Briefing on the New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

MR. HAMMER: Good morning, everyone. We had a little change in the programming note, but we do have Bruce Riedel and Michelle Flournoy, who both were very much a part of this whole review. Bruce will start off with a few remarks, and then we’ll open it to Q&A. This is on the record.

MR. RIEDEL: Thanks very much, Mike.

You’ve heard what the President had to say, so I’m not going to go into repeating his remarks. Let me just open with a few process questions in order to put this in perspective, and then I might hit on a couple of highlights, and then as quickly as possible we want to get to your questions.

This review builds on three previous reviews — one done by General Lute at the National Security Council, one done by Admiral Mullen at the Joint Staff, and a third by General Petraeus at CENTCOM. We took all of the results of those reviews into consideration right from the beginning.

We also did a lot of reaching out to experts outside of the U.S. government in think tanks across America and in South Asia, as well. We consulted very extensively on the Hill right from the beginning. We’ve had intense series of meetings here at the White House with Speaker Pelosi and others in order to hear what they had to say and to get their input into this process.

It has been thoroughly vetted through the interagency process at all levels, including the deputies committee and the principals committee of the National Security Council. And of course, we’ve reached out to our commanders in the field including General Petraeus, and our diplomats in the field including Ambassador Patterson. Not the least — and I really want to emphasis — we’ve been engaged in extensive consultations with our allies, starting, first and foremost, with our partners, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In February we hosted delegations from both countries here at the White House for very intense conversations about the problems they face and to hear what was on their minds. And then Secretary Clinton hosted a trilateral meeting at the State Department in order to bring us all together. And as you notice from the President’s speech, this trilateral diplomacy will be an ongoing feature of this policy.

Of course, we’ve also reached out to our NATO partners and to our non-NATO partners who have troops on the ground in Afghanistan. The Vice President made two trips to Europe specifically to reach out to NATO and the other partners in Brussels in order to get their views. Ambassador Holbrooke briefed the North Atlantic Council last week on where we were in this process, and the President this week met with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

This has been a very intense and ambitious and aggressive 60-day effort to reach out and to make sure that we’ve gotten everyone’s views into it. Next week, of course, the President will discuss this at the NATO summit in Strasbourg and also at the EU summit in Prague.

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