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Afghanistan: Security

Patrick Moon, Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs

London, England
October 17, 2008

MR. MOON: I’m pleased to see a strong interest in Afghanistan.

MODERATOR: Just thank you very much for coming, particularly on short notice. I appreciate it. This will be an on-the-record briefing with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Afghanistan Patrick Moon. He will begin with a few comments and then we’ll just sort of take your questions as they come by. Thank you.

MR. MOON: Certainly. Thanks, Matt. Just to start with a few comments and perhaps anticipating a few of your questions and then let’s have a good chat. I’ve been working on Afghanistan for about three years, the last four and a half years, and so I’ve seen an evolution of what we’re doing there. And sometimes – unfortunately, we lose sight of the – the good things which have been accomplished but let me come back to that.

First, I’m here in London for bilateral talks with the British Government. This is primarily on counternarcotics. As you probably know, the U.S. and UK manage the programs on counternarcotics, working with the Government of Afghanistan, giving them support for the things that we do in that area.

First, let me talk about the security challenges, as there’s no secret that we face some very significant security challenges in Afghanistan and the number of attacks have been at a high level. The forces that we have there may not be adequate for the task that we want to accomplish. Our Commander, General McKiernan, has requested additional forces and those are being considered. I can say that President Bush has authorized the deployment of additional U.S. forces – a Marine battalion, I believe, at the end of this year, and a Army combat brigade by early next year. And Secretary Gates was meeting with his colleagues recently in Budapest where they discussed the requirement for additional security forces to meet these challenges.

But let me also note that many of the violent incidents are ones which are relatively cheap for the insurgents, for the Taliban. These are IEDs, they are suicide attacks, they’re relatively easy weapons for them to use, and they generate a great deal of public attention which they feel helps their effort. And so we must deal with those. We also must deal with a certain perception of insecurity which can be achieved through relatively small uses of forces in certain ways. And, our military commanders understand these issues, these problems, and they’re working very hard to counter them and have had some successes.

Let me also note that the Afghan army is growing in size and capabilities. They are now something like 65,000 troops. By all reports, they are a good fighting force. They are multiethnic units. They have come from all over Afghanistan. They train together. They deploy together to various parts of Afghanistan. They fight alongside of U.S. and other forces in Afghanistan. And as I said, they do a good job. They’re good fighters and they are motivated, and they are the future for Afghanistan and the future for us as well to provide security in Afghanistan.

We recently had a decision in what’s called the Joint Coordination Monitoring Board to increase the number of Afghan troops to 134,000. That process will take four or five years to actually accomplish with the training and equipping and deploying of these forces. But there was unanimous agreement that this was an appropriate step given the level of threat that we now face in Afghanistan.

The final element of the Afghan security forces that I wanted to discuss is the police. The police force, unlike the army, we inherited in 2001. It’s a force which is, unlike the army, recruited locally. And there has been a general acceptance that the police – the Afghan National Police are not at a level of competence that we would be pleased with. The organization in Afghanistan which trains the police started a new program earlier this year called the Focused District Development.

Under this program, we take an entire police unit from a district -- and there’s 360-some odd districts in Afghanistan – we take the entire unit from the commander, the police chief, down to the lowest patrolman, take them back to a training center, train them for two months and then we send them back to their local community with international mentors. They are largely U.S. at this point. And these mentors are there to reinforce the training and sort of keep them on the right track and headed in the right direction. Those trainers are there for some period of months after that.

They train about seven districts at a time. And so this process obviously is one that’s going to take some time. It also is very manpower-intensive in terms of the mentors, and we are recruiting more mentors to help out with that program, recruiting internationally and looking where the U.S. might be able to provide more.

Arguably, the most important political event in Afghanistan in the next 12 months will be the elections next year. We expect that there will be presidential elections in August, maybe September, presidential elections and elections for the provincial councils in accordance with the Afghan constitution. The voter registration process, which must precede this, started about 10 days ago. It’s been going quite well. It’s a phased registration process through Afghanistan, four different phases, and it’ll run through next February. And we’re registering all Afghan citizens who do not already have a voter registration card, either because they lost it or they did not register since for the last elections in 2004.

But that is going well; we’ve got good cooperation between the Afghan security forces, who are providing the primary security for the voter registration process as they will for the elections, and ISAF is prepared to provide support as necessary. But so far, we have not experienced any significant security threats to that process.

The elections would we expect be in September, given the Ramadan schedule next year. But that will be a major effort. There are security challenges for the election. There’s no doubt about that. The security situation in 2008, anticipating 2009, is different from what it was in 2004 and 2005 when we held the first elections. Arguably, there are more security challenges. On the other hand, we have more international troops and more Afghan security forces available. So we’ll be working very hard to ensure that we can maximize the number of Afghans who have an opportunity to vote next year.

The international community is working very hard to do this not only on the security side, but on the donors side. UN is helping the Afghan organization that will run the elections. So this is all starting to come together, and we’re all focused on next fall to have an election which not only the Afghans, but the international community will see as legitimate.

Counternarcotics – the reason I was here in London today. We’ve seen some successes this year. You’ve probably heard of the UN report several months ago, which the U.S. concurs with, which suggests that there was something like a 20 percent drop in the area of cultivation of opium poppies this year, and a somewhat smaller drop in the production of opium. That figure is a little bit harder to measure, but that’s the estimate out there from the UN.

This – what’s really striking is you look at a map of where the poppy is being grown, or was grown during the last year. And it’s being grown in the south and the west, and the north and the east of Afghanistan are either poppy-free or low poppy cultivation. I think it’s something like 18 provinces this year were judged to be poppy-free, an increase over last year, and a gradual increase over the last few years. This is good news. This suggests that our strategy is working, our multifaceted strategy is working where the conditions are good. Generally speaking, that means that we have good Afghan governance from the governors and the district leaders, and where we also have relatively good security conditions.

Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan is considered sort of the poster child for this effort. Nangarhar province was well known, even last year, as a province for significant poppy cultivation and this year, they had zero. This is a success story and the people of Nangarhar have benefited from this. The United States alone has offered $10 million in additional development projects and in recognition of the efforts by the government in Nangarhar and the fact that we had such low poppy cultivation.

But obviously, the reduction is not one which is sufficient, and we still want to see more reductions in the cultivation and production of opium paste, and we’ll be focusing increasingly on the south in the coming year. Helmand will likely be the primary focus of our efforts where we have the British forces leading, and we will be working very hard with the governor and his staff in Helmand to reduce the poppy cultivation in this area.

Unfortunately, we have a very active Taliban presence in Helmand, and we are seeing, increasingly, this nexus between the Taliban and the drug traffickers with the Taliban profiting financially from their support for the traffickers, and the traffickers obviously profiting as well from the security that the Taliban then offers in return. So now we’re seeing not just a counternarcotics effort, but a counterinsurgency effort which coincide – an issue which was addressed by the NATO defense ministers at their meeting last week.

Let me just review, in very gross terms, our accomplishments in Afghanistan over the last seven years. We have, based on the Bonn process, built democratic institutions, the elections in ’04 and ’05, and the process since then. It’s by no means a strong, vibrant democracy, but it is a democracy which is growing stronger every day. And having an election process both in 2009 and 2010 will help to further strengthen that democratic process.

We also have, on the assistance side, some very significant accomplishments to point to. We’ve built somewhere over 600 schools which are equipped with teachers and textbooks. We have, somewhat in the similar range, about 600 clinics also staffed with health professionals. Something like 85 percent of the – 80 to 85 percent of the Afghan population now have access to basic healthcare within a reasonable distance of where they live, a dramatic increase over the Taliban period of rule in Afghanistan.

Maternal health is improving substantially as a result of this, and tens of thousands of Afghan babies are alive today who would not have lived under the previous regimes thanks to better healthcare for mothers and for babies. We also have a very, very strong commitment from the international community. This year, we’ve seen both through the NATO summit and Bucharest and the Paris conference that the international community remains very, very strongly committed to what we are trying to achieve in Afghanistan in terms of security, in terms of the financial commitments to reconstruction, and in terms of the political commitment.

In Paris, we raised pledges of somewhere around $20 billion, far exceeding our expectations, and in addition, about twice what was raised in London in 2006. So this is a very strong indication of the continuing commitment of the international community to what we’re doing there, that it’s important and that we are achieving what we want to do there.

Finally, just on the infrastructure side, let me point to the roads. We’ve built a very – or reconstructed a strong network of roads, basic roads, and we’re working very hard on secondary roads. You have the ring road, which is almost complete in Afghanistan, linking the major communities, and there are roads now linking this ring road with many of the provincial capitals. Roads are very important. They help not only to stimulate economic activity, but they also help promote security. Military commanders have said that the Taliban begin where the roads end. And also, the fact that the Taliban often attack these roads, either while they’re being constructed or after they’ve been constructed, is another indication that they understand the threat that the roads pose to them.

We’ve also built or are in the process of building electric infrastructure, power infrastructure for Afghanistan. The U.S., the Asian Development Bank, and India have constructed a power line that runs from Kabul up to the Uzbek border in the north. The Uzbeks are now building a power line between their border and a power plant, something like 40 kilometers. We hope to see power flowing down to Kabul from this power plant later this year or probably early next year, something like a hundred megawatts of power, and that will be increased over time.

We also are building a new set of generators in Kabul right now. Some of them will start coming on line this winter. They will provide, initially, 70 megawatts of power. You probably saw reports of the operation to move turbines to Kajaki Dam in southern Afghanistan. This is a dam built by the U.S. in the ‘60s. It had two turbines in it and we came in; those two turbines were still turning, just barely. One of them has been renovated – rebuilt and is now providing power to Lashkagar and to Kandahar cities.

This convoy that recently delivered large parts of the second turbine, which will be – is now in the process of being installed, and there will be a third turbine installed in the future, which will dramatically increase the power available to southern Afghanistan. Power is very important. People want power. They need it for economic activity and economic activity is not possible without reliable power. And so these are very, very important.

And the hydropower, which is what we’re looking at now, provides very, very affordable power. Diesel powered generators, which are largely what’s used now, is very expensive obviously, and so we want to try to move away from that and draw upon power which comes from the hydro sources from Central Asia. In addition to Uzbekistan, we expect additional power will be coming from Turkmenistan and from Tajikistan in the future, in the future years.

Finally, just let me note that the U.S. commitment remains very, very strong to Afghanistan. We believe our objectives are the right ones there. We are almost on a constant basis reviewing our strategies and adapting them to meet the needs and the requirements in Afghanistan, the new challenges, and we are moving into this new year with a very firm commitment to what we’re doing in Afghanistan.

So I’m sure you have other questions, I’d be glad to respond as best I can.

QUESTION: What is the – what is the operation going to look like without giving the whole game away, the operation against the poppy in Helmand next year? And do you think it will be just U.S. troops involved or will British troops be involved, too?

MR. MOON: Well, it’s largely -- it’s British troops in Helmand. There are not U.S. troops there assigned on any permanent basis. The plan is essentially one based on the plan where we have – what we’re using in other parts of the country. It’s information programs, getting out which are going out right now. The planting for poppy occurs in the next month or two, so a large, very effective, often in terms of the money we spend on information and the return we get for it, is very good. So the information programs are starting now.

We also work on interdiction, and that means trying to find and destroy the labs where the opium paste is processed. And we see increasingly the opium paste is being processed in Afghanistan instead of in neighboring countries. We’re also, in terms of interdiction, trying to arrest the traffickers and bring them to trial. Law enforcement – we’re building up the police, building up the judicial sector, actually a very weak sector in Afghanistan. But in terms of the counternarcotic effort, we’re doing much better. We have some specialized courts for that where cases can be prosecuted.

We also carry out eradication. Eradication a bit more controversial, but we feel it’s a very important aspect of the overall program. We must instill some risk to the poppy growers. We’re not trying to destroy the whole crop, that’s not necessary. That’s not our objective. What we want is risk, so that they understand that if they grow poppy then they run the risk of losing their entire crop.

Alternative development programs, where we come in and we help farmers with new programs, alternative crops, cash-for-work programs that build, for instance, irrigation, ditches, roads and bridges. And these types of projects are very, very important in providing economic activity for these communities where you find a lot of cultivation of opium poppy. So the plan there is to focus on a central area in Helmand using all of these aspects of our strategy.

QUESTION: Can I just raise two points. One is, is there any likelihood, Mr. Moon, of crop spraying being introduced, even on an experimental basis? Because Ambassador Wood was in Colombia and there crop spraying took place, I think.

And then a second question is General McKiernan’s, you know, plan for extra troops, and the Americans are sending more troops, obviously as you point out. The new British army General Richards is very much in favor of vigorously engaging in Afghanistan. You know, he has possibly 30,000 – mainly Afghan troops, but American and British as well. But any sign of any of the other European countries contributing troops at all?

MR. MOON: On narcotics, no, there are no plans to do any spraying in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: What about on an experimental basis?

MR. MOON: None at present. Experimental basis is something we’ve talked about. There’s not a plan that I know of right now to do that. And any experiment would be a ground-based spraying not aerial spraying, if there ever was one.

In terms of the troops and in particular troops from other countries, other than the U.S., of course, we work very hard inside of NATO to try to remove some of the caveats which have been placed on the use of some countries’ troops in Afghanistan. We feel that all troops in Afghanistan should be available for the military commander’s use as necessary. We have had some successes. A lot of the caveats have been removed, but some still remain.

Short of that, what we would like to see is countries provide trainers for the army. These are the so-called OMLTs, as NATO calls them, military teams which actually are assigned to an Afghan battalion – they’re called kandaks – and they work with them, they train them, they support them, build up their capabilities. There is a shortage of such teams. And so even if a country has a caveat on deploying forces, for instance, to the south for combat, then they can provide at least some of these trainers for the Afghan army, and that’s an important role.

We’d also like to see more mentors for the police, because this is also a role which we believe the military can conduct, at least, in some cases.

QUESTION: Yes, a quick follow-up. The special (inaudible).

MR. MOON: Yes.

QUESTION: Apparently, that’s going to cost about $20 billion?

MR. MOON: The estimate’s –one I saw was 17 billion, that’s over a period of five years and includes the training and equip cost, which is providing them with equipment and the training portion and also the sustainment cost, but over five years.

QUESTION: And have any other countries apart from the U.S. offered to pay for this?

MR. MOON: No. This has been – training and equipping the army and the police has been a responsibility of the United States as part of the Bonn process where we sort of divided up some of the tasks involved in building up Afghanistan.

QUESTION: You got the big tab. But when Mr. Gates was here a few weeks ago, I think Jeff Morel said that the U.S. wasn’t going to fork up the whole 10 to 20 billion, and they expected only to (inaudible) as well.

MR. MOON: What we’ve asked is that not just other NATO countries but other countries with an interest in Afghanistan would provide funding for the sustainment cost for the Afghan army. And we have approached a number of countries on that and we’re working with our colleagues at NATO to set up a mechanism where the funds could be transferred to provide sustainment cost for the Afghan army in the future.

QUESTION: To what extent do you think six years has been wasted in terms of you’re now dramatically trying to build up the army, almost starting from scratch with the police, and this is six years on. I mean, to what extent do you think time has just been frittered away?

MR. MOON: It’s not a question of time being frittered away. It’s rather a question of the situation changing in Afghanistan. When we first started in Afghanistan to build the army, we looked at a force structure that was appropriate for the threat at that time. However, over time, the threat has increased. I mean, let’s be frank, the Taliban has increased in terms of its threat in Afghanistan and its ability to bring violence in Afghanistan. So therefore, it’s necessary to increase the size of the Afghan army.

QUESTION: But isn’t that – hasn’t the threat increased because there was not the commitment to building up the military and the police and securing –

MR. MOON: I don’t think you can necessarily draw that line. No, I think that it’s been an evolution in terms of their tactics and their commitment to Afghanistan. They were very, very soundly defeated in 2001 and it took them some time to reorganize and to reorient their operations.

QUESTION: What about – you have the Germans in there teaching the police – initially teaching the police before the Americans took responsibility for it. And you know, they seem to be training traffic cops for Dusseldorf or something, you know, like a totally different approach from the Americans than what the Americans are taking now. You know, it’s not just sort of –

MR. MOON: I meant to say, on the police effort, we have not gotten where we would like to be, and that’s why we have started this focused district development program this year. It’s a realization that we needed a better training program, and it’s not starting from scratch. We’re still using the same police force. There is recruitment going on at all times, but it’s basically the same force that we found in Afghanistan.

So the training programs are changing, becoming more intense and aimed at providing a better more effective police force in Afghanistan, yes.

QUESTION: So what – sorry, what sort of timeline basically are we looking at here? Like when you say four to five years to get the army up and trained and equipped – 134,000 –

MR. MOON: Right.

QUESTION: It’s a massive task for the police force.

MR. MOON. Yes.

QUESTION: It all sort of sounds generational almost. This is going to be 20-30 years work here.

MR. MOON: It’s very difficult to put a time frame on it. But yes, this is a long-term commitment that we’re making to Afghanistan, and every donor nation understands that. And yet we are still willing to put forward the resources to meet that challenge.

QUESTION: You have very much described – and the way you’ve spoken as if it’s kind of steady as she goes in Afghanistan. And of course we need to have these reviews. But you know, essentially Karzai is still the only – still the only game in town. We need to keep pressure up on the Taliban. We’ll add this element of, you know, further work on the counternarcotics. But I mean, the idea that – you know, the fact that there are all these reviews going on within the complexity of the United States Government system both in the White House and the National Security Council and the various reviews being done inside the Pentagon would seem to suggest, you know, that people don’t think it’s entirely on track.

MR. MOON: As I suggested, the threat has been changing over time. And that is why we are, on a very frequent basis, looking at our strategies and seeing what we need to do to make adjustments. And on the security side the threat has increased. We look at our programs where they’ve been successful, we try to reinforce them. Where our programs have been less successful, we look at new ways.

And the review in Washington is focused on what we can do to build a strong set of recommendations and a foundation for the next administration, whichever that is. We certainly don’t want a pause in our policy.

QUESTION: Sure.

MR. MOON: We want to continue with a very strong policy and not only in terms of supporting the Afghans but also keeping together with our other partners in the international community. So it is sort of timing in the sense of building something for the next administration.

QUESTION: Right. And you – I mean, obviously, you’ll be aware of how the European members of NATO are getting increasingly fed up with Karzai, but that the U.S. assessment is still – is probably the best thing that there is?

MR. MOON: The polling data in Afghanistan suggests that Karzai still remains a very popular figure in Afghanistan, not as popular as he was when he was elected. But that --

QUESTION: Very few people are –

MR. MOON: That happens a lot to politicians. (Laughter.) And in fact, if you look at his favorability ratings, they’re quite high compared to many leaders in the West. So –

QUESTION: Not hard, eh?

MR. MOON: Having said that, you know, the Afghan politics are complicated, the ethnic groups, the Pashtun tribes, these are all issues with which Karzai must deal. And as time goes by, I think it’ll be clearer on who else might be running for president.

QUESTION: I have a question going back to narcotics very briefly, Mr. Moon. Helmand is going to be – you said the focus next year. And I think when the Brits went into Helmand, if I recall correctly, in 2006, Helmand was supplying 23 percent of Afghan opium and now it’s even to 40s, 43 percent –

MR. MOON: No, it’s higher than that.

QUESTION: Higher than that. Can I ask you, first of all, that with your experience and knowledge, why do you think that happened? And secondly, can you explain, please, why provinces like Nangarhar and Balkh can eradicate opium and Helmand can’t?

MR. MOON: Sure. It goes back to where we’ve had successes with our programs. And where we’ve had successes, we’ve pushed out the traffickers and they’ve gone to places where they have much more flexibility and more freedom of action, and that tends to be where the security’s bad in the south. And Helmand is a good agricultural area, along the rivers anyway. And so it’s very logical to see that the poppy cultivation would increase in these areas.

Also, I want to note that we’re not focusing solely on Helmand next year. That we think it’s very important to keep up or maintain our programs in the north and east to ensure that we don’t have a resurgence of the poppy crops. Because not everyone is real happy that they don’t get to grow poppies. So we need to continue our programs and sort of make that a more permanent fixture of the agricultural sector in those areas.

And as I suggested, where we’ve had successes in the north and east, it’s often been a result of good strong leadership by the governors. We have a strong governor in Nangarhar, for example, who has really pushed very hard to ensure that the poppy cultivation was reduced down to zero this year.

QUESTION: And just to be straight about – just to be clear about the Helmand issue – I mean, you said that obviously it’s British troops that are based there, so things like interdiction, the information operations maybe – you know, blowing up the old kind of production lab, that would be us.

MR. MOON: Well, a lot of this is done by civilians, the information programs --

QUESTION: Sure.

MR. MOON: -- the interdiction programs. And let’s be clear, too, a lot of this is Afghan face, all the eradication’s done by Afghans, all the police work is done by Afghans. We are providing support to them and help – and the same thing with information programs. We fund various information programs.

QUESTION: Well, then what exactly --

MR. MOON: And it’s the U.S. and Brits and --

QUESTION: But what is different since NATO agreed to what it agreed to last week in Budapest?

MR. MOON: I think there’s been a growing realization among NATO allies that ISAF can do more in the counternarcotics area. I think we always felt there was a great deal of flexibility under the NATO operations plan for Afghanistan. There was an annex for counternarcotics operations. And there was, however, an evolution in the view of how that annex could be implemented by number of countries. And now, with its growing nexus between the Taliban and the traffickers, it’s become clear to a lot of countries that ISAF has a legitimate role to play, and I think that the NATO Defense Ministers’ decision is representative of that.

QUESTION: How good do you think these information and our eradication programs can be if the security situation doesn’t get any better?

MR. MOON: Well, number one, we’re going to make the security situation better. But number two is, we operate in areas where we have some relatively benign security conditions in Helmand. I mean, it’s not all Taliban-held, obviously. And where the Afghans do their eradication efforts, in those areas, we are looking for Afghan army to help provide security for them.

MODERATOR: We’ve got about five more minutes left.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that Saudi Arabia is mediating, or having talks -- mediating between the Afghan and Taliban officials. What’s the U.S. attitude towards such talks?

MR. MOON: First, as Secretary Gates and I think others have said, a political negotiation in Afghanistan is desirable, as it is in any counterinsurgency operation. But let’s be clear here, any reconciliation must be led by the Afghans. And there has been a reconciliation program in Afghanistan for three years at least. It has brought in thousands of admittedly low or middle level Taliban and returned them to the communities and – where they now support the Government of Afghanistan.

Any program or any efforts must be Afghan-led -- not the U.S., not the international community, but the Government of Afghanistan. And we support the conditions that the Government of Afghanistan has espoused for reconciliation with the Taliban or other groups. And these conditions include that the insurgents must lay down their arms. They must support the constitution of Afghanistan, which means supporting the Kabul Government. They must not engage in criminal activity, and they must cut all of their ties to organizations such as al-Qaida.

QUESTION: Presumably, that’s why there are still plenty of them out there fighting.

MR. MOON: Perhaps.

QUESTION : I mean, those conditions are pretty tough, eh?

MR. MOON: I think they’re appropriate. We don’t see that the Taliban poses a strategic threat to the Government of Afghanistan. They’re fighting a battle to try and encourage the international community to leave – to get tired and leave.

QUESTION: You don’t get the sense that that political solution is sort of obsessing the Afghan Government. Everybody says there cannot be a military solution, there must be a political solution. And yet when you look for, well, what’s happening, you know, how is it going to be solved politically, you certainly don’t get the sense that, you know, the government’s reaching out too much.

MR. MOON: A negotiated settlement with the counterinsurgency usually occurs under certain conditions, if you go back and look at history. It would appear, therefore, that the conditions are not right at this point.

QUESTION: Well, that – getting into the position of strength, and as you said earlier on, you know, improving security, you know, it’s sort of obtuse, but how is that going to be possible with simply not enough boots on the ground and that there aren’t and you know that.

And you know, you can’t wait for the Afghan army to be fully trained up purely for anybody. At the moment, it seems to me that the U.S. is continuing to provide troops -- may send a brigade more at some stage. But – and apart from that, one of the French (inaudible) isn’t there a huge problem there that there simply aren’t enough troops to maintain – well, capture ground and hold it?

MR. MOON: Well, that’s what General Kiernan said.

QUESTION: So what’s the answer?

MR. MOON: To see if we can find more troops. And as I said, the U.S. is deploying this Marine battalion late this year and a combat brigade next year.

MODERATOR: We have time for one more question.

QUESTION: Is there any chance or would there be any benefit in a greater role for the UN, for (inaudible) in trying to coordinate the relief efforts? You know, one of the structural problems seems to be that the provisional focus – sorry, the – yeah, the provincial focus that each country is sort of looking after – trying to look after the province where their troops are.

MR. MOON: Yes.

QUESTION: And so you get different approaches, different levels of commitment.

MR. MOON: Yes.

QUESTION: And then some poor province got New Zealand. And so the UN --

MR. MOON: And they’ve been very happy with New Zealand.

QUESTION: But you know – but they don’t have the resources, they don’t have the forces that other provinces are going to have deployed. And so the UN people there and the Afghan Government say, you know, we wish it was a much more national approach, rather than the Dutch doing what they want down in Uruzgan and the – you know, the Germans doing their thing over here. I mean, is there the scope for a more unified, coordinated, national approach into aid and development?

MR. MOON: Well, first of all, certainly, the nature of our activities in Afghanistan, because it is so broad in terms of international participation, almost by definition you have a coordination challenge. And I would agree with you that we do want to see more coordination. In eastern Afghanistan, the U.S. is fortunate because we provide most of the forces in eastern Afghanistan. So we coordinate among ourselves and it’s easier.

The problem is in the south where you have so many different countries, as you’ve suggested, and different provinces. And a region-wide approach would probably be a better way to fight the war, to fight a counterinsurgency certainly. And so we are involved with our allies and other partners who are operating in southern Afghanistan. We have meetings, we have conferences, we are looking at ways to improve coordination.

And largely, it’s that coordination of the assistance effort, as you suggested, but also coordination between the military and the civilians in what we’re doing and reinforcing each other. We think the UN has a greater role to play here. And we think that Kai Eide as the new senior representative of the Secretary General, is doing a good job. He is building a stronger UNAMA. He is committed to unifying the international community and working to ensure that the UN and ISAF are coordinating as much as possible.

QUESTION: Pakistan?

MR. MOON: Yes. I don’t know. You’d have to ask me a question. (Laughter.) The --

QUESTION: For a hundred dollars.

QUESTION: The – from what we gathered, the rates seem to be continuing (inaudible) as far as we know, many more ground incursions by U.S. troops? Are these rates going to continue for the time being? And also, is there a greater willingness from the (inaudible) and the Pakistani military to take on the – forget the (inaudible) side -- the Pakistani military to take on the Taliban?

MR. MOON: Okay. I’m not going to talk about your question. But let me say that we work very, very closely with the Government of Pakistan. The new leadership, we think, is taking a new tack on the Taliban operating in Pakistan. We’re encouraged by their increased military operations. We have for some time provided them with military assistance, and we’re looking for ways that we can improve that, not just military assistance, but also reconstruction and development assistance is very important in that area.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.


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