complicated issue.
And let me just say one thing, having been through several guerrilla wars. We must differentiate between input and output. We can tell you how much money we're spending, how much -- how much food we're giving into the World Food Program, our support international organizations, but how do you measure results on the ground? We -- if you were to ask me how we're doing in Swat, I could tell you what the Pakistan army has done, but I can't tell you how much damage has been done to the Taliban. And until you know that, you don't know if you're succeeding.
And having started my career in Vietnam, I saw a confusion between input and output, most famously on the body count issue, which was a dangerous, misleading statistic, but there were many others. And I'm very pleased to see that General Petraeus is moving away from -- there were some articles about this, and we're moving away from it.
So I want to be careful that when we talk to you about benchmarks, we give you meaningful measurements of progress, not simply telling you how we're organized and how we spent the money. And that -- and that sorting out is what we're doing now.
REP. TIERNEY: Well, that'll be appreciated. Thank you.
Mr. Issa, you're recognized for five minutes.
REP. ISSA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ambassador, you know, I know a hundred or so days isn't very long. But the good news, as I said in my opening comments, is you never -- you never gave up your passion to look at all of these regions, so.
The previous administration had a bias toward using military assistance to do what had historically in some cases been State Department work. How do you intend to -- if you intend to -- not just in this region, if you don't mind, but perhaps looking more at the whole administration -- how do you intend to balance how much is military delivering nation-building versus either directly or hand-in- hand with State Department your folks overseeing that? And, you know, you mentioned General Petraeus. We all have a great deal of confidence. But who's going to have the lead and how will it be different than the previous administration?
AMB. HOLBROOKE: The -- that's a very important question. And, as you know, books have been written on this.
From my point of view, the analysis -- to begin by analyzing the problem, you can't separate the civilian and the military aspects of a war in which terrain is not the issue; it's control of the population, either their support or their passive acceptance of coercive force, which is what happened in Swat.
The Afghan people are overwhelmingly against the Taliban. The IRI poll that came out the other day had additional evidence of that. But their regard for the government of Afghanistan has been declining. And what we need to do now is restructure our policies to improve the capacity of the Afghan government and its security forces. If we don't do that, Congressman, we'll never find -- we'll never be able to carry out the exit strategy. Now, I want to stress, when I use those loaded words, that I didn't say "exit timetable," because this is a tough war. But the long-term way for the United States to -- and its allies to draw down its forces, as President Obama has said, is to build up Afghan capacity in both areas.
Now, your question went to the issue of the -- of how the military and the civilians integrate. And previously the --
REP. ISSA: Well, I think you partially answered it by -- today the Afghans are not the best way to deliver support for the Afghan people. And that's your goal, which, of course, begs the question of -- the outcome of the election does matter, if it makes a difference as to how that is accomplished. My question really was, are they going to see the lead in some way changing a little bit more toward this is the U.S. government versus this is the U.S. military delivering this aid?
AMB. HOLBROOKE: Well, first of all, I want to start with a statistic we discovered when we took office. Only 10 percent of American civilian assistance was going through the government. And yet the rhetoric was "strengthen the government," and we were undermining it without even realizing it.
So when I talked earlier when you went out to vote about the agriculture program, we're going to -- the Afghans used to be agriculture exporters. Now they're -- they know how to farm in that rocky and high altitude soil. But they need help in rebuilding. The military -- and here's a perfect example of your issue.
The United States military gives out free seed as part of its CERP programs. We're all in favor of that. We think it's great, because it helps farmers get back on their feet. But it doesn't build a long-term capacity. So under the new plans and under the direction of the president and the secretary of State, in our office we have USDA, AID, Pentagon all together. In fact, this morning we briefed some of your colleagues on this very program. And we are working out a new, integrated approach to agriculture so that -- and we -- and General Nicholson, as some of you know, our commander of all the surge troops in Kandahar and RC-South has been working with our AID and Ag people. We're going to bring in 60 new agricultural people. Tom Vilsack is involved personally, and he will be going out there next month.
REP. ISSA: Ambassador, if I can tie into -- as my time's expiring -- the last part is, how is that going to bring greater accountability and transparency for us to see those dollars? Because, as you said, a lot of those dollars were not only around the government but they were fairly opaque to this committee.
AMB. HOLBROOKE: Well, they were opaque to us, and we're spending a lot of time trying to find out where they go. And by the way, we have even greater trouble knowing what other countries are doing. So sometimes there's international redundancy and sometimes there are great gaps.
When you were out the room, I quoted back to your committee your own phrase, that you're dedicated to making sure U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used wisely. That is our highest goal. That's why we talked about SIGAR a moment ago.
In regard to your issue, we are -- we are focused on accountability. There are hundreds of AID, DOD and other contracts which we have suspended, put holds on and refused to pass forward because we were dissatisfied with the -- with the rationale behind them. The president and the secretary of State have instructed us -- and DOD is working with us on this -- to reduce the number of contracts. Now, sometimes -- building a road, easy. But why, for example, were we subcontracting $30 million for women's programs to NGOs instead of using it directly under the ambassador?
So when that contract came to me for approval -- and Secretary Clinton has asked me to do that -- I stopped the contract and we turned the money over to the embassy and we now have an ambassadorial fund for women's programs.
That way we think we'll have more accountability; we're going to work with SIGAR as often and as freely as possible. I could give you many other examples; this is a work in progress. But I cannot underscore how strongly we believe in your goal and how closely we're working with our colleagues in the Pentagon, AID, USDA, FBI and elsewhere.
REP. ISSA: Thank you. And in writing, to the extent that your staff can, I'd appreciate seeing some of the other examples. This is very helpful.
REP. TIERNEY: Mr. Welch, you're recognized for five minutes.
REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): Thank you, Ambassador and thank you, General. You all have probably one of the hardest, if not the hardest jobs in government and we really appreciate your service.
I have -- you know, the fundamental question, which is a tough one, is what's the right strategy to deal with a very difficult problem. And obviously the weight of our strategy is based on a military engagement in Afghanistan and support in Pakistan. And I think the Obama administration is rightly focused on trying to help with capacity building as well. But I have skepticism about the capacity of our -- the capacity to execute on that strategy. There are some critics who suggest that the better approach is essentially containment as opposed to transformation, nation building.
And there are two examples that stick out in my mind that demonstrate how tough it is for our tremendous military and our tremendous diplomats. One is when we were -- Mr. Tierney in Afghanistan we talked to some folks from the chamber of commerce whose job was to try to encourage investments in Afghanistan. And their biggest problem was exemplified in an example of the fact that a trucker coming from the Iranian border into Kabul got stopped on average 27 times and shaken down by, quote, "authorities." And if you wanted to get a driver's license in Kabul you had to get 21 different people to sign off.
And then secondly, one of our wonderful State Department people, ambassador, that we met in Kabul had a job outside of the embassy to monitor and implement a program of de-mining, obviously incredibly important to folks there. And I asked her how many times she'd been out in the 10 months that she'd been on assignment, and she'd only been off that base once because of the security concerns. So it raises just very serious questions in my mind about the fundamental tenet that A, you can have the military take on this new mission that historically has never been what we've asked of our military, namely nation building and capacity building.
And two, to have the civilian capacity building occur when the shooting is going on means the security needs are so great that they can't do their job. And many critics who prefer containment to this nation building would suggest that when you're going to do this capacity building with NGOs or State Department people it has to be done either before or after the shooting but not in the middle of it.
So -- and sorry for such a long intro on this, but it really raises -- it's the core of my apprehension about the strategy, and I'd ask each of you to comment on that. If we were going to do containment as opposed to this military engagement, what would we do and what gives us confidence that we can achieve this goal -- that never in the history of the country has it been achieved by the military for building nations.
I'll start with you, General.
GEN. GREGSON: Thank you for the question. I think containment -- just to set a premise and then I'll return to it later -- containment would be exceedingly difficult. We've seen the forces of globalization around the world make that virtually impossible to executive now with any effect. The military role in the counterinsurgency in a large respect is protection of the population, and there are times when we have to do the protection ourselves but we want to transition that as quickly as possible to a properly-organized security sector, meaning in this case the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police, the border police and other similar institutions.
And with that, though, has to immediately or concurrently come development. We have to bring the instruments of good governance to places that haven't had good governance where you have to provide more government services to the villagers, to the farmers than the Taliban provide, while we're simultaneously eliminating the Taliban.
The nation building thing has, in the past, sometimes devolved to the military while we're building civilian capacity to do that, but it's not an either/or. Both of these have to be done together. In the past the phrase used to be, "We fight the nation's wars," that was wrong on a couple counts. The nation fights the nation's wars, not the military. But the goal of any conflict or any engagement of the military is profoundly political and that, in a counterinsurgency situation, means protecting the population and ensuring the delivery of good government services.
One example of how this fits together, it used to be much more difficult to train soldiers and police because there was no viable banking sector in Afghanistan. The individual soldiers had to take their pay and personally walk it home to their family which could be miles away. So you were losing your forces for two weeks. Thanks to a lot of great civilian efforts we now have a much more viable banking sector which, in turn, increases the effectiveness of the forces we're trying to train.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you, General. Thank you, Mr. Welch.
Mr. Chaffetz, you're recognized -- Mr. Flake, you're recognized for five minutes.
REP. JEFF FLAKE (R-AZ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ambassador Holbrooke, do we have a status of forces agreement that includes State Department officials and whatnot, or is it just with our uniformed personnel?
MR. HOLBROOKE: There is no status of force agreement.
REP. FLAKE: What -- is that something that needs to be remedied? Or is that something we're just going to deal with?
MR. HOLBROOKE: It -- having negotiated these things before, I think we're better off right now being in Afghanistan under the U.N. mandate than under the -- which was all embracing. It's the most far reaching U.N. mandate in the history of the U.N. because it stems directly from the events of 9/11. And it included not only the Security Council, but the whole general assembly. So sooner or later, of course. But negotiating a SOFA is really tricky. And when the Afghan government feels it's necessary, of course we'll do it. But right now I would leave it what it is.
REP. FLAKE: We're okay under the U.N. umbrella then? Okay. You mentioned that the support for the Afghan government seems to be declining. To what do you attribute that mostly? Is it the perception of corruption or is it just inability to deliver services or security? What is at the root of that?
MR. HOLBROOKE: Let me stress, Congressman, that I was quoting an IRI poll. I don't have a view on that, I just noted it. Secondly, according to the same poll, corruption and a disability in delivering services left many people feeling their country was not as well off as it was in 2004 when everything looked much rosier. On the other hand, nobody wants to go back to what is called the Black Years. And so while reporting to you accurately, I don't want to leave you with a sense of such despair.
And Mr. Chairman, if I could add one word about Mr. Welch's question on the wall of security that doesn't allow Americans to get out in the field. This is a huge problem, and I have met people in Kabul who never left the embassy compound for a year except to get on the airplane and take their vacations. What are they doing there? And particularly someone in the demining area, as Congressman Welch referred to. Ambassador Eikenberry and his team are loosening the boundaries of that, they're removing the curfews. They're forcing people to go out because we have a huge civilian buildup underway and if the people just come into compounds, we're wasting time, money and so on.
REP. FLAKE: Just kind of going off on that, some of us have been in country and have visited some of the provincial reconstruction teams, the PRTs. And having spoken to a number of them, there seems to be -- and it seems that you're correcting some of the lack of coordination on this side.
I'm just wondering if that filters down to the PRTs because I can tell you, over the last several years, there's not been coordination there. One seems not to know what the other is doing.
AMB. HOLBROOKE: We completely --
REP. FLAKE: There's no sharing of best practices. You have nutrition programs here. You have something completely different going on in another place.
What are we doing on the ground? I understand what's being done here to coordinate, but is that filtering all the way down?
AMB. HOLBROOKE: Congressman Flake, our efforts are only as good as they are at the province and district level, and I began my career as a province representative in the Mekong Delta. So -- we're living with the military and working with them. So I believe in that.
We are turning to political advisors, to so-called POLADs, into active operational people. We're abolishing the POLADs system. By the way, we also abolished the defense attache office in the embassy. We're moving 18 military positions from the embassy which frees them up for useful service. And we are going to put a senior civilian in each province and at the regional commands to work with the military commanders.
Now, we've got this straightened out already on the U.S. side. General Petraeus and I have a framework agreement. Ambassador Eikenberry and General McChrystal and their teams are drilling down to the operational level, as we speak.
But we have not yet got everyone out in the field, and the other problem we have is that it only applies so far to areas where there are U.S. forces and U.S. PRTs.
I'll be going to Italy tomorrow to meet with my international counterparts. There are about 25 countries now that have appointed counterparts to me from Britain to Tokyo, from the United Arab Emirates to Sweden, and we're all meeting, and we're trying to get other countries to follow the model.
I'm not trying to subordinate civilians to the military, going back to Congressman Issa's question. But this is a war, and the lead has to be taken by the military. The civilian part of it, however, is integral to success because it's about strengthening the government's capacity to take care of its own problems.
And if I were to list the problems -- you started with corruption -- I would say the top three issues, in no particle order, are governance, corruption, and the quality of the security services. Narcotics is a big issue, but it's not the reason we're having difficulties.
And finally and above all other issues, the sanctuary in Pakistan -- if that isn't fixed, success will be virtually unachievable.
REP. FLAKE: Thank you.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you.
Mr. Quigley, you're recognized for five minutes.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon, gentlemen.
Shifting the focus myself on Pakistan and our relationship with the leadership in Pakistan, we read of the drone attacks and cross- border attacks that have taken place in the past. I guess I want to couple that thought in your evaluation of how that's affecting the good that we're trying to do.
With the interviews I saw with the Pakistani leader and other discussions, I guess I was questioning whether they seem to have a firm grasp of the reality of their situation, their strengths, their weaknesses, and what they might have to do to solve these issues.
AMB. HOLBROOKE: They do have a firm grasp of the severity of the situation, but they may have gotten there a little more slowly than you and other Americans might have liked. But having just been out there on my third trip in four months -- and I'll be going back again in a couple of weeks -- I am quite convinced that the three most powerful elements in Pakistan political life all share a common enemy, a common problem, and are coming together.
Those three elements, of course, are President Zadari and his PPP party; Nawaz Sharif and his brother, chief minister of the Punjab, and their party; and the Pakistani army. And all three are united, and public opinion in Pakistan has begun to coalesce around common opposition.
But this goes back to our earlier colloquy with Congressman Issa and Chairman Tierney about -- and the witnesses you had when we weren't here, all of whom, as I read their testimony, emphasized the point I want to underscore, too. When the refugees go back, they have to have security, and if they don't and if we have a replay of the Taliban coming down out of the hills, it will be a catastrophic setback.
One of your witnesses, the foreign minister of information, Sherry Rehman, made that point in very dramatic terms, and I won't share all of her rhetoric, but I certainly share her view.
So my answer to your question is there is a common understanding, but is there enough resources? I don't think so.
REP. QUIGLEY: Let me --
AMB. HOLBROOKE: I'm very, very pleased that your body passed the Howard Berman-led legislation. In fact, that gave $1.5 billion of authorization a year for the next five fiscal years and supported the ROZ legislation put forward by Congressman Van Hollen. That was terrific legislation. It got huge headlines, Mr. Chairman, in Pakistan, and if the Senate follows suit, that would be the kind of support we must, in my view, give Pakistan.
REP. QUIGLEY: Let me interject with that the -- and perhaps you can educate me on where their thoughts are now -- Pakistan's desire to build their nuclear arsenal which would seem to be misplaced in time.
AMB. HOLBROOKE: Congressman, with great respect, let me follow our standard policy and offer you and your colleagues a classified executive session discussion on that. It would serve no national security interest whatsoever to discuss that issue in public, except to say that we understand your point of view and we are not ignoring it.
REP. QUIGLEY: I understand.
I guess, in closing, the first point I had made, if you could focus a little more on the reactions -- or the negative reaction perhaps to drone attacks or cross-border ventures and how that is playing out now in Pakistan.
AMB. HOLBROOKE: You're very good at asking the most sensitive questions today, Congressman. On the --
REP. QUIGLEY: That's what my wife says. (Laughter.)
AMB. HOLBROOKE: I --
REP. QUIGLEY: If you wish to reserve that for another session, that's fine.
AMB. HOLBROOKE: It would make our life easier if we discussed that also in closed session, but let me say that we are very mindful of the complexities of this issue, and let me just stress again that the people who have publicly said and repeatedly said they wish to stage another 9/11 reside to some large degree in that portion of Pakistan which is out of reach of American ground troops.
And if I can just acknowledge Congressman Van Hollen as he comes in, I was mentioning your legislation before you came in, and I just want to acknowledge again how extraordinarily valuable it is and how much I appreciate your leadership on that issue.
REP: TIERNEY: Thank you.
Mr. Souder from Indiana, you're recognized for five minutes.
REP. MARK SOUDER (R-IN): Thank you.
I have a -- first, I want to thank you for using Camp Atterbury. It's an amazing training camp for our Guard and regular military people heading over to Afghanistan because it has all sorts of buildings like a city. Some of the soil actually is similar to the soil over in that region, and I appreciate so many different branches of the government are now seeing that.
I have worked for many years with the heroin question, and I have some concerns about the current strategy. Before the Russian plane wreck, I was one of the only groups that ever got down into the Helmand Province, and I understand how it differs from Colombia, but there are a lot of similarities to Colombia.
It is not true that the heroin is mostly in individual compounds. There was heroin as far as the eye could see and that the former king, both in exile and after he came in, was repeatedly critical of our strategy of not eradicating because they were the bread basket of the world before heroin, and that going in and trying to do all the agricultural crops when you have the opportunity to get huge dollar returns off of heroin compared to traditional agricultural crops -- there has to be a disincentive to plant heroin in addition to an incentive to plant other crops.
And I'm wondering what the current status is of trying to employ both the stick and the carrot. It will not suffice to say, plant corn, when you can get incredible amounts more dollars than you can for corn.
A second part of this is there seems to be a presumption here -- let me ask you a serious question. The question is, what is al Qaeda funding itself with if they aren't getting some kind of money from the heroin crop, either in the form of providing protection and kickbacks, like the FARC does in Colombia or, in many cases, from what I understand, direct control of the poppy?
Third is that, are we trying to send a message to other countries around the world that we think poverty is the reason for terrorism? And if so, how do we not repeat what has happened in gang programs early in the United States? When the Bloods and the Crips first started up, we started job programs for the Bloods and the Crips. What we found was a number of kids who joined the gangs went up four times what it was because the only way to get after-school programs and so on was to join the Bloods and the Crips. And how do we not send a message, if it's all just kind of positive feeling stuff here, we're going to help you do agriculture, how do we not walk into this trap that other countries will start -- (inaudible) -- other countries will see it's the only way to get this amount of aid is to do this?
And I just don't see how -- we already have tribal conflicts that pale, Iraq pales to the tribal conflicts in Afghanistan. That's part of the reason we haven't been able to get most of the money to the government in Afghanistan is because we didn't feel many of those leaders were trusted. They were making all kinds of deals on their own. And then Pakistan, which was forced together out of India, laying tribes over tribes, is a tribal mess. And if you don't control the narcotics, how do you propose to get this all sorted out?
GEN. GREGSON: Narcotics are certainly a major if not the only source of funding for the Taliban and al Qaeda. And we are determined to eliminate or at least greatly decrease the amount of illegal activities on that in Afghanistan and other places. Eradication by itself hurts the farmers. The people who are making money off of the drug trade are not the subsistence farmers. They are the middle men and the other people.
So the other piece that has to be put in here if we're going to eliminate the growing of the poppies, at least for the heroin and opium, is sufficient security so that we can introduce alternative crops, so that the individual farmers can make more money from the alternative crops than they're making from the poppies, and that there is enough infrastructure, roads and other things to get the legitimate crops to market and build the capacity that way.
Your analogy about the Bloods and Crips is very interesting. This is all about the legitimate government providing proper and better and more efficient services to the population than other groups who will come in and fill the place of the legitimate government. In many ways with the narcotics trade, we have the wrong people providing the services and coercing the people involved.
And Ambassador, you wanted to talk some finances?
MR. HOLBROOKE: I want to clarify what General Gregson just said because it's very critical. A lot has been written about the relationship between drugs and the enemy. And there's a lot of confusion about that. And the intelligence community is not in full agreement.
My own view -- and I met with CIA analysts yesterday. We're meeting with a woman who just wrote a book about it, tomorrow. Open source is as follows. The drug traffic is the source of the local Taliban funding in Afghanistan to a considerable degree, but not exclusively. There's also massive extortion. So the people in Kandahar fuel the Taliban through the drugs.
But as General Gregson said, spraying the crops just penalizes the farmer, and they crops somewhere else. And our hundreds and hundreds and millions of dollars we've spent on crop eradication has not had any damage to the Taliban. On the contrary, it's helped them recruit.
In my experience in U.S. government foreign aid, and I began my career with AID in the 1960s, this is the least-effective program ever.
REP. SOUDER: Do you feel that way in Colombia? Sir, do you believe that's true in Colombia where they finally have --
MR. HOLBROOKE: No, I --
REP. SOUDER: What would be the difference between Colombia and --
MR. HOLBROOKE: I have no views on Colombia, Congressman. I've never served there or worked on the problem. But I want to go to al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan, because there, according to our best sources, the primary source of money is money flowing in from supporters of jihad, based in the international community of people who support them. Much of it seems to come from the Gulf, but not the governments involved.
I have now made three trips to the Gulf where the Treasury Department, the intelligence community, the FBI, State are all working. We created a task force to address this issue. A lot of this has to be in closed session. But I have no hesitation saying in public that we are intensely concerned about this much greater flow of money.
As far as the drug trade goes, the major beneficiaries are corrupt officials and the people in on the take in the police system. So although there is some going to the Taliban, al Qaeda doesn't get its money from drugs. They get its money from the international support for jihad. And this has to be a worldwide effort.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Souder.
We're pleased to have joining us the chairman of the full committee, Mr. Ed Towns of New York, who is busy on the floor with other matters on that.
Mr. Chairman, we want to thank you for convening this meeting, your leadership on this issue. And if you're prepared, we'd like to give you an opportunity to make a statement and ask whatever questions you might have for the witnesses.
REP. EDOLPHUS TOWNS (D-NY): Thank you very much. Let me ask that my statement be placed in the record.
REP. TIERNEY: Without objection, so ordered.
REP. TOWNS: And let me also apologize for the votes that are going on. I know we scheduled this before, and we had a vote problem. And today, we sort of have a vote problem. But we're going to work through it, we're going to work through it some kind of way.
Let me begin by saying we now plan to significantly ramp up, in terms of the military and civilian aid programs for Afghanistan and Pakistan, we plan to do that. Yet aid in both countries has proven extraordinarily difficult to oversee. And we feel that it is ripe for waste, fraud and abuse. What steps have you taken or will take to ensure greater transparency and accountability for the USAID programs?
MR. HOLBROOKE: Mr. Chairman, it's good to see you. And if I can be shameless for a minute, I want to introduce the mother and future mother-in-law of two of your own constituents, my stepson and his future fiance -- (name inaudible) -- is here today. I know that's shameless, but I couldn't resist. (Laughter.)
In terms of greater accountability, we've already talked about SIGAR. And I will be meeting again with General Arnold Fields this afternoon. Chairman Tierney asked if we wished to extend SIGAR to Pakistan. He put me under oath, so I said, yes, I would, and extend its mandate in Afghanistan.
Secondly, we are cutting back on contracts. And above all, we have this integrated civilian military effort which General Gregson and I just signed together in body. We are well-mindful of our mandate not to waste taxpayer money. A lot has been wasted already. And we're going to do everything we can.
And I would offer this committee which, as I mentioned earlier, I've never testified before, we would offer you total involvement in our efforts. You can help us do what is our common goal. And I really mean that sincerely.
REP. TOWNS: Thank you very much. And on that note, I yield back.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Bilbray has probably gone to vote. So Mr. Coffman, you're recognized for five minutes.
REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R-CO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you both for your service to our country. I myself served in Iraq at a time, with the United States Marine Corps, where things were not going very well. And it wasn't until later on, when there was enough security on the ground during the surge, that provided enough security that allowed the political process to move forward and allowed the kind of capacity building to occur to create a government with more stability, that is allowing us at this time to do a phased withdrawal from the country.
When I look at the metrics between Iraq and Afghanistan, it looks to me that this administration is making the same mistakes that George W. Bush made in Iraq.
That we are incrementally putting in resources that we know are not adequate. And because of that, we will unnecessarily cost the lives of young Americans in this war.
Afghanistan has a larger land mass than Iraq, more difficult terrain, Afghanistan has a large population than Iraq, dispersed in rural areas unlike Iraq. Afghanistan has no real history of governance that Iraq has. Iraq today has 610 members to its Iraqi security forces, 610,000. Afghanistan is projecting I think under 250,000 I know they're re-examining that. Iraq in the serge had 160,000 U.S. military personnel on the ground. We are going to source up to I think something like 68,000 to include advisors and trainers.
This administration needs to be honest with the American people, upfront as to what this cost of reversing the situation in Afghanistan is going to take.
GEN. GREGSON: Thank you. Afghanistan and Iraq are indeed different no doubt about it. We take your point about resources that may or may not be adequate. We are going through another assessment. General McChrystal has been ordered by the Secretary of Defense to conduct an assessment within the first 60 days of all manner of things in Afghanistan to include what will be needed to reverse the adverse trends and to provide adequate security and to get on with the development that we need to get on with there.
In the meantime the interagency process led by Ambassador Holbrooke we're making an assessment across the region particularly Afghanistan and Pakistan and we expect to consult closely with the Congress on these metrics as we go forward. We need not only a whole of government meaning a whole of the administration solution. We need a whole of government whole of nation solution from our part to make sure Afghanistan comes out the way we want it to.
REP. COFFMAN: Well thank you. I understand -- and I was in Afghanistan recently in discussions with General McKiernan and the ambassador as well as the general who was in charge of training Afghan security forces. And it's my understanding that that review is focused on Afghanistan security forces and is not focused on U.S. military personnel.
And I just want to urge to take the message back to the administration it needs to be focused on both and the American people need to know what the true cost of this war's going to be. And we're not going to go back to the George W. Bush days before the surge where we're just getting into the war and then figuring out based on our losses that oh, we need more resources and we stop and pause until we get it right. I think that's just unfair to the young men and women that are serving on the ground. And again I think that we need to do not what is convenient, but what is necessary to reverse the tide in the this war, if that is the intention of this administration.
GEN. GREGSON: Yes it is the intention of the administration. We spoke earlier -- Ambassador Holbrooke spoke earlier about making very sure that we are properly measuring outputs not just the easier measure of purely inputs. We're going to remain focused on outcomes, which is the proper way to measure what we're doing. And I think that's with the intent of your comments that we make sure that number one, we're honest with the American people; number two, we can explain what we intend to gain from the expenditure of resources both lives and treasury here.
REP. COFFMAN: Thank you General. To the Marines and soldiers on the ground, those inputs are important for the day-to-day survival and we certainly found that out in Iraq the hard way.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you Mr. Coffman and thank you for joining us today.
REP. COFFMAN: Thank you Mr. Chairman.
REP. TIERNEY: Our witnesses -- there are two votes for those members on the panel here. Both of them are procedural votes and they're going to be back-to-back. One is winding down and the other will immediately follow.
Ms. Watson, you're recognized for five minutes.
REP. DIANE WATSON (D-CA): Thank you Mr. Chairman. And I want to really thank you two gentlemen for being so patient while we play the games on the floor. These are procedural motions and they delay our serious work. What we're discussing is serious, so if members run out, it's just because they have to go down and vote.
I've got to defend my Crips and Bloods. You know -- (chuckles) -- we started in South Central and we sent them worldwide with what they do, but so many of these youngster have never been off of their own turf or to the Pacific Ocean. And the end result of the drug trade is really that that is coming over the southern borders. So I wanted to set that record straight.
Ambassador Holbrooke, I'm so glad that you are back in the mix now. We need you, and my question goes to what we have observed in Iraq and that is there was an attempt to build the largest embassy in the world. And at $1 trillion and I felt well the largest embassy in the world should be in India and China. And so we stopped the funding on that.
I understand only nine people in the embassy spoke Arabic. So my concern is the communications, the understanding of the culture, the language, and so on because I think that understanding who we are dealing with in Pakistan and Afghanistan would help us. It's not all a military war, it's a psychological war.
So I'd like you to comment, both of you. And General, thank you. And so I'm really going to address this to the ambassador because I was there myself and you really have to understand the people.
MR. HOLBROOKE: I love your question because you know I was a career foreign service officer. And I was sent to Vietnam and I studied Vietnamese for a year. Please don't ask me to prove it today. But I --
REP. WATSON: (Speaking Vietnamese.) (Laughter.)
MR. HOLBROOKE: Of course, we have to speak the languages. And I can't speak to the Iraq story, but I can speak very directly to our current efforts and the easiest way to do that is to introduce my staff assistant who's traveling with me to the Hill, Kim McClure -- Kim, could you stand a minute. Kim is a Dari speaker. She was in Ghazi Province. She doesn't know it yet but --
MR. HOLBROOKE: She doesn't know it yet but she's going to end up there again, maybe not in Ghazi. (Chuckles.) We have a lot of people like Kim in the foreign service who once President Obama articulated the priority of Afghanistan, once Hilary Clinton made the personal appeals, we found something quite interesting; 800 people signed up to be considered for this surge. I just gave the chairman an unclassified timeline on the surge.
The Pentagon, at Bob Gates' initiative, Secretary Gates' initiative, has given us an additional list of about 300 people. I brought with me today Joanne Arts(sp) who's in charge of that -- (off mike exchange) -- 305 additional names from the Pentagon. Joanne, who heads a special Afghan support office is working very, very hard on that. And with your permission Mr. Chairman, we would be delighted to submit an additional statement for the record on these issues because it doesn't matter how many people we send, if they don't know the territory, we're not going to succeed.
REP. TIERNEY: Without objection, so ordered.
REP. WATSON: Yeah. Mr. Chairman, we have been, just to inform, very interested in the diversity in the State Department. I'm so glad that you're picking that coldule (ph) up and moving with it because I think the more people who reflect those out there that you are relating to, I think the better understanding we have. And maybe we can put our guns down and, you know, negotiate through diplomacy. We're giving some new tools to our Secretary of State, and we can talk about that another time.
But I don't think we win, and the questions have been, you know, who are we fighting and what are we trying to win. And I think we're going to have to do it through negotiation and through diplomacy and not at the end of a gun.
General would you like to respond?
GEN. GREGSON: I would concur completely with that statement. The military has a role here but the most important role is that of the guardian. It's not how many enemy we attack, it's how well and how much of the population we can protect. And that's the operating philosophy, the operating guidance and a strong guidance from both the previous general in command there, General McKiernan, and certainly re-endorsed and restrengthened by General McChrystal who's now in charge.
I might add two additional points on the thrust of your comments. In addition to the people that Ambassador Holbrooke spoke about, we've collected over a thousand resumes of Department of Defense civilians and retired military who are volunteering to help, to fulfill any civilian capacity positions. We don't know how many we will need yet, but there is a strong well of patriotism within the country, and certainly within the government, to volunteer to serve in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The second point I might make, particularly on the language capability, and where Congress may be able to provide some help to us, we are a nation of immigrants. We have a tremendous latent language capability out there. And you often find people that are serving in government or other places. You have no idea they speak a language of value to us. There has to be a way to tap into that reservoir out there where we can get people who do bring native language-speaking capability in these many areas that are certainly of very high importance to us now.
MR. HOLBROOKE: There's one very good example of that, Mr. Chairman, which we have now implemented in the refugee camps in Pakistan. A member of our team, Shimala Choudrey (sp) from Ohio, family from the Punjab in Pakistan, has been mobilizing women doctors of Pakistani-American background. The first six are in the refugee camps now. It's obvious why you need women doctors in that culture. Another 25 or 30 have signed up. They would have gone except for the bombing of the Pearl Hotel.
This may seem like a small thing, sitting in this room today, but you get some women doctors into those camps, you're making a real difference. And Secretary Clinton is particularly focused, as you and I have talked about, on this question of the Pakistan-American diaspora, as is Congressman Van Hollen.
REP. TIERNEY: Well, as you know, last -- a week ago Tuesday's hearing, both Sherry Raymond (sp), who's a member of Parliament over there, and Dr. Ahmed (sp) were indicating that very thing about getting female doctors over in that region, particularly with all the disruption that's gone on. And I think I shared with you about 12,000 names -- (inaudible) -- Pakistani-heritage doctors in the United States. So we have a large reservoir of people, and the administration seems intent on trying to utilize those people the best they can.
MR. HOLBROOKE: Do we have that list yet? Because that would be very valuable.
REP. TIERNEY: I know we shared with people in your staff and ours, and we can work that out.
Mr. Chaffetz, you've been very patient. Thank you. You're recognized for five minutes.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT): Oh, no, thank you.
And thanks, Ambassador, and thank you, General, for being here. Thanks for your dedication to our country and your commitment to public service and the untold number of hours and heartache that you go through. We appreciate that.
I would like to talk about the nation-building aspect of what's happening. But before I get to that, Ambassador, I need to ask you just a brief set of questions about your involvement with the Countrywide loans that were given out, the so-called Friends of Angelo program.
Now, my understanding is that you were a private citizen when you participated in that. And personally, I don't see a challenge when you're involved as a private citizen engaged in those types of things. But would you agree with me that there's a difference between doing that as a private citizen and if you were engaged in government service?
REP. TIERNEY: Mr. Ambassador, I'm going to let you answer that; I suspect you want to respond to that. But I'd like to try to keep this on the subject matter of the hearing.
REP. CHAFFETZ: I'll stick to my five minutes.
REP. TIERNEY: We don't get many opportunities to have oversight hearings about this region and have the ambassador and the general here.
REP. CHAFFETZ: This shouldn't take long.
REP. TIERNEY: So I'm not going to rule it out of order if the ambassador wants to answer, but otherwise I will.
MR. HOLBROOKE: I'll do whatever you want, Mr. Chairman. I'll be happy to talk --
REP. TIERNEY: I'd just as soon have you respond off the record on that so we can keep this hearing focused on matters pertaining to this region.
REP. CHAFFETZ: To get through it very quickly -- believe me, I want to talk about what's going on --
REP. TIERNEY: Well, I think (we're through already ?) is what I'm basically saying. So if you want to move on to your next question, we're happy to (entertain it ?).
REP. CHAFFETZ: I'd appreciate it. If the ambassador has expressed a willingness to answer it, I'd like to --
MR. HOLBROOKE: I'm not going to comment on other people. And I was a private citizen. One-sixth of all the mortgage loans in the country were from that company. We looked around. It wasn't actually a loan for me. It was for my son. And I found a good rate. And I don't --
REP. CHAFFETZ: I guess the question I really want to ask is, if you were involved in public service, that would be an issue, right? This really shouldn't be an issue because you were a private citizen.
REP. TIERNEY: Mr. Chaffetz, if you can tie that in to somehow make it relevant to the hearing we're having, fine. Otherwise, I'm just going to rule that line of questioning out of order and ask you to move on to something pertinent to this hearing.
REP. CHAFFETZ: I'd like the ambassador to answer that question.
REP. TIERNEY: I know you would. But now I'm asking you to ask something that's pertinent to this hearing or we'll just move on to the next questioner.
REP. CHAFFETZ: I do think it is the relevancy and jurisdiction of this committee to ask a relevant question like that, and --
REP. : Mr. Chairman, it should be in a private conversation.
REP. TIERNEY: (Inaudible.)
REP. : Mr. Chairman, it should be in a private conversation.
REP. TIERNEY: Excuse me. We've had a ruling of the chair. Mr. Chaffetz can either challenge the chair ruling or move on.
REP. CHAFFETZ: I'll move on. I'll move on.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you.
REP. CHAFFETZ: I had a chance to go to Afghanistan. The question I have for you -- well, let me ask, just to finish off the chart, can I ask for unanimous consent to at least submit the documents that I have in my possession for the record?
REP. TIERNEY: We're going to withhold the reservation on that objection until we see the documents, and we'll make a ruling after that.
REP. CHAFFETZ: Thank you.
The nation-building aspect of what's happening, I mean, is that -- my concern is that the gravity and the propensity to be able to actually execute and achieve those goals in nation-building, so-called nation-building, when you have an education system where you have such an amazingly high illiteracy rate, how do we tackle that, not only in the short term, but the long term as well? That seems like such a daunting task when you have parts of that country, it's my understanding, that's as high as 90, maybe even 95 percent illiteracy rate. How do we address that?
MR. HOLBROOKE: We have a very strong education backing. The government, since the Taliban were thrown out, have educated -- have about 6 (million) or 7 million people in schools, including 3 million, 2 (million) or 3 million girls. Literacy rates are very low, but they're not as low as you said. I think your figures are wrong on that. And it is a very high priority.
But literacy, in and of itself, is not the underlying cause of the problem we face. It's an endemic problem and one that has to be addressed across the whole world.
REP. CHAFFETZ: General, did you want to answer?
GEN. GREGSON: Yeah, I'd like to comment that nation-building travels under many definitions, but the standard time-proven principles of a counterinsurgency campaign call for a whole-of- government effort, providing security for the people and providing the means of development, providing means for their life to get a little bit better day by day and to be able to see that rising standard of living and to bring good governance from the host nation to bear along with the host nation security forces.
Illiteracy -- literacy education is part of it. But a literacy rate measured by the way we do in the West, I would submit, does not necessarily indicate a lack of intelligence. The oral tradition in Afghanistan is very strong. And to make progress in Afghanistan, we have to operate within the cultural norms and expectations within Afghanistan while still bringing the good governance, the security and all those things there in providing better services to the population than our enemies.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you, General.
Thank you, Mr. Chaffetz.
REP. CHAFFETZ: Thank you.
REP. TIERNEY: Mr. Van Hollen, you're recognized for five minutes.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Gentlemen, thank you both for your testimony. I was very pleased to see that the president is finally allocating the resources, attention and energy necessary to address the national security challenges we face in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Just a quick word on Pakistan. Ambassador Holbrooke, thank you for all your efforts, including your efforts to pass the Reconstruction Opportunity Zone legislation. As you and the president have said, military force alone is not going to resolve the challenges here. We've got to have a comprehensive strategy. And certainly economic support, especially by way of free trade opportunities, is important.
So if you have any update on where they are in the Senate, I'd appreciate it. I know you've been in conversations with Senator Cantwell. But before you answer that, let me just say, with respect to Pakistan, I think enormous progress is being made in a short period of time.
The Pakistani government, the new government, and I think now the people of Pakistan, now see the challenge of the Pakistani Taliban as not just the U.S.'s war, the U.S.'s problem, but clearly a problem for the people of Pakistan. And that's brought about a sea change. And we need to make sure that we continue to work with the government to make sure they take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, make sure that out of this refugee crisis it's clear that the Pakistani government, with our help and support, is able to provide the resources so that doesn't turn into something that undermines our support in that area.
I want to briefly turn to Afghanistan. I think the -- I commend the administration on the changes with respect to the use of bombing. There's no doubt that if we're going to be successful in Afghanistan, we have to let the Afghan -- we have to win over the hearts and minds of the people. And I think our previous approach was counterproductive in that regard. So I'm pleased to see the changes there.
My question relates to the AID program, a question, because, as you've said, Ambassador Holbrooke, I think there have been serious shortcomings in the way AID has approached Afghanistan, and I'm very heartened by the changes that you've made.
One program that, by a lot of the testimony of (audit ?) people, seems to be successful at the local level is the National Solidarity Program. I'd be interested in your thoughts on that. There is a perception among some that AID is not a fan of the national security program and has not been interested in fully supporting that effort. I don't know if that perception is accurate or not. I'm interested in your take on that. But there's some concern that some of the proposals that are being made will undermine the efforts of the national security -- excuse me -- the National Solidarity Program. And I'm interested in your views on that.
MR. HOLBROOKE: Before I answer any portion of the question, could I let General Gregson address the bombing issue? Because it is far and away the most important issue.
GEN. GREGSON: I could not agree more on the potential for any use of close air support missions or any air support missions to be counterproductive. All the commanders and all the air crews are very carefully attuned to the necessity to prevent civilian casualties. We are saddened whenever any innocent civilian is killed.
We are continually adjusting our procedures, many times in response to discovered techniques that the enemy is using to place civilians between us and themselves; in other words, using them as a shield or intentionally trying to cause casualties -- a very serious matter. It has our full attention.
MR. HOLBROOKE: Congressman Van Hollen, once again, my appreciation to your leadership.
On the Senate ROZ side, I met this morning with three members of the Senate, two Republicans and Senator Cantwell; two of the Republican leadership. I talked to Senator Kerry and many other senators. But where it stands -- where it stood three hours ago and where it stands right now could be different. So I think I'd better just defer.
But let me make it clear, the president has spoken publicly about the value of this. When your body passed the legislation, it was a huge story in Pakistan and a favorable story. And we cannot thank you enough, and we hope it will become law.
On the refugee issue, let me just point out again that the refugees are in the ROZ area. And that is the critical issue.
On the bombing, let me add to what General Gregson just said, a personal comment, echoing what General McChrystal, Ambassador Ikenberry and I have all said publicly in the past. A war could be lost over this issue. If the war turns from a war against the Taliban into a war against the Pashtun people, we will lose. The Taliban propaganda is all designed to make that point.
We were successful in the '80s in turning the Soviet invasion into along those lines. We can't let that happen to us. That's why we're putting so much attention on what is called strategic communications -- a phrase I'm not comfortable with because it doesn't quite convey what we're talking about. We're talking about counter- propaganda. And the Taliban have been winning the propaganda struggle.
Finally, on the National Solidarity Program, I consider it the best program in the country. Twenty-two thousand villages have been covered by it; 7,000 have not. AID may or may not have been supportive in the past, but I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, they are 100 percent supportive now or they're not going to be working on our integrated issues.
There's 7,000 uncovered villages. I've talked to Bob Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, about increasing their support. Some of your colleagues have expressed support for it. And we want to do everything we can to get this program going because it's one of the few programs that gets all the way down to the bottom levels.
REP. VAN HOLLEN: Thank you -- (inaudible).
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you, Mr. Van Hollen.
If I might just interject something here, Mr. Ambassador. You talked about strategic communications as a critical component, whether that's the right term for it or not. You say you're going to need additional personnel instructors in Kabul and the Afghan provinces in Islamabad, Peshawar. It will be necessary to implement the new program. And you're working with the embassies in Kabul and Islamabad to address the needs. That's all in your written statement.
What additional resources do you anticipate that you will require?
MR. HOLBROOKE: The resources we need for so-called STRATCOM are in the supplemental. The ISAF and CENTCOM have put vast additional resources into this issue, and very importantly have brought a new two-star admiral, Admiral Smith, who was in charge of this issue in Iraq, out there as part of the headquarters team for General McChrystal. We have a team in my office working on the civ-mil integration. We are still lacking a civilian counterpart to Admiral Smith on the ground in Kabul. That's a very hard position to fill.
So on the resource front, I think we've got enough. And we talked earlier about counternarcotics. Some of that $45 million we're taking away from crop eradication will be used for public information. And when you counter the narcotics issue, you are also countering the Taliban propaganda.
So I don't feel there's a huge resource issue. What there is is an intellectual problem about the nature of the enemy. Their propaganda is all negative. We're terrorists. We defile their soil. The government's corrupt. You know the litany. And so we need a really sophisticated set of public information programs, and they cannot be in an American accent. They must be local people speaking to their tribal colleagues.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.
Ms. Norton, you're recognized for five minutes.
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D-DC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is an important hearing you've called. I very much appreciate it.
Ambassador Holbrooke, we have been hearing horrific reports about internally displaced persons in Pakistan. Initially it appears that the Pakistani army was reluctant, understandably, to engage in conflict with their own population on the ground with the difficulty of doing so, particularly when the Taliban is involved and exercising the kind of pressure that they have brought on the population.
Is this country doing anything to aid these people who apparently have been asked and have moved or run from where much of the fighting has taken place, so they're living catch as catch can, internally displaced in their own country? Have we provided any assistance of any kind? What of those -- and are there large numbers still left in the conflict zones in Pakistan?
MR. HOLBROOKE: I'm sorry. I didn't catch one phrase at the end of your question. What if there is what?
DEL. NORTON: Sorry?
MR. HOLBROOKE: I didn't catch one phrase. "What if there is" -- I didn't catch what you said after that. I'm sorry.
DEL. NORTON: My question goes to what is being done with the internally displaced -- for the internally displaced people or persons?
MR. HOLBROOKE: As soon as the crisis hit, the first leader in the world to get involved was President Obama. This was acknowledged in Ahmed Rashid's article in The Washington Post -- he's the most respected journalist in South Asia -- last week. President Obama personally got involved, and in effect became --
DEL. NORTON: With aid? In what way?
MR. HOLBROOKE: He effectively became the chief refugee officer of the United States. And we mobilized -- Secretary Clinton announced $110 million of aid immediately. That's already been disbursed. We then wrote a letter to the leadership asking for $200 million to be added to the supplemental at the last minute for this issue. That was done. We found other money. And our total right now is $380 million.
Now, that is -- I was sent out there by the president to visit the camps, as the chairman mentioned. The rest of the world has not responded in kind. Normally we give about a quarter to a third of international assistance in humanitarian crises. In this case, we're well over 50 percent, about 55 percent. That's not right. So the president sent me to the Gulf to talk to the Gulf states, and I went to four of them. He himself went to Saudi Arabia. We are asking for --
DEL. NORTON: Well, what about the Islamic relief organizations that we understand have been playing an important role? That is not the case?
MR. HOLBROOKE: I don't want to get into castigating other groups, but we honestly believe that other countries, including the ones you are referring to, have not done enough. And we are talking to them continually about this. Some, like the United Arab Emirates, just gave $30 million. Oman gave $12 million. But we think more can be done. After all, these are countries which are neighbors of Pakistan, with a lot -- with huge connections.
In addition, we have mentioned, prior to your arrival here, we have mobilized the Pakistani-American community. We're sending women, Pakistani-American doctors out there, for obvious reasons, in the camps.
There's been a -- we have -- the Swat -- if you take your cell phone and you text Swat -- S-w-a-t -- and then you send it to the number 20222, you will automatically contribute $5 to the UNHCR. I urge you all to do it. I've maxed out. Twenty-five dollars is the maximum.
And we're doing everything we can to support this effort. We're taking the leadership role. Secretary Clinton and the president are incredibly concerned. And we also have an economic advisory team headed by the White House's international economic expert, David Lipton, on their way out there to talk about the additional pressure this is putting on an economy which is in deep trouble and which had to take out an emergency IMF loan of $6.7 billion last year with a quarterly report due next week. And they're supposed to raise energy prices by 10 percent next week under the IMF agreement.
The whole rest of the country, 60 percent of the people in Pakistan, earn less than $2 a day -- the U.N. minimum level. We are deeply concerned at the overall strategic, political and humanitarian implications of this. There is no country in the world getting more attention right now from President Obama and the secretary of State and the rest of us on Pakistan on exactly these issues.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. --
GEN. GREGSON: If I might -- I'm sorry.
Very briefly: DOD responded in the immediate aftermath of the appearance of the people pushed out of their homes with aid, as requested. Admiral LeFever is our senior uniformed American in Islamabad. His counterpart is General Nadeem and those two operated together in the Pakistani earthquake in 2005 so they are joined at the hip in our response.
REP. TIERNEY: Mr. Bilbray, you're recognized for five minutes.
REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
After last summer, in talking with some people, it became obvious to me our biggest military problem in Afghanistan was totally ignored by the press and a lot of people in politics. And that is while we were concentrating on contracts in Iraq by for-profits, we totally ignored what appears to me as huge abuses of nonprofits that were getting funds to do the economic development -- that that's where the problem was, a lack of economic development, giving people that alternative.
Now, I'll say it frankly on both of you, with the successes we saw in Nangarhar with the reduction of poppies, and then to see the lack of response that we had in the province that had major -- I open you to comment about the major reduction we had in that province -- and the fact that we are looking at the U.S. Ag experts going in for one year and not knowing local culture, not knowing the local experience, not being able to really understand the application of their knowledge. Do you see some real changes we need to do in the way we handle that?
And I will open to your comments about the problem of what I believe was major problems of the application of the contracts with the nonprofits.
MR. HOLBROOKE: On the contracts we could not agree more. Prior to your arrival in the hearing we discussed how many contracts were holding up renegotiating and reexamining and I gave some examples.
In regard to the counternarcotics issue, we consider it of immense importance, but we do not think crop eradication has had any negative effect on the real enemy. In fact, it's only driven farmers into the hands of the Taliban. And so we're downgrading crop eradication and redistributing the resources that you've appropriated for that to interdiction, rule of law -- going after the big guys. And those involve people in the government.
These drugs are important, but not the primary source of funding, for the enemy. They get a lot more money out of the Gulf, according to our intelligence sources. And the al Qaeda doesn't get money at all from drugs. That goes to local Taliban in places like Kandahar and they can also get it from extortion.
But we recognize the importance of the drug issue. So what I'd like to do, if you're interested, Mr. Chairman, is at another date come up and brief you in detail and bring with us the entire panoply of people -- military and civilian -- working in counternarcotics, because I think it's such an important sub issue and we ought to do it as a coherent interagency whole.
But I appreciate your comments about contracts. We really are spending a lot of time sifting through a lot of debris which we found when we arrived.
REP. BILBRAY: Well, the application of that -- the lack of application of contracts where people were actually -- and I'm ranking member on procurement -- were actually showing photos of their groves they were planting and they were photos of other locations and we weren't keeping on that.
And the children were watching American troops destroy daddy's crop, but didn't see us planting it. And I just have to say again, it seems to me that the transition is how to slowly wean off -- and maybe through a series of phasing in economic alternatives and phasing out the lands that can be used. And we don't need to talk in details about how they're doing, but not an all or nothing thing, but a phasing in so that there's an economic alternative as the ability to grow the crops are slowly weaned out through proper application of technology.
Is that a fair approach?
GEN. GREGSON: Yes.
REP. BILBRAY: And is it doable?
GEN. GREGSON: Not only doable in the way that you described, but has to be done that way.
To repeat what we've said, eradication applied solely with spraying the crops or whatever else we're doing does nothing but hurt the subsistence farmer who's not getting a great profit from this stuff anyway and drive them, as the ambassador said, into the arms of the Taliban.
We can go to alternative crops. It's proven in other places in the world that were tremendously troubled with the growth of poppies and the opium trade -- particularly the Thailand part of the Golden Triangle is now growing designer coffee that sells for $3 a cup here in Washington and the farmers get the profits.
But the key is providing the security, and also providing the improvements to the infrastructure so the farmers can get their crops to market without paying 27 tolls between Kabul and Iran or wherever it is that we're going.
It's an all-up approach. It's also codified strongly in all the best practices of counterinsurgency. And with the new leadership under process here in Washington with Ambassador Holbrooke, we're hopeful that we can bring everybody into this to fix the problem.
MR. HOLBROOKE: Mr. Chairman, I was just handed a report. It's nothing we can do about it, but just so you know, the embassy in Kabul has just reported a large explosion on the airfield at the sight of the Jalalabad Provincial Reconstruction Team.
That's the province that the congressman was just talking about. I assume you know it well from your own trips. We, in initial reports, are unclear as to whether any Americans have been injured or not.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you for that. We'll obviously want to watch that.
MR. HOLBROOKE: It only reminds us, I think, in the most graphic possible way what dangers our civilian and military personnel face on a daily basis. And the fact that so many of them -- in both uniform and civilian clothes -- are volunteering to go out is to General Gregson and me -- it's the most inspiring part of what we're doing.
REP. TIERNEY: We often times on this committee during our hearings try to make mention of the risk not just the people in uniform take. A lot of the civilians that go over there -- often times with less security than we're all comfortable with -- they do it understanding the risks that they take, but it's no less notable and noble for them to do it. So let's hope that nobody was injured on that.
To my witnesses, you've been good enough to say that you'd stay till 1:00. We've got a few minutes left. We have three people that haven't asked questions yet. And I'm going to ask if they would ask their questions, try to keep it, you know, within a couple of minutes or whatever, so we can hold up our end of the promises to these witnesses.
I understand that the voting has kept everybody going back and forth, so I apologize. But if we can keep this reasonably close to 1:00 I hope we'll be satisfying everybody.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH): I thank the gentleman.
I too have a news report, Ambassador, from The New York Times. There's an airstrike believed to have been carried out by a United States drone. It killed at least 60 people at funeral for a Taliban fighter in southern Waziristan. Residents of the area and local news reports said details of the attack remain unclear. The death toll is exceptionally high. They're saying that if the reports are accurate, the strike would be deadliest since the United States began using aircraft to fire remotely guided missiles.
Now, Ambassador Holbrooke, drone attacks on Afghanistan and Pakistan seem to have caused the United States to lose ground as we attempt to stabilize the region. Inevitably, these attacks when they're massive, produce reports that innocent civilian deaths -- including the deaths of women and children -- result from drone attacks and that these attacks have been met with hostility by the citizens of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Now, I would just like to know: Do you think that these -- would you address the role that these drones used in Pakistan and Afghanistan by the -- play in the new interagency strategy with the Department of Defense? And also, when considering the use of the drones, what consideration has been given to the potential extremism among the population due to their use?
MR. HOLBROOKE: That's a very tough set of questions and you and I have different opinions of this.
But before I respond directly, I'd like General Gregson to make a substantive -- specific response to what you just said and then I'll come back.
REP. KUCINICH: Well, I'll redirect the question General Gregson. And I'd like to hear from Ambassador Holbrooke as well.
And I thank the chair.
GEN. GREGSON: I was made aware of that report shortly before we came into the hearing room. We take any reports of innocent casualties very seriously. We grieve for any innocent people that are killed or hurt in any of these actions.
You are correct that we have to very carefully balance the objective we're trying to achieve with these strikes with the creation of more disaffected people and the creation of more enemies.
I don't know the details on this single strike, but I can guarantee that it will be fully investigated and we'll insist on a full accounting of it.
REP. KUCINICH: Ambassador Holbrooke?
MR. HOLBROOKE: Congressman, as you and I have discussed privately, I really am really ready to talk about this in any level of detail required. But we have American troops' lives on the line here and we have a hugely important strategic relationship with Pakistan at a critical junction.
Prior to your arrival, we spend a great deal of time talking about the refugees, the economic crisis. And with great respect, I would rather continue the discussion offline.
REP. KUCINICH: I thank the chair. And I'd like to continue the discussion.
Thank you, Ambassador Holbrooke.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you, Mr. Kucinich.
REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D-OH): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General Gregson, can you provide now or for the record the number of civilian contractors by category working inside of Afghanistan, versus our regular military force? And if you had to guess today, are they equal in number and what about their responsibility?
GEN. GREGSON: Let me take that for the record if I could.
REP. KAPTUR: All right. I'm very interested in that and I will provide more detail for the question as well.
Let me state that what worries me about this whole Central Asian engagement is the revolving door in and out of government; multimillion-dollar contracts, (many an interest ?); endless wars sometimes justified by contractors drawing us and our people deeper and deeper into a region of the world that we have very little competence to quell.
It appears to me we are being drawn into the war inside Pakistan for Swat and FATA. And my question to both of you is: Should that war be ours?
GEN. GREGSON: Pakistan's challenge from the extremists is severe and we can't win in Afghanistan without Pakistan succeeding.
So to the extent that we can, we are helping Pakistan with its problem. We are -- Pakistan's a sovereign nation. They have a competent armed forces. We are not putting ground troops in there. We are providing help to help them build a counterinsurgency capability to include doctrine, equipment and training.
REP. KAPTUR: Could I ask Ambassador Holbrooke: Is Mr. Milton Bearden working in our efforts in any way associated with you or other parts of our government right now?
MR. HOLBROOKE: Milt Bearden?
REP. KAPTUR: Yes.
MR. HOLBROOKE: Milt Bearden was my station chief when I was ambassador in Germany.