Secretary of State Hillary Clinton started today’s Af-Pak Review meeting by talking about Richard Holbrooke and how much it meant to the family that the president spoke to them.
The president remarked on how much the team will miss him.
But then they got on with the review in a tone that was described by one attendee as “businesslike.”
President Obama will make a statement about the Af-Pak review on Thursday, one year after his speech at West Point announcing a new way forward. The review has been two months in the making, headed up by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.
The review will report some good news:
- Progress in halting Taliban and insurgent momentum, especially around Kandahar and Helmand Provinces;
- Success degrading senior al Qaeda leadership – and though the White House won’t say this aloud, administration sources say this has been accomplished through drone strikes in Pakistan; and
- Improvement working with Pakistani government in civilian/military/intelligence areas.
But the new cooperation with Pakistan has only gone so far, which leads us to the continued challenges the report describes:
- Insurgents/Taliban/al Qaeda are still finding safe havens in Pakistan, mainly in the FATA region – the tribal areas in the northwest of Pakistan;
- Creating a stable and non-corrupt Afghan government – especially in the sub-national level, as in Marja – is a challenge;
- Training and retaining Afghan forces that are capable of taking control from the U.S. remains difficult.