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U.S. Strategy on Afghanistan

Speaker: John F. Kerry, Chairman, Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate (D-MA)
Presider: David E. Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent, The New York Times
October 26, 2009

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U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry [D-MA] spoke at the Washington office of the Council on Foreign Relations on October 26, highlighting the array of U.S. policy challenges in Afghanistan. Kerry stressed that defeating al-Qaeda remained at the center of U.S. mission in Afghanistan. He defined U.S. success in Afghanistan "as the ability to empower and transfer responsibility to Afghans as rapidly as possible and achieve a sufficient level of stability to ensure that we can leave behind an Afghanistan that is not controlled by al-Qaeda or the Taliban."

On the ongoing debate over whether or not the United States should send additional troops to Afghanistan, Kerry said the decision should rest on three conditions:

  • Are there enough reliable Afghan forces to partner with U.S. troops—and eventually to take over responsibility for security?
  • Are there local leaders we can partner with?
  • Is the civilian side ready to follow swiftly with development aid that brings tangible benefits to the local population?

Kerry also emphasized the need to devote more U.S. attention to stabilizing Pakistan, where al-Qaeda's main leadership is based. He said "if we want to reduce the need for additional boots on the ground over the long-haul, it is vitally important that we support, that we intensify even, our support and improve our cooperation with Pakistan."

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