Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Press Conference by Senator John Kerry (D-MA); Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN); General James Jones - The Release of Three Major Reports on Afghanistan

Location: Washington, DC

Press Conference by Senator John Kerry (D-MA); Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN); General James Jones - The Release of Three Major Reports on Afghanistan

Copyright ©2008 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at, please email Jack Graeme at or call 1-800-211-4020.

SEN. KERRY: Well, we're going to begin.

Thank you all for joining us here today. We're particularly grateful to the distinguished group of tremendous and serious public servants with backgrounds both military and diplomatic who will share thoughts -- important thoughts with us here this afternoon.

Before we proceed to make any comments, let me just welcome our senior colleague, the long-time chairman and sometimes ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner here, who is one of the strong hands on affairs that are both military and foreign affairs and we really welcome his expertise here and are glad for his interest.

It's a privilege to be here today with the ranking member of the committee. I have the privilege of chairing the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Coleman is the ranking member of the Near East and South Central Asian Affairs Subcommittee. It's our privilege today to be here to convene the release, if you will, or the introduction of three very important reports on Afghanistan.

I might -- I beg your apologies up front, because we have the Finance Committee markup starting at 2:30, and I will have to leave here before the conclusion of the proceedings and I apologize for that.

Senator Biden and Senator Hagel will be joining me on a codel going to Pakistan and Afghanistan in a few weeks -- both the purposes of the elections and civility issues in Pakistan; but also, as we all know -- (inaudible) -- happening in Afghanistan.

These reports -- the Afghanistan Study Group report is sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Presidency, it was co-chaired by General Jim Jones and Ambassador Tom Pickering; the Atlantic Council Report, which is also co-chaired by General Jones and represented here by Fred Kempe, who is the council's president and CEO; and then a third report written Dr. Harland Ohlman (sp).

One shouldn't have to remind anybody about what is at stake in Afghanistan but the very very purpose of being here today is to do exactly that and to underscore how critical it is. The very same al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are still there, not far from where we left them on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Our own National Intelligence Estimate says they are planning more attacks on our homeland. And just last week, Secretary Gates reminded us again that al Qaeda and the resurgent Taliban pose a threat not only in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but to Europe and the United States.

The bottom line is that the front line in the war on terrorism is where it always has been. Also at stake in Afghanistan is the viability of NATO itself. NATO faces a major test as it takes on its first mission -- (inaudible). Coordinating efforts among nearly 40 NATO and non-NATO allies, many of whom operate under different rules, is one of the key challenges that some of us have pointed out and that we face in the region. I am confident we're going to hearing more about that in these reports. I know we are.

Despite the heroic efforts of the coalition forces there, today we really risk repeating the same classic mistake that dooms many counterinsurgencies: A failure to appreciate the difference between tactical successes and a winning strategy. The same consequence -- all too familiar to those of us who lived through Vietnam -- is that you can win every battle, but fail to win the war. Absent a new focus and a transformed strategy, many of us fear that that is exactly what may be happening again in Afghanistan.

The first step, of course, is an honest assessment of where you stand, which is why I and several other senators this summer were calling for a nonpartisan Afghanistan study group, which is now deemed to be linked to these studies and these groups here today. I look forward to their assessments, their important assessments from people who really know what they're talking about. They will present a comprehensive and unbiased analysis of the situation.

Let me just share very, very quickly what I think: On the positive side, our general response to every significant combat engagement last year ended in a quote, "very decisive defeat of the Taliban." The Afghan national army is itself something of a success story. The Karzai government, despite its limited capacity and struggles with corruption, is making the good faith effort that democratic governments in a country whose agrarian economy, tribal affinities and war-torn history present daunting challenges. Most of all, the Afghan people have shown unmistakable signs of wanting a peaceful, moderate state. In the end, they're our most important ally and our most important asset, and any strategy needs to be framed around them also. Their patience is finite, but they still support our presence as we are here today.

Despite these positive signs, the bottom line is that under current force, we're actually losing ground in Afghanistan. Between 2001 and 2005, there were five suicide bombings in all of Afghanistan. There were 77 in the first six months of this past year alone. Reconstruction efforts have stalled and OXFAM is reporting, quote, "humanitarian conditions rarely seen outside sub-Saharan Africa." Opium cultivation has soared to 93 percent of the world's market. Meanwhile, the weak central government lacks the capacity to wage a nationwide counterinsurgency.

So faced with these realities, what do we need to do to get Afghanistan right, to understand before it's too late what the stakes are for our country and for the world? Last month at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, I argued in favor of a comprehensive strategy that focuses as much on good governance and reconstruction as it does on kinetic military operations. Victory and counterinsurgency is measured not just in the enemies killed, but also kilowatt hours of electricity delivered and the citizens' ability to get justice without paying bribes and allies won and enemies not made. We need to establish a way that also helps us with the war.

I look forward to hearing from today's experts, what their comprehensive sense of strategy would look like, as well as what military steps are necessary to make our crucial, nonmilitary efforts sustainable and successful. I leave it to our experts to share their insights about the way forward. But let me just say that I appreciate that the Afghanistan Study Groups call for a regional approach to address the extremist threat emanating from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, coupled with efforts to better integrate Pakistan's tribal areas into the political and economic life of Pakistan.

The Atlantic Council's report does well to recommend that NATO countries that aren't able to contribute more troops should be encouraged to pull their weight at least by redoubling civilian reconstruction aid. And although we may not all agree with all the prognoses and conclusions, this report makes an important contribution by showing how drug eradication efforts in Afghanistan has often worked to cross purposes to the larger strategic goals.

Perhaps most importantly, these three reports truly exemplify the kind of bipartisan consensus building that is necessary for state craft. And in order to be able to put together a sustainable foreign policy for our country, for an effort that no doubt is going to continue for years to come.

With that, it's my pleasure to turn it over the Senator Coleman to make his opening remarks. And when he's finished, Ambassador Abshire, president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency, will provide a brief overview of the reports and introduce the speakers. And then when they're finished, it will be open for questions, which Mr. Fred Kempe will moderate.

So again, thank you for being here today. Now we'll move to Senator Coleman. (Applause.)

SEN. COLEMAN: Let me start by thanking my colleague, Senator Kerry, for his leadership in organizing this press brief to introduce these three important reports.

It is important that we hold a conversation and -- (inaudible) -- ask you about Afghanistan. I'm pleased to be part of this.

I want to express my gratitude to the Center for the Study of the Presidency, the United Council and the National Defense University for organizing the executive study of policy on Afghanistan. There are wise men in Washington. One of them is my colleague, John Warner sitting in the audience. He said his gray hair -- and that's all of us now -- most of us -- has changed, but there are wise men and with a great deal of experience in these reports. Ambassador Abshire, who will follow me, (Inaudible) -- those involved here. There's some wisdom and it would be wise for us to reflect on it.

Obviously the discussion in the Middle East has been on Iraq and I've been part of that discussion. I've been to Iraq five times. We ought to stand with the -- in recognition of the consequences of failed policy for the region -- regional stability, global stability. The Iraqi Study Group provided a stark assessment of this reality in their study (unacceptable ?). And Afghanistan, where the war on terror originated, it remains a central front. I'm a former mayor. I understand about the importance of the need to multitask -- that oftentimes there are few priorities that are both important, so you've got to be able to chew gum and walk at the same time. We have a -- we had a responsibility to fully recognize the -- (inaudible) of the importance of success in Afghanistan, which it also means to understand what are the consequences of failure in this critical front on the war on terror.

I visited Afghanistan in '05. Shortly after the election, I was there with the majority leader at that time, Senator Frist. (Inaudible ) -- there were probably six of us, a bipartisan trip -- Senator Landrieu was there. I was moved by what I saw as the energy and the optimism in Kabul, particularly as it contrasted with the situation in Iraq. That was three years ago. We look now and we see where we're at today and we still face significant challenges. Senator Kerry talked about opium trade. At that time, I think it counted for 60 percent of the gross domestic product of Afghanistan. We're still in the same situation today. The government is struggling to exert control over significant portions of the Afghanistan territory. Recent events in Pakistan have further complicated efforts and are certainly another critical aspect of our strategy to build safe havens to insurgents that located along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

The bottom line is that we have challenges -- what these reports offer are a few things. First and foremost, the launch of a much- needed discussion about the importance of having a long-term, clear strategic vision for what we have to do in Pakistan. And then we have to make the commitment to that vision. It has to be done. We can't afford to fail. We -- this -- the reports talk about the military piece -- (inaudible) -- the ex-mayor in me. The reconstruction piece -- you can't just achieve success by military success and that whole other piece of it. I was just in Baghdad three weeks ago and walking the streets of a town called Ghazalia, I talked to the shopkeepers. I walked areas that I didn't walk before but my eyes saw the challenges of sewage and water and economic development, and kids on street and employment.

And those -- that takes a long time. And what these reports have done -- what these wise men and women have done is to pull together, I think, a very clear vision of what we must do. First and foremost, elevate the discussion about Afghanistan as a must-do. We must make the commitment, put the time and the energy and the focus on it. We must deal, obviously, with some of the military aspects but also deal with reconciliation -- national reconciliation. Deal with redevelopment and approach this in a very holistic manner.

So I appreciate the efforts. I appreciate the other senator, Mr. Kerry, and your efforts to kind of raise the level of -- (inaudible) -- bipartisan. It's not a partisan effort. We have to do Afghanistan right. We have to do it right -- (Inaudible.)

Listen, and after listening, we have to act and that's important. So I hope this is a beginning of more than just a conversation, but the beginning then of a clear call for action that has been enacted.

With that, it's a great pleasure to return the podium to the president and CEO of the Center for the Study of the Presidency, the honorable Ambassador David Abshire.

MR. ABSHIRE: Thank you. (Applause.)

Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for convening this and Senator Coleman. It's good to see John Warner here. A lot of wisdom. You know, one might wonder why is the Center for the Study of the Presidency in this issue. This is a presidential issue. We're working on the next presidency as well. We must succeed here, where it all started. The report -- we co-sponsored the Iraq Study Group -- and remember, that report went out in December of '06, Recommendation 18. It is critical for the United States to provide additional political, economic and military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved from Iraq. That was over a year ago.

And we're delighted to have the Atlantic Council join with us and -- in this effort, especially since Senator -- General Jim Jones co- chairs our report. He, with his many hats -- he chaired the Atlantic Council. And Ambassador Tom Pickering is our trustee, involved with both organization and the -- this coalition of forces along with the Defense University is excellent.

Good strategy-making, I learned at West Point -- I've got a couple of Annapolis graduates here -- they taught the same thing there -- relates to -- strategy relates to priorities as resources and it relates to upsetting the opponents' center of gravity. The center of gravity of all of this started with al Qaeda and with Taliban, and we've gotten our eye too much off that ball in terms of our finishing the job. Now this is something of special concern to me as NATO ambassador from '83 to '87 and the one part of this report -- of our report that I'm going to address and Ambassador Pickering is going to touch the other two key areas -- is the flagging efforts of the alliance.

You know, when Senator Warner -- because he and Senator Nunn were my partners on Capitol Hill in new initiatives that we put together on NATO during that period -- we turned things around and we've got to turn things around in NATO today. As you said, it's a test of the alliance in 19 -- you know, committee for present danger 1970 that you and Senator Nunn were a part of that -- turned around the country in the Congress -- the administration of defense spending as the -- we didn't build missiles. The Soviets built them and the public and the administration was awakened. We need a new awakening.

When I went to the alliance in '83, it was enlightening -- and this is why one of the recommendations that I particularly fostered in this exercise is to set up an eminent persons group of notable Europeans -- some Americans, but with Europeans in the lead to wake up Europe. This is comparable to the 1930s, this unwillingness to serve in harm's way. And it's going to take such a group. We recommend it and we, by the way, videoconferenced our mission to discuss this with them.

But ideally, this would be set up officially by the alliance, but that was going to take too long because of the urgency of the situation. We discussed this with our ambassador maybe to get it started on the outside of the Atlantic Council -- which got its feet in both sides. That would be one organization -- our original organization, CSIS and others could rally into this awakening effort, but it's urgent. We've got to get to the public's.

We did that. When I went to the Alliance -- and John, you remember this -- we had three countries that weren't going to counterdeploy against the Soviet blackmail on the SS-20 missiles. We turned that around. But, you know, we turned it around by total mobilization, something we've forgotten since the end of the Cold War. All of the missions were working on this -- outside organizations of journalists.

And I -- some of you were at the luncheon at CSIS on Saturday, where Secretary Gates made a wonderful talk on what Joe Nye calls "smart power." But I brought up this report, and this recommendation. He appeared to approve of that, but he also said -- and I mentioned this to the Senators here, that we've got to get the parliamentarians -- we've got to get the members of Congress organized in, I would call it, some kind of caucus to take that word.

We did it in 1984 and '85, as Wellington said at the Battle of Waterloo, -- (inaudible). The Alliance operates on consensus, but we did it through multiple approaches, and coming in from different directions. And that's what we've -- we've got to do again. That broke the Soviet blackmail attack and prepared the way for the Reagan meeting in Geneva and in Reykjavik, the turning of the tide, the I.N.F. first genuine disarmament at the end of the Cold War.

Something comparable has got to happen Now, I turn to my good friend, Harlan Ullman, who is an outstanding strategist and writer. Harlan, if you'll take the podium.

MR. ULLMAN: Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. ULLMAN: Senator Kerry, Senator Coleman, thank you very much for this forum. This is very important.

The way I got involved in this was I had the pleasure and the privilege and the honor of serving on General Jones' advisory board when he was with NATO, and the European commander for four years. And I have to admit that General Jones came to be something of a Dr. Frankenstein, and I became the creation of his monster when it came to Afghanistan.

At the end of 2006, I made a trip as part of his delegation to Afghanistan. It was absolutely clear, as somebody who had been in war and in war zones, that while NATO and the coalition was never going to lose on the military side, the military force --(inaudible). And it was really the civil sector here that needed great repair.

Now we managed to convince the administration -- a number of people, that Iraq required force structure and an atmosphere of -- (inaudible) -- the same thing with Afghanistan. In 2007, I was fortunate to assemble, under the auspices of the National Defense University, a team of experts to take a look at this issue. Two of them are here, Ed -- (inaudible) -- and Frank -- (inaudible). Frank is the guy who built the road from Kabul to Kandahar. We also enlisted in that group a former deputy secretary of Agriculture, an Army colonel who had been Cadet David Petraeus' counterinsurgent instructor at West Point years ago. From that we developed what we called Project (Plan-- ?).

Now there are a whole host of things that go before this project. As you will hear shortly, we need an assessment; we need a comprehensive plan; we need a high commissioner -- it is a tragedy that Lord Ashdown was not able to take that job; and we need follow- up. But we also need specific programs that we can get started.

Now part of the problem as you appreciate, is that Afghanistan is a very complex place. And so we -- (inaudible) -- (37 ?) countries, any number of NGOs. But because of the organizational side of the department, and there were all sorts of other problems, not the least of which is that NATO, as a consensus organization, we have had very difficult times getting this plan started.

Our plan has six parts -- and I will not bore you with each, but as somebody who knows as little about farming, so much that we don't even have grass at our home in Northwest Washington, my colleague instructed me, farming is all about, it's about producing, about processing, about marketing, about -- (background noise) -- and that's what these six plan -- (get around ?).

We need immediately to put in place some kind of processing plant in Kabul at the airport, freeze-dried so that all these goods can be shipped around the world. We need to restore and rebuild a lot of the agricultural ability of Afghanistan, from orchards to regular plants. We need to work very much on the irrigation side. Some of you may not realize, but before 1979, Afghanistan had one of the most advanced irrigation systems in the world. And what the Soviets didn't destroy, the Taliban did. We need to develop in job creation of the urban and rural areas, sanitation and water development.

And we need to come up with a marketing plan so that we can link Afghan farmers with their neighbors in Pakistan, India, the Gulf, in Europe and the United States. All these things can be done. And, finally we need an IT, an information technology strategy to pull this all together. We propose we can do this on a pilot plan for about $30 million, and we can start tomorrow. The problem with Washington, as you know, nothing is more difficult than getting a new idea to government, and trying to -- (inaudible) -- divested of an old one.

Let me conclude, it is my view that unless we really change our policies -- and you will hear some recommendations but how we have to do this in terms of organization and approach -- a year or two, or three years from now we'll be sitting in the same room and you will be asking the future members of Congress and future administrations, why did things go wrong in Afghanistan? We cannot allow that to happen. Thank you very much.


MR. PICKERING: I'm Tom Pickering. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, very much for welcoming us here. And thank you, Senator Coleman, for your introduction and support.

I want to do these very briefly, and I will try to do them very concisely. I'm going to talk about a few of the findings of the Afghanistan Study Group, and then talk to you very briefly about a few of the key recommendations.

There's no question in our mind -- and we were accompanied in this report by 15 experts -- that Afghanistan is at a critical crossroads -- security has declined; insufficient economic aid and poor coordination has meant the picking up the pieces, reconstruction is in trouble. As you've heard already, there is lack of a clear and consistent strategy.

The border area of Pakistan is ungoverned on the Pakistani side and adds to security vulnerability. The U.N. failure to be able to appoint Paddy Ashdown as high commissioner to pull together the entire civilian side of this effort is, again another, as I would call it, "nail in the coffin," another serious tragedy in this effort to pull things together.

General Jones will talk about NATO, and as Ambassador Abshire has said, it needs to be pulled closer together. Narcotics traffic is growing apace, you heard from Senator Kerry on that subject; governance is weak and fractured and corrupt; life expectancy is short; infant mortality is high; access to clean water and health services is severely limited.

There are some positive indicators: economic growth is taking place, but against a small base, 3.7 percent last year. There's low inflation; a stable currency; there's significant foreign exchange revenues. But can Afghanistan be totaled --in our view is poised for a slide. And our hope and support are critical if this is going to be turned around.

What to do about it? David Abshire has mentioned the value and, indeed, the necessity of an eminent persons group putting together a strategy. We also believe that one other overarching recommendation ought to be -- (inaudible) -- decoupled up here, and in the minds of the Executive Branch, and I hope in the minds, through that, of the American people and our European allies, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has -- (inaudible) -- for too long. Under the shadow of Iraq, it has its own strategic importance. If things go bad there, the region's affected. Beyond the region, Europe and the United States will be affected. A new homeland for the Taliban is the last thing in the world we want to see.

Secondly, we need to find a way to pull together our American effort. We've suggested the appointment of, again, an American czar -- a special envoy, perhaps, to Afghanistan, to bring policy together and to consolidate the work. What else needs to be done? Very briefly -- because we have a long series of interconnected and coherently, as a whole, recommendations. But we need better ways to integrate Afghan and U.S. military planning and operations. We need to find a way to build the NATO strength both in quantity and quality. We need a new regional plan to target risks coming out of that sensitive and difficult Pakistan border area.

Pakistan ought to, as Senator Kerry said, incorporate the -- (inaudible) -- border area into the work of their entire company -- country. We need better work on governance and the rule of law, a new strategy to increase the reach and the capacity and the legitimacy in the eyes of its own people of the Afghan government.

The galloping narcotics problem has to be dealt with through a range of core tools: eradication, interdiction and economic development among them.

Economic development in this, the second-poorest country of the world, has to proceed as it hasn't before, with greater commitments and greater coordination. And we need to look at the regional aspects of this problem, as we have said, to help bring Afghanistan and Pakistan together. They have been loyal and in order up until now.

It will take a lot of effort, a lot of trying times for American and European diplomacy, but it needs to be done -- better training, more work together, more funding. Those are some of the keys that we have found that are necessary to move this process ahead.

And now it's my great pleasure to turn this podium over to General Jones, my co-chairman of the Afghan Study Group report. (Applause.)

GEN. JONES: Thank you, Ambassador.

Senator Kerry, Senator Coleman, ladies and gentlemen, it's a great pleasure to be here. Senator Warner, thank you for taking the time from your busy day to be with us as well.

I had the honor of being the former commander of NATO. It was one of the few times in my career when I was actually there at the beginning of a problem. And I wasn't there long enough to see it through to the end, but I'm passionate about Afghanistan.

I'd like to start off by just making a couple of observations, just to jog our memories. Afghanistan has all of the international -- (inaudible) -- that any nation could ever want -- several Security Council resolutions. In Kabul today, you'll find U.N. representation. You will find NATO representation, European Union representation, the World Bank, the IMF and the G-8 and many other NGOs that are all working, and working hard, to try to bring about a successful resolution to the problem we face in Afghanistan.

So it's not a question of legitimacy and it's not a question of effort. It's a question of -- in my view, a question of focus. In the roughly three-and-a-half years that I was in NATO and we went from no presence of NATO in Afghanistan to actually taking over Afghanistan from the standpoint of stability, security and reconstruction -- melding of the ISAF mission and the NATO mission with Operation Enduring Freedom, creating a command structure that enabled that to happen.

In the fall of 2006, in an operation called Medusa in the southern part of Afghanistan, where we introduced 8,000 to 9,000 NATO troops and the Taliban decided to take on the alliance conventionally dealt that effort a stunning tactical defeat that they did not recover from and could launch a credible -- the much-publicized spring offensive in 2007.

So why are we concerned about Afghanistan today? We're concerned because we don't see the forward progress that needs to be done. I don't believe that -- I think that we should support commanders' request for additional commitment and additional forces. But in the main, this is not going to be a military solution. This is going to be a solution -- the solution to Afghanistan is going to bring greater focus and greater emphasis and greater urgency on a more comprehensive solution to this country's problems.

And I'd like to commend our government, the United States and NATO, for agreeing recently to conduct an assessment, an urgent assessment, of where we are so that we can be gaining some momentum that appears to have been lost.

The solution is going to have to be comprehensive. We do endorse, I think, one of the things that the studies -- although they were conducted independently, you will find greater convergence on the idea of a central figure of authority, whether it's a high commissioner, a special representative of the U.N., someone who can bring greater organization and strategic focus and accountability to the efforts in Afghanistan.

The other thing that's changed, I think, since the last few years is that we have to look at Afghanistan as a regional problem. It's not just enough to focus on -- (inaudible) -- country. It is a regional problem. Regional problems require regional participation with other member states, perhaps in order to develop regional solutions.

So I would simply say that Ambassador Pickering has talked about the Afghanistan Study Group. I'll just summarize very briefly the four or five main points that you'll find in -- (background noise).

The first point is that, from my standpoint, narcotrafficking in Afghanistan is probably the sine qua non of the problem. It corrupts the society. It criminalizes the society. It provides the incentive, the economic incentive, for weapons purchases to come back and kill our soldiers. And it defies, so far, any strategic solution that we've seen to -- that we've seen.

There is a lead nation for this problem, but the rest of the international community does not come together behind this lead nation, the United Kingdom, in order to bring about a comprehensive plan to solve narcotics. There's no single solution to the narcotics problem. It's not a question of either eradication or buying the crop. It's a comprehensive solution that touches on -- (inaudible) -- study and it touches on a wide range of things pertaining to construction. But narcotics is -- (inaudible) -- in my view is eating Afghanistan from the inside out.

Secondly, judicial reform in Afghanistan is badly lagging. You cannot bring about a successful campaign against the narcotics traffickers if you cannot have a judicial system that can prosecute and put these people in places where they belong. And this has not been done, and it needs to be done.

And, again, there's an organization agreed to by the G-8 for this. Again, the international community has not brought the focus, in my view, to make this happen in a way that causes Afghans to believe that they have a stable judicial system and that the same criminals that terrorize them one day won't go through the system and be released and terrorizing them upon -- (inaudible) -- returned safely to the community.

Third, I think there's an urgent requirement for a third piece in order to conduct massive reform in Afghanistan is the adequacy of the police in the countryside, with the right equipment, with the right training, in sufficient numbers, is absolutely essential if you're going to arrest the criminals, arrest the insurgents, prosecute them and put them away. Now, those three are absolutely pivotal.

The fourth one, from my standpoint, is obviously the recognition of Pakistan as part of this problem. The whole region has to be addressed. And this makes it a regional problem as was mentioned earlier.

Lastly, I would say that I was profoundly disappointed that -- (inaudible). And I think we need to find another candidate as soon as possible, because this is the only way that I think we're going to get the international community together to put their resources together, to put their people together and focus on the many things that we're doing that are quite good, and some of them are extremely good -- (inaudible). But if we don't do the four or five things that are highlighted in this study, I think we'll be sitting here next year or the year after talking about the same thing.

I have very, very high hopes that we can meet the aspirations of the people of Afghanistan. They turned out heroically in numbers to -- (inaudible) -- their president and their parliament. They deserve to see better results for their belief in the message of democracy and hope for the future so that they can have more education, more freedom and more opportunity for themselves and their children in the years ahead.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. KEMPE: Thank you very much. Thank you, Senators. And thank you to the speakers.

I'm going to moderate a Q&A, but as a -- (inaudible) -- journalist, now as president of -- (inaudible) -- I'm going to ask the first question of the two senators -- (inaudible) -- turn to you.

It seems like the consensus of the reports and of your opening statements is we need a course correction regarding Afghanistan. I wonder if the senators, especially since You're a bit short of time, Senator Kerry, if you could outline what you think that means on the Hill, what that means on the administration. What would be the most important part of this course change?

SEN. KERRY: Well, in keeping with Ambassador Abshire's comments at the beginning about the presidential center, this is presidential leadership which (we have in front of us ?). This is presidential decision-making that has to take place, and really, the energies and efforts of the secretary of State and secretary of Defense that have to enlisted in order to achieve the perameters of change that were laid out here today.

I think that what we can do and what we will do, I know, within the Foreign Relations Committee and the Armed Services Committee and -- (inaudible) -- Committee, I'm confident Senator Warner will join us and others as we try to find a bipartisan consensus here on the Hill and do everything in our power to push and energize the administration on this issue.

It is no secret that there has been a -- I mean, Iraq has really diverted the attention of the administration. And, in fact, our predicament of Afghanis today is that point of view and that particular diversion. So we had to find a way to reverse it, and part of the purpose of today is to really underscore -- (inaudible).

I couldn't help, as I sat there listening to the distinguished you know, general, the ambassadors, the former -- the secretary of State, all pushing in this direction, I kept -- what kept (jogging ?) through my head is this larger question. Okay, can you just muddle along? And if you do, does that invite failure, which I think they're warning us today. And if the stakes are as high as these observers and others are saying, where does that put us, in the long haul, with respect to legitimate efforts to de-fang al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden? That's a big question, folks.

And, you know, we found ourselves in a quandary. We have found ourselves in these quandaries in other places when we've made a decision to have troops, whether it was Somalia or Beirut or Vietnam. And then push came to shove, and there was a shift because the strategy did not -- (inaudible). The commitment did not -- (inaudible) -- completely -- (inaudible).

Here, we're trying to point out that the consequences of failure in Afghanistan are -- (inaudible). A Taliban base, adn al Qaeda being rejuvenated even further, and more capable of moving at will through the region, the message to jihadists anywhere and everywhere that they may attempt a further recruitment, the status with respect to the Middle East and further peace settlement there -- Lebanon, Syria, Iran. Big stakes.

And either, as Ambassador Abshire said, you either wait for your chance to show the understanding of the downstream impact here, or you've go to make a choice as to what kind of treasure you're going to expound and what kind of -- (inaudible) -- you're going to make that is less than what it will take to get the job done. I don't think any of us are here to see this job not done properly.

So I'll do everything in my power. I'm sure Norm will and others will, to get the administration to focus on -- this can't wait for the next administration, folks. This has got to start now -- yesterday. And it can be done while the Afghan people are with us and support it and desire it with us and still believing we can make a difference. But if that begins to be lost on a wholesale basis, then this problem is even compounded far more than the tribalism and other sectarian issues that exist in that region.

SEN. COLMAN: I agree, perhaps taking a little different perspective than comes from -- taking a different than -- and reach the came conclusion. I don't see -- John obviously sees Iraq as a diversion from Afghanistan. I think you've got to do Iraq right. And in fact, that's -- in doing it right -- one of the things I've heard -- (inaudible) -- a couple of weeks ago, where I focused on opportunity for Muslim nations -- (inaudible) -- al Qaeda -- the Sunnis have done in Anbar and we've seen this throughout the country. It's phenomenal that -- (inaudible) -- the battle is pushed to other places.

And the bottom line is we've got to do Iraq right; we've got to do Afghanistan right. And, you know, we're a great nation with great resources and great leadership and we have the responsibility. We can't afford to bail out, either. Perhaps even as we speak, some transformations of the military are starting to -- (inaudible) -- raises the ante in Afghanistan. And so there are at least three or four more things to do. And the reports, by the way, addressed this -- and we'll have to come back to that. I don't agree with everything in the reports, but there are three things that are clear.

The first, first and foremost, again -- (inaudible) -- in a sense it's about -- (inaudible) -- about needing to deal with Afghanistan in the shadow of Iraq, but they both have to be addressed. And Afghanistan can't be a subset or a subpart of something that's pushed along. It needs to be done right.

We see in Iraq the -- the final recognition, and we are hearing in reports the importance of more troops, U.S. international. We tried to do it light in Iraq; it didn't work. And so we -- in Afghanistan. We see in Iraq less -- the lessons the Iraqi police, which still have been -- (inaudible) -- in terms of Iraqi security, they're calling it -- (inaudible) -- a significant commitment to the international police. They're undertrained, they're underfunded, and we can't wait for the next presidency to -- John for this. This is -- again, it is now.

The importance of a regional -- and this is -- (inaudible) -- input -- a regional plan. We've go to deal with the safe havens. We've got to deal with the challenges in the border regions of the north and south Waziristan. And so the regional approach.

So I think -- (inaudible) -- Iraq and Afghanistan both have to -- (inaudible) -- Afghanistan -- (inaudible). So (the review of ?) what we do on the troop side, the police side, the regional approach, I think those are all things that can't wait for the next presidency. I think the time is now, and that's why I'm joining in this is -- (inaudible) -- a little bit in perspective. This is -- (inaudible) -- coming to -- (inaudible) -- in the end, come to the same conclusions.

SEN. KERRY: Just as I leave to go to the Finance Committee, and I know the press wants to ask questions of me and others of the -- (inaudible). Let me -- (inaudible) -- about one thing.

The diversion I talked about is not the outcome for Iraq. We are all unified by the notion that there are also states there, and you just have differences in how you achieve it. The diversions -- the diversion with respect to the original decision with the depletion of forces and the focus for a war of choice in a place that we have to go from a place that have to be, and then to where you've decided to be. That's the diversion as I would put it, not that the outcome in Iraq would -- (inaudible) -- a diversion.

Because clearly we all want success. We want the sacrifice of our troops honored. We want our strategic interests in the region protected. There are just differences of opinion, honestly, to how we achieve that.

Thank you, thank you all.

MR. KEMPE: Well, thank you -- (applause.) Identify yourself and to whom you'd like to address the question.

Q (Off mike) -- report underlining the fear that Afghanistan is -- (inaudible) -- How are you -- (inaudible)? The general talked about a regional solution to a regional problem. Here, are you talking about -- (inaudible) -- boundaries that you want to bring inside -- (inaudible) -- Iran?

MR. KEMPE: So how far from -- (inaudible) -- General Jones, and what do we mean by that. And what countries in a regional solution -- (inaudible) -- or might affect --

GEN. JONES: Well, I think it's very difficult to say just how far along it is. I think I would probably say that it's a -- that it's reached a moment in time when I think it was common understanding that we had to do something else. We can't afford to be backsliding.

Thankfully, I don't think Afghanistan is, in and of itself -- a military problem. But we -- we need some reorganization or -- (inaudible) -- of focus, particularly on the international line. We need to have a better accounting of how our money is spent and where it's going, and we need to encourage the sovereign government to do things that it can do to institute reforms such as stamping out corruption and providing a better judicial system.

I come back to the four or five points that I mentioned. I think if we don't do that, then we will start -- if we don't focus on those five critical points, we will start a process of backsliding. You can already see it in the public opinion polls of many of the countries who were supporting Afghanistan and just don't see an end to this.

With regard to the region, there are already discussions going on with other countries in the region. There are some that all the countries participate in, some that some countries participate in. But it's been my experience that in the region there are other countries bordering Afghanistan that care very much about what's going on in Afghanistan.

Just to cite one example: The drug problem and the drug trade and trafficking goes through several countries and all of them are alarmed at the growing magnitude of this problem. And I think that that's a regional issue and regional actors ought to be encouraged to participate to try to resolve this with better protection along the borders, interdiction at routes. And these are -- you know when the poppies are being cultivated. You know when they're being packaged up. You know that they're going to be shipped. There are regional solutions to these problems. You don't see it on the horizon right now. So I hope we can do some of those things to get better traction against the things that we have to do.

Q (Off mike) -- could you be a little bit more specifically on how you want -- (inaudible) -- and in particular -- (laughter). And also, they have talking about the problem of coordinating the various efforts with -- (inaudible) -- how should the -- (inaudible).

MR. KEMPE: I think yours mentioned the Europeans. I think your -- the Atlantic Council report has a closer PRT. Is that right?

MR. PICKERING: You know, I'm going to take another page out of our best practices in the mid-80s. Something I mentioned to the secretary-general when he first came in was that institutional memories fade. But in the redeployment of the -- and deployment of missiles -- these countries -- you had three countries with large peace factions in the government. And there was formed an off-the- record group -- Rick Berg (sp) as the assistant secretary of State chaired it. It was called Specialty -- (inaudible) -- Group. And they would meet at my embassy. I would be there, greet them and I'd go out of the room. And they talked off the record about their countries, their politics. They had their problems, as we have our problems, and to see how we could get a -- work towards a coincidence of interest, not to make -- basking in the public.

And we don't have anything. We don't have a mechanism like that today. And I think that's key. And may I put in one more thing, this is -- as Senator Warner knows, I'm very focused on how Washington organized itself. And we put this -- the -- (inaudible) -- and truly bizarre in Washington on this. And as you need -- that was the recommendation of the Iraq study group and it was six months later that they did that.

Now, I -- when we form the Iraq study group, we've never met. Two things impacted me. Senator Warner held hearings and talked about these departments -- Agriculture and others, NIH -- not in the act. We weren't mobilized in Washington to be successful in Baghdad. And the second thing, I took that -- set up -- to meet with David Walker of the GAO and got shocked even -- how you know, how could you expect to be successful in Baghdad -- (inaudible). And by the way, I'm sure my friends in the State Department don't agree with this conclusion, but by having separate advocates, you reach out -- because they've got different needs -- and see how you get better organized to meet these needs and not have the enormous demands -- and we've got a brilliant innovative commander, General Petraeus, very able ambassador. They attract a lot of attention. But how you deal with this other priority and getting Washington, as well as the NATO alliance organized to be successful -- that's known as the first principal of strategy: unity of effort. You don't follow it, you don't win.

Q General Jones, a question of how the PRTs are organized better to work more together and whether you have any comments on -- (inaudible)?

GEN. JONES: Well, I think the PRTs are extremely important. And unfortunately, they're still very important, because the central government has not been able to enact the second part of the concept, which is to replace the PRTs. And so the PRTs really -- particularly in the outlying regions in Afghanistan -- are very, very important to maintain that -- the plan of hope that people have for a future that's more is coming. Unfortunately, more is further and further off. The PRTs are extremely important.

I think that there's a wide discrepancy between what PRTs can do -- different abilities, different national commitments, available support and what have you. So that sends sometimes a false picture in the countryside, because they go to one PRT and they do an awful lot. They go to another PRT and they don't do much. So we were trying to advocate that there ought to be at last a minimum standard for all PRTs.

The security at the PRTs was very important. But I think in the main, the idea of the PRTs and the way they've been done has been extremely important. And unfortunately, they remain very important today because -- (inaudible) -- on stability and visible security in the countryside.

I'll say one more thing about the importance of -- (inaudible). In those areas, in those provinces of Afghanistan where we've had a good governor, good police chief and a good military presence, things turn around very, very quickly. If you have leaders that are not corrupt and who want to do the right thing provide leadership and are out there working with the people, people react to that. If they see the reverse and they see corruption and they see nepotism and they see drug traffickers running all over the place and doing whatever it is they want -- then they lose hope.

And this resurgence of the Taliban is, I think, a phenomenon of that, that the pact that we made with them for them to vote for these presidential and parliamentary elections a few years ago is still an unfulfilled promise. And that's going to have to be better.

Q General Jones -- Gordon Hill (sp) with Christian Science Monitor.

When you were in Europe and putting NATO back together again in -- (inaudible). If Afghanistan issue is a reflection of NATO's ability to keep it together -- (inaudible) -- if so, how do you put it back together again? And is it possible to do it -- (inaudible)?

GEN. JONES: I don't think NATO is corrupt. I do think that -- I agree with the secretary-general who encouraged -- (inaudible) -- for NATO. The senator explained -- (inaudible) -- on both sides of the Atlantic. Because I think that NATO could make a huge contribution to our -- (inaudible) -- and stability in this 21st century. But it needs to divest itself a little bit of some of the anchors of the 20th century.

To me, the new NATO needs to be doing this type of thing. It needs to be more proactive. It can't be a reactive organization. I think the -- (inaudible) -- of 2002 was very transformational and very clear in the vision that our national leaders have for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It's a little bit interesting to note that in the years since Prague, NATO is now present in Kosovo, in the Mediterranean on an Article V mission -- counterterrorism. It has a small role in Darfur. It has a training mission of some significance and contribution in Iraq.

And that's the Afghan mission.

So this shows political will. Unfortunately, the accompanying will to resource more has not been accompanied by the political will to do more. So there is a train wreck out there -- (inaudible) -- is going to deal with.

At the -- (inaudible) -- as the secretary of Defense pointed out the other day, there was an agreement that 2 percent of gross domestic product would be the floor of national security contribution by each member nation. Unfortunately, the floor has become a ceiling, and the average in NATO, I think, is about 1.76 percent of GDP, with only six countries out of 26 nations being over the 2 percent level.

So clearly the strategic concept and how NATO does its business -- and has demonstrated political will to do more, which I think is encouraging -- has to be matched by public support which shows a greater understanding of why NATO's most important contribution is still in its future, and that's a good thing.

Thank you.

Q (Inaudible.) General, can NATO win in Afghanistan -- (inaudible) -- Pakistan? And does somebody the U.S. and Pakistan have to do something about those safe havens to ensure the ultimate long- term security threat -- (inaudible)?

GEN. JONES: Well, yes. I think NATO can certainly do its part to help Afghanistan turn the right direction. NATO is not the only entity there. We have, as I have described, the U.N. We have the European Union. We have the World Bank. We've got the G-8 mission. We have NGOs. We have all kinds of capabilities. It's just a question of bringing those capabilities into focus.

And the five areas that I talked about touch on those. That's one of the ones is the border area in Pakistan. And if you'll read the report, you'll see that we talked about the regional -- that it's a regional problem and it needs regional solutions and more focus.

So, yes, I think it can turn in the right direction. I think this is why we're here today talking about the urgency of it. But with that -- (inaudible) -- the decision not to seek -- (inaudible) -- because we need somebody like him, somebody who did such a great job in Bosnia, really looking after the international interests and keeping the momentum going in security and stability, reconstruction and political reform in such a way that we now have relatively good progress in Bosnia. We need to do the same thing in Afghanistan, and we need to do that quickly. I don't think the status quo is what any of us here are advocating.

Q Can I follow up to that? There was some talk earlier this week and last week about the U.S. making plans, and if they are invited by the Pakistanis, to send U.S. troops in, either as trainers or something further, maybe combat or something like that.

If you were still in your former role as NATO chief, what would your recommendation be about the idea of sending U.S. troops into Pakistan -- (inaudible) -- in any way under the current situation?

GEN. JONES: You know, that's an area for government to decide. It's not for me to speculate on. I think we've framed the problem. I think it's a problem with many solutions to it. But I wouldn't want to go too far as far as speculating on what the government ought to do or not do. I think it's enough for us to table it and suggest that this is something that has to have a solution, and we encourage people to get on it.

Q Ken Carter (sp) -- Bloomberg News.

My question is also about Europe and the European allies. To what extent do you think their reluctance to make a greater contribution in Afghanistan is a result of their specific antipathy toward the present American administration and the war in Iraq? To what extent is it the result of deeper and more long-term trends that may persist past this current administration?

MR. KEMPE: Sounds like an ambassadorial question. (Laughter.)

MR. PICKERING: Look, it's a pregnant political question. I don't think any of us know the answer to that. We won't know the answer till history writes the book. I'm convinced that after doing a lot of traveling around the world, despite what we've seen -- and a lot of it is hard because of Iraq, of course; let's be honest about it -- there is still a longing for American leadership. There isn't anybody else out there. And people are looking for what I would call an orderly process of enlightened, wise leadership.

So we have an opportunity. And some of it obviously attaches to the administration and to Iraq. But I don't know that that is a permanent question. I don't believe it. Up until a year ago, I felt we were in too deep a hole and couldn't dig our way out. Now I'm not convinced. And that's a personal view. I hope polling data -- (inaudible) -- data that will be really helpful. And we all know, when you ask these questions, you come back again next week, something else will -- (inaudible) -- and it's a different answer. So that's the best I can give you.

MR. : You know, in my visits to Europe, I think there's no question that the Europeans saw what they call the fight on terror, what we call the war on terror, and they saw our move into Iraq as the further militarization of that, regardless of the merits of the debate. And there's no question that that's a residue. But the paradox is that Afghanistan -- you know, 9/11, we didn't make enough of this. We had the world and we had the nation three months in unity, and then we sort of blew it.

But nevertheless, despite the fact that I think we should have fully embraced Article 5 when they did this and moved to mobilization, you can have coalitions of the willing and NATO at the same time, but the irony is that their security is at greater risk than ours on Afghanistan. And they fully supported our move into Afghanistan.

So it's self-destructive of European interests, as it was to appease Hitler in the 1930s, to have that residue or that -- (inaudible) -- because those that like to call -- and there's a disagreement up here on the Hill -- the war on Iraq is a war of choice. Afghanistan is a war of necessity.

Okay, this is what they all should totally unite on in their commitment. And I would hope that an eminent persons group would point out that they're much more on the front line. Al Qaeda has not struck here. It had struck in Europe. It's easier for them to strike there. This should be their first priority, and we've not mobilized and worked with them on that priority.

MR. KEMPE: We're down to the last three minutes and I see three questions. So if you could make them really brief, and then we'll try to get a final round here. Please, and just one after the other.

Q (Inaudible) -- Reuters.

Ambassador Pickering used the expression nail in the coffin when he described -- (inaudible) -- affair. This -- (inaudible) -- President Karzai. So my question is, how do you -- (inaudible) -- the issue of Afghan sovereignty if you're going to try to convince them to accept someone in that role -- (inaudible)-- your report?

Q (Inaudible) -- action between the Afghan government and the international forces over -- to do there?

Q (Inaudible.) I'm an Afghan-American citizen. I've just come back from Afghanistan. (Inaudible.) How could the war be in Afghanistan if people leave the job? If we quit the job in Afghanistan -- (inaudible)

The second thing is that the Congress was a -- (inaudible) -- in Afghanistan, because some think they can compete with United States of America.

Those places -- (inaudible). So there are two choices -- (inaudible). So which one we should try? We need to help those -- (inaudible). Another thing is that the al Qaeda and Taliban give money to the people to join their war against the United States and other armies. (Inaudible.)

MR. KEMPE: Sir, we really don't have time; if you could just make -- the question is, does there need to be more on the job creation side? Is that what you're asking?

Q That's it.

MR. KEMPE: Thank you very much. I'm sorry to interrupt you.

Let me have Harlan take one minute on the economic side and then Ambassador Pickering on the question of Karzai. And it really is a delicate issue. How do you deal with a sovereign country when -- (inaudible)? And then General Jones can close, one minute each, on the question of the relationship between international forces and -- (inaudible).

MR. OHLMAN (sp): Let me answer all three questions. We need a comprehensive approach. We don't have one. It's got to leave security and economic development and civil reform. When you have that -- (inaudible) -- Karzai, we understand the sovereignty issues. The only way this is going to work is with either a high commissioner -- and it's up to Karzai. If he wants his country to succeed, there's something he's going to have to do, and we have got to tell him the truth.

One of the things we have to do on economic development is in this country we have to have a rational plan. Ashafgani (sp), the former foreign minister -- finance minister -- will tell you that for every dollar we spend in Afghanistan, about a dime goes to the Afghan people. That is understandable, but it is outrageous. So what we need on this side is a coordinator, not me but Lieutenant General Doug Lute or somebody with regular status to really take this on.

Regarding the crop reduction, we also have to look at illicit sales of drugs. You do that in Turkey. You do that in India. Now, I'm talking complete legalization. But if we don't give an alternative, we know what subsidies are in this country and Europe for our farmers. We have to approach something like that, whether you buy crop and destroy it or whether we turn it into medicine -- I know there's a debate -- (inaudible) -- not too much, whether we really buy other crops at great rates of price to compensate for years of -- we need that leverage. And unfortunately, it's going to be very difficult to do that. But if we don't, as I said earlier, we'll be back here next year -- (inaudible).

MR. KEMPE: And what really gets to your question is if you eradicate crops without creating jobs and creating alternative livelihoods, it doesn't work. But -- (inaudible).

MR. PICKERING: I think Harlan's answered the question beautifully. I don't have anything to add.

MR. KEMPE: And anything -- (inaudible) -- plan. (Laughter.)

MR. PICKERING: He should be an ambassador. (Laughter.)

GEN. JONES: No, the relationship between the militaries is quite good. (Inaudible) -- commanded by Turkish generals, by German generals, by French generals, by -- (inaudible). And the relationship at the military-to-military level is fine. There's an ongoing commission that meets regularly with the Pakistani armed forces, and I think -- (inaudible).

So the structures for military -- (inaudible) -- I imagine that if other -- (inaudible) -- commanders were here, they'd tell you the same thing. We do have -- (inaudible). But it's also within the context of -- (inaudible).

Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. KEMPE: Let me just close by thanking Senators Kerry and Coleman for hosting this here. These are independent studies. These are not congressionally mandated studies. But it is our purpose to start the ball rolling on key issues. We certainly think that -- (inaudible) -- on the fact that things can't go on as they are and we need a course correction.

I also want to thank Ambassador -- (inaudible) -- our partner in this, Dr. Ohlman (sp), Ambassador Pickering and General Jones. And thank you all for coming. (Applause.)

Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top