Obama To Unveil Afghan Strategy
By Paula Wolfson
White House
26 March 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama will unveil his new Afghan strategy on Friday - one week before a NATO summit convenes on the French-German border. The plan is the result of a detailed policy review by the new Obama administration.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 13 Feb 2009

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the review is complete, and the new strategy is ready.

He says allies and lawmakers are getting a preview before the details are made public.

"The president is making calls and briefing members of Congress based on the conclusion of that review," said Gibbs.

At a briefing for White House reporters, Gibbs refused to go into specifics of the plan President Obama will unveil Friday morning at the White House. But he made clear it is regional in nature - designed to deal with the threat posed by militants and extremists on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border.

"I think you will hear the president talk about how progress in one is also determined by stability and progress in the other," he said.

The president has said on numerous occasions that the key to combating al-Qaida and Taliban advances is a regional approach that includes three elements: military action, diplomacy, and support for development.

His new strategy is expected to include an increase in both troops and civilian U.S. personnel who would help in areas ranging from agriculture to bolstering the Afghan legal system.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - speaking at a news conference in Monterrey, Mexico - said the civilian component is essential.

"We are convinced that that is the most critical underpinning of any success we hope to achieve along with the people and government of Afghanistan," said Hillary Clinton.

On the military side, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Democrat Carl Levin, says the plan calls for an extra 4,000 US trainers to work with the Afghan armed forces.

That would be on top of the additional 17,000 American combat and support troops the president wants to send to Afghanistan over the coming months. And it brings the total U.S. deployment, including trainers, up to about 59,000.

There are also indications the new strategy will include additional aid for Pakistan, conditioned on improvements in the way the government is tackling the problem of militants along the Afghan border.

That would be in keeping with legislation proposed last year by Vice-President Joe Biden when he served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He proposed tripling humanitarian aid to Pakistan, but warned military assistance would be cut if Islamabad did not do enough to fight terrorists.