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Petraeus Outlines Afghanistan Strategy

10:31 AM, Feb 9, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Bill Kristol reports from Munich that the highlight of the security conference was Gen. David Petraeus's speech on Afghanistan during the Sunday morning session. Below the fold, you can find a transcript of Gen. Petraeus's speech as delivered. It's well worth reading.Remarks for Panel Discussion:
"The Future of the Alliance and the Mission in Afghanistan"
45th Munich Security Conference
GEN David H. Petraeus
8 February 2009

Well, good morning to you all. And thanks to Chairman Ischinger and his team. It's an honor to be with you - and it's great to be on the stage with my new diplomatic partner, AMB Richard Holbrooke. You know, it's every Commander's dream to have an ambassadorial wingman who is described by journalists with nicknames like "The Bulldozer." In all seriousness, I want to publicly salute this gifted, selfless diplomat for taking on his new position, an appointment that conveys how significant the focus in the United States is on Afghanistan and Pakistan and on the South and Central Asia region more broadly.

This morning's topic is Afghanistan, which Secretary of Defense Gates recently described to the US Congress as posing "our greatest military challenge right now." As he noted, our fundamental objective in Afghanistan is to ensure that transnational terrorists are not able to reestablish the sanctuaries they enjoyed prior to 9/11. It was to eliminate such sanctuaries that we took action in Afghanistan in 2001. And preventing their reestablishment remains an imperative today - noting, to be sure, that achievement of that objective inevitably requires accomplishment of other interrelated tasks as well. And, [as has been explained,] President Obama has directed a strategy review that will sharpen the clarity of those tasks.

Afghanistan has been a very tough endeavor. Certainly, there have been important achievements there over the past seven years - agreement on a constitution, elections, and establishment of a government; increased access to education, health care, media, and telecommunications; construction of a significant number of infrastructure projects; development of the Afghan National Army; and others.

But in recent years the resurgence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda has led to an increase in violence, especially in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Numerous other challenges have emerged as well, among them: difficulties in the development of governmental institutions that achieve legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people; corruption; expansion - until last year - of poppy production and the illegal narcotics industry; and difficulties in the establishment of the Afghan police.

In fact, there has been nothing easy about Afghanistan. And, as Senator Lieberman observed in a recent speech to the Brookings Institution, "Reversing Afghanistan's slide into insecurity will not come quickly, easily, or cheaply." Similarly, Secretary Gates told Congress, "This will undoubtedly be a long and difficult fight." I agree. In fact, I think it is important to be clear eyed about the challenges that lie ahead, while also remembering the importance of our objectives in Afghanistan and the importance of the opportunity that exists if we all intensify our efforts and work together to achieve those objectives.

Many observers have noted that there are no purely military solutions in Afghanistan. That is correct. Nonetheless, military action, while not sufficient by itself, is absolutely necessary, for security provides the essential foundation for the achievement of progress in all the other so-called lines of operation - recognizing, of course, that progress in other areas made possible by security improvements typically contributes to further progress in the security arena - creating an upward spiral in which improvements in one area reinforce progress in another.

Arresting and then reversing the downward spiral in security in Afghanistan thus will require not just additional military forces, but also more civilian contributions, greater unity of effort between civilian and military elements and with our Afghan partners, and a comprehensive approach, as well as sustained commitment and a strategy that addresses the situations in neighboring countries.

This morning, I'd like to describe in very general terms the resource requirements that are under discussion in Washington and various other national capitals. Then I'll describe briefly a few of the ideas that helped us in Iraq and that, properly adapted for Afghanistan, can help guide GEN McKiernan and ISAF.