Engagement with Pak, key element of new Afghan policy: US

Washington, Dec 01: Diplomatic engagement with Pakistan will be a key element in the new US policy towards Afghanistan, which is to be announced by President Barack Obama today, the White House has said.

“I think you can anticipate that a good portion of the President’s speech tomorrow (Tuesday) will discuss our relationship with Pakistan and touch on going back to the very beginning of this administration in a renewed engagement diplomatically with the Pakistanis to jointly address violent extremism,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Noting that the US-Pak relationship is stronger, Mr. Gibbs said, Mr. Obama will talk about the importance of that engagement and diplomacy in Afghanistan.

In his speech, Mr. Gibbs said Mr. Obama will be “pretty clear about how we’re moving forward with Afghanistan and Pakistan“.

Giving a brief preview of the policy, Mr. Gibbs said: “I think what the President will discuss tomorrow is ensuring that we prevent the Taliban from being capable of controlling the government of Afghanistan as well as incapable of providing safe haven from which Al Qaeda can plot and undertake terrorist activities like we’ve seen happen previously in the United States.”

Responding to queries at his daily press briefing, Mr. Gibbs said that the new Af-Pak policy would come with an exit strategy.

“The President will reiterate tomorrow what I have said a number of times, which is that this is not an open-ended commitment; that we are there to partner with the Afghans to train the Afghan national security forces, the army and the police, so that they can provide security for their country and wage a battle against an unpopular insurgency in that country.”

“First and foremost, we have to have a partner that can identify, recruit, retain a security force and a police force that are able to take improved security — an improved security environment and eventually hold that area,” he said.

Mr. Gibbs said: “Once that area is cleared, that area then has to be held. Ultimately, the strategy will be to transfer the security responsibility of an area to the Afghans. That is a big part of what you’ll hear the President talk about tomorrow“.

Responding to a question, he said, “I don’t think anybody could look themselves in the mirror with a straight face and say that this President hasn’t in any way been anything but resolved to doing what has to happen in Afghanistan to make this country safe“.

According to a Pentagon estimate, the cost of sending for 10,000 troops is USD 10 billion a year, he said.

Observing that there has to be renewed emphasis on the training of Afghan national security forces, Mr. Gibbs said: “We aren’t going to be there forever and we can’t and we don’t have the resources, manpower or budgetary, to be primarily responsible for the security of Afghanistan”.