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Kerry: ‘Our Success Depends on a Robust Civilian Effort’

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Afghanistan and Pakistan — in which Deputy Secretary Jack Lew, who has the portfolio for managing the State Department, is joining Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry — by emphasizing two themes: “How Afghan governance will improve, and, above all, how we will strengthen our relationship with Pakistan.”

Expect the hearing to focus on civilian efforts more than military ones. Kerry said he has three major questions about the Obama administration’s Afghanistan strategy: Are there reliable Afghan forces to partner with? Are there local Afghan leaders to work with on the ground? Is the civilian capacity in place to make the military gains sustainable? “Our success depends on a robust civilian effort to build on our military gains,” Kerry said. “There is no military solution, ultimately, so that needs to remain front and center.”

On Pakistan, what happens there “will do more to determine the outcome in Afghanistan and any increase in troops or shift in strategy,” Kerry continued. Interconnected extremist groups “do not stop at the Afghan border, so our strategy cannot stop there either.” As a result, as much as “we must convince its government to tackle all the extremist groups threatening” the region’s stability. “The Pakistani military should be congratulated” for its performance against the Pakistani Taliban, Kerry said. “Now we are looking to the Pakistani military to take on the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, and al-Qaeda strongholds.” Additional aid to the Pakistani military is possible, “but we need to know we’re building a lasting partnership.”

“All nations are threatened by extremism, whether in New York or Mumbai or Peshawar,” Kerry said, underscoring that Pakistan cannot pick and choose which terrorists operating from its soil to confront when those groups demonstrate collaboration or common interests.

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