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Eikenberry’s Priorities For Afghanistan

Here’s the highlight reel from soon-to-be-retired Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry‘s opening statement during his confirmation hearing to become U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass), the committee chairman — who will probably be briefed by special envoy Richard Holbrooke on the Obama administration’s new Afghanistan strategy this afternoon — laid out the counterinsurgency-for-counterterrorism approach by saying that the “goal” is to ensure “Afghanistan never again becomes a staging ground” for attacks on the U.S., and the means to do so includes “improving governance at all levels” and “a robust commitment of coalition troops and coalition aid.”

Eikenberry pledges a close relationship with the U.S. military, development workers, civilian U.S. agencies and international partners, “to ensure all elements of national power are brought to bear in mutually reinforcing ways,” which, while uncontroversial, has been lacking in Afghanistan. Eikenberry’s first substantive point: bolstering the Afghan security forces. “The way ahead is clear, but the resources to date have been insufficient,” in terms of “reducing corruption and strengthening the rule of law.” Development and aid “must be channeled to those areas where the insurgency” is greatest, and he blasts inefficiency and disappeared resources, as a recent GAO report pointed out.

“I will work closely with Ambassadors Holbrooke and Ambassador Patterson in Islamabad.” And then he addresses the Afghans: “With our support, you’ll further develop capable governance, and a strong patriotic Army.” When you “achieve your goals, international terrorists will no longer find” a place in Afghanistan, and “here is where your interests, our interests and international interests all converge.”

Also, Frank Ricciardone, who’ll be a top Eikenberry and U.N. deputy in Kabul, is at the hearing.

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