OUR MISSION: The President's speech reaffirms the March 2009 core goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al Qaeda and to prevent their return to either Afghanistan or Pakistan. To do so, we and our allies will surge our forces, targeting elements of the insurgency and securing key population centers, training Afghan forces, transferring responsibility to a capable Afghan partner, and increasing our partnership with Pakistanis who are facing the same threats.
This region is the heart of the global violent extremism pursued by al Qaeda, and the region from which we were attacked on 9/11. New attacks are being planned there now, a fact borne out by a recent plot, uncovered and disrupted by American authorities. We will prevent the Taliban from turning Afghanistan back into a safe haven from which international terrorists can strike at us or our allies. This would pose a direct threat to the American homeland, and that is a threat that we cannot tolerate. Al Qaeda remains in Pakistan where they continue to plot attacks against us and where they and their extremist allies pose a threat to the Pakistani state. Our goal in Pakistan will be to ensure that al Qaeda is defeated and Pakistan remains stable.
REVIEW PROCESS: The review was a deliberate and disciplined three-stage process to check alignment of goals, methods for attaining those goals, and finally resources required. Over ten weeks, the President chaired nine meetings with his national security team, and consulted key allies and partners, including the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The President focused on asking the hard questions, took the time to carefully consider all of the options, and united a variety of competing views in his cabinet before agreeing to send any additional Americans to war.
As a result of the review, we have focused our mission and developed a common understanding regarding our regional approach and the need for international support. We will deploy forces into Afghanistan rapidly and will take advantage of these additional resources to create the conditions to begin to draw down combat forces in the summer of 2011, while maintaining a partnership with Afghanistan and Pakistan to protect our enduring interests in that region.
The meetings were focused on how best to ensure the al Qaeda threat is eliminated from the region and that regional stability is restored. We looked closely at the alignment of our efforts and the balance between civilian and military resources, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the efforts of the U.S. and the international community.
A number of issues were explored in depth: national interests, core objectives and goals, counterterrorism priorities, safe havens for terrorist groups in Pakistan, the health of the global U.S. military force, risks and costs associated with troop deployments, global deployment requirements, international cooperation and commitments for both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Afghan capacity in all areas to include Afghan security forces, central and sub-national governance and corruption (including the narcotics trade), and development and economic issues.
WHAT HAS CHANGED SINCE MARCH: Since the President announced our renewed commitment in March, a number of key developments led the Administration to review its approach in Afghanistan and Pakistan: new attention was focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan, new U.S. leadership was established in Afghanistan, Pakistan increased its efforts to combat extremists, and the situation in Afghanistan has become more grave.
The United States assigned new civilian and military leadership in Afghanistan, with the appointments of Ambassador Karl Eikenberry as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, and General Stanley McChrystal as the new Commander of ISAF military forces in Afghanistan. Upon arrival in Afghanistan, both Ambassador Eikenberry and General McChrystal recognized that after eight years of underresourcing, the situation was worse than expected. Together, Ambassador Eikenberry and General McChyrstal published a new Civilian-Military Campaign Plan to integrate U.S. efforts across the country.
Afghanistan's difficult, extended election process and evident signs of the absence of rule of law made clear the limits of the central government in Kabul.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the Pakistanis showed new resolve in defeating militants who had taken control of the Swat Valley, just 60 miles from Islamabad. Pakistani political leaders--including opposition party leaders--came together to support the Pakistani military operations. This fall, the Pakistanis expanded their fight against extremists into the Mehsud tribal areas of South Waziristan along the border with Afghanistan.