Briefing on the New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

So this is a — it has as its goal disrupting and defeating al Qaeda and its associates, and preventing Afghanistan and Pakistan — preventing Afghanistan from returning to become a safe haven. But it is very much a counterinsurgency approach towards that end.

Q Can I follow up on that, just to clarify? Is there an increase in the U.S. military or intelligence community conducting counterterrorism operations, going after high-value targets like al Qaeda or their sympathizers in Afghanistan or in Pakistan? Is that a part of this strategy?

MS. FLOURNOY: The counterterrorism piece remains a central part of this mission, and I certainly believe we are going to be increasing our intelligence focus in this theater, and as opportunities arise that may increase the pace of operations, as well.

Q Is there anything specific about going after bin Laden?

MR. RIEDEL: I don’t think that we’re going to get into specifics about intelligence operations here. I think the President said very clearly during the campaign, and you heard him say it again today, that if we have actionable intelligence about senior targets, we will take the appropriate action.

Q Can you talk a little bit about how you envision reducing the safe havens in Pakistan? You talked a little bit about the broad strategy versus Pakistan, but I don’t understand how that will shrink or reduce the safe havens over time.

MR. RIEDEL: I think this — the short answer to that is that the combination of military operations, aggressive military operations on the Afghan side, and working energetically with the Pakistani government to shut down these safe havens, creates the synergy which we hope will then lead to their destruction.

Q When the President gave his first press conference about a month back, he said that the central government of Afghanistan was detached from the rest of the country. What is envisioned — what is within your ability to do about undetaching it, because if it remains detached, how can you implement these programs, and how can you do anything about the corruption, which the President spoke about a little bit but didn’t really detail how you address it?

MR. RIEDEL: I want to bring Richard into this part of the conversation, because he’s had the distinction of having more opportunity to deal with them than Michelle and I have.

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I’m sorry, I thought this was Bruce’s press conference. Sorry I’m late. (Laughter.) Can you just — I know, I really apologize for being late. Could you just repeat the question in a — this is something to do with corruption, which, by the way, I’m totally against. (Laughter.) But could you just clarify what the question was?

Q Well, the President himself said that the central government in Afghanistan was detached from the rest of the country. So I want to know what in this new strategic review will address that issue. What is within the power of the United States and NATO to make the government less detached, and how does that play into the whole issue of corruption, which the President talked about briefly today but didn’t give any details on how you actually deal with corruption?

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