Biden: “Deteriorating Situation” in Afghanistan, Pakistan Poses Risk to U.S. and Allies

By Kate Barrett

Mar 10, 2009 11:31am

ABC News’ Karen Travers Reports: Vice President Biden warned NATO leaders today that the "deteriorating situation" in Pakistan and Afghanistan is a security risk to the United States and to Europe and asked them for ideas and support as the Obama Administration considers its policy in the region.

"It was from that remote area of the world that al Qaeda plotted 9/11. It was from that very same area that extremists planned virtually every major terrorist attack in Europe since 9/11, including the attacks on London and Madrid," Biden said. "We know that it was from this same area that al Qaeda and its extremist allies are regenerating and conceiving new atrocities to visit upon us."

Biden made the short visit to Brussels to consult with NATO and European Union leaders on Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of the Obama Administration’s strategic review of its policy there.

Biden reiterated what President Obama told the New York Times last week – the United States is not winning in Afghanistan.

"I think the President is accurate; we are not now winning the war, but the war is far from lost," the vice president said.

Biden noted the U.S. outreach to Sunni militias in Iraq and said the same principle applies to outreach to moderate members of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but it remains to be seen whether it can work there.

"There’s only one way, and that is to engage — engage in the process, looking for pragmatic solutions to accomplishing what our goal is; that is an Afghanistan that is, at minimum goal, is not a haven for terror and is able to sustain itself on its own and provide its own security," he said.

Biden said he agreed with the assessment from special representative Richard Holbrooke, after his visits to the region and throughout Afghanistan, and said that the vast majority of the Taliban are involved because they are getting paid.

"Five percent of the Taliban is incorrigible, not susceptible to anything other than being defeated.  Another 25 percent or so are not quite sure, in my view, the intensity of their commitment to the insurgency. And roughly 70 percent are involved because of the money, because of them being — getting paid," Biden said.

Biden would not say what kind of concessions the U.S. would be willing to give the Taliban and was not asked whether it would involve money. He said whatever is decided must be presented by the Afghan government.

"The idea of what concessions would be made is well beyond the scope of my being able to answer, except to say that whatever is initiated will have to be ultimately initiated by the Afghan government, and will have to be such that it would not undermine a legitimate Afghan government," he said. "But I do think it is worth engaging and determining whether or not there are those who are willing to participate in a secure and stable Afghan state."

Biden urged the European leaders to look at the situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan as one because they are intrinsically linked. "Success in one requires progress in the other; the imperative of a comprehensive approach with a strong civilian and diplomatic effort is necessary because we know there is no purely military solution to either Afghanistan or Pakistan," he said.

Biden promised the European leaders that their ideas will be built into the administration’s review, which will be presented to President Obama before he leaves for a NATO summit in Europe early next month. He made it clear that he was not there to present a policy or tell them what the Obama Administration was going to do. "I came to listen," the vice president said.

Later he emphasized the point again: "We’re here to consult. We’re here to listen. We’re here to come up with a joint strategy."

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus