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DOD Background Briefing with a Senior Military Official from the Pentagon

Presenter: Senior Military Official
March 29, 2010
                MODERATOR: Good morning, folks. Thanks for joining us this morning, nice and early. As you know, this is a background session today. The strategic dialogue session between the United States and Pakistan, recently concluded here in Washington. They covered a wide range of topics. One of those included security assistance. 
                Today, we're fortunate enough to have somebody with us that is -- has a very deep understanding of security assistance programs, to Pakistan, and who I think can help us better understand, and perhaps answer some of the questions that you've had, with respect to the U.S. military assistance in Pakistan. 
                So with that, I would like to introduce our senior military briefer. And we will do -- we will probably do a transcript on this. So when you ask questions, I know many of you know our senior military briefer. But I would just ask you to refer to him, in all your stories, as a senior military briefer. 
                Sir, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today. 
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Thanks. 
                MODERATOR: Appreciate it.
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: How are you?
                MODERATOR: And I do think you've got a few opening remarks, and then we'll get into some questions from here.
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Yeah. What I thought I'd do is, for background, just give you an idea of what we do in the Defense Representative Office here in Pakistan and some of the programs that are currently existing. So if you allow me, I'll take a -- just do a quick statement and then be able to take your questions.
                Again, thanks, thanks so much for being here today. I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to talk to you about the Department of Defense security assistance efforts in Pakistan and about our ever-improving relations with Pakistan. And I think you saw that manifest -- some of that in a strategic dialogue.
                But before I take your questions, I did want to just briefly give you some of DOD's efforts to date and give you my impressions of the Pakistan military performance for their ongoing efforts currently in combating violent extremists up in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the North-West Frontier. And then hopefully -- and I know we'll have time to answer some questions.
                But to provide some context, U.S. civilian and security assistance to Pakistan totaled over $4 billion in the last three years. This assistance included support for medical aid, school refurbishment, bridge and well reconstruction, food distribution, agriculture and education projects. The United States has also provided -- and I'm sure you are aware -- 14 F-16 fighters -- aircraft, five fast patrol boats, 115 self-propelled howitzer field artillery cannons, and more than 450 vehicles for the Frontier Corps, hundreds of night-vision goggles, day and night scopes, radios, and thousands of protective vests and first aid items for Pakistan's security forces.
                In addition, the U.S. has provided funding and provided training for more than 370 Pakistan military officers in a wide range of leadership development programs covering topics such as counterterrorism, intelligence, logistics, flight safety, medical, and military law.
                Other significant military assistance to be provided later through this year through our Foreign Military Sales and Foreign Military Financing programs includes the delivery of the first batch of 18 of the Block 52 F-16s scheduled for the Pakistan Air Force, to arrive sometime this summer; and an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate, the first for Pakistan Navy, this fall.
                In fiscal year 2008, the U.S. provided in excess of $1 billion to Pakistan in security assistance and training. This support then doubled in fiscal year 2009 to just over $2 billion, and as we now project, it surpassed this amount this year. This significant commitment highlights the importance we place on our strategic long-term relationship and support for Pakistan.
                As Secretary Gates said during a recent visit to Pakistan, we are trying to do everything we can to assist Pakistan in her battle against violent extremists. We are committed to providing the support and cooperation requested by Pakistan to aid in her fight and achieve our mutual goals in defeating the terrorists who threaten the nation's way of life and had much -- and establishing peace and security in Pakistan and, of course, in the region.
                We also very much value Pakistan's strategic insight when it comes to Afghanistan and the region, and continue to consult their leaders closely, as exemplified by numerous senior visits by senior U.S. officials to Pakistan. Pakistan, as you know, is a key ally, and we face a common enemy and a common goal: a stable and secure Pakistan and the region.
                Let me take a few moments to talk about Pakistan's efforts to combat militants, particularly in the recent Pakistan military operations in South Waziristan. As you know, the accomplishments of the Pakistan security forces have been quite impressive. To see the gains that they have made in this short time is a real testament to the resolve, the fighting spirit and the leadership of Pakistan's armed forces. I think many of you were there at the -- talking to General Kayani this last week. 
                Many people don't realize the sacrifices the Pakistan people, the government, military and security forces have made in this war. An estimated -- close to 5,000 security force members, innocent civilians have been killed since 2001. We pay special tribute to this gallantry and the extraordinary sacrifices exhibited by the Pakistan security forces, government personnel and the military as they fight these violent extremists and seek to protect Pakistan and its way of life. We stand fully behind Pakistan in its relentless drive to restore peace and security to all parts of this region. 
                And I'll conclude there and open it up to questions.
                Q     (Off mike) -- made the announcement -- (off mike) -- plans to give a -- (off mike) -- Shadow drone to Pakistan. Where does that stand, and is that -- is that what they're looking for?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Great question. As the secretary was there, one of the Pakistan - Advances in Space Technologies lists of requirements that General Kayani outlines is about information surveillance. They, like others, go to different shows and see the capabilities of the different tactical UAVs that are out there. They have indicated Shadow. 
                And we took them across to Afghanistan to look at some other models. What we're trying to do is get with them to be able to articulate the requirements of what they need, be able to rack and stack the requirements for endurance and dwell time and type of capabilities on the drone, and then match it against how quickly we may be able to get them to theater and purchase them. So we're working with them right now in order to correctly identify the requirements and then match the best platform to their needs based on several factors to be able to get there.
                Q     Can you narrow it, then, to -- (inaudible) -- what -- so it's not Shadows anymore; what are they looking at?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Well, it could be Shadows -- and this is what we're trying to do. We looked at different versions; we looked at Shadows, we looked at ScanEagles and other tactical UAVs that are out and about. And what we want to do is try to find out -- as we always say, you know, one of the things we look at on a strike group or whatever is, rather than tell me "I want a(n) Aegis cruiser," "I want a DDG," "I want a Shadow 500," tell me what the requirements are, and then let's match the right equipment to the requirements. And that's what we're trying to work them through.
                Many times with Pakistan, they like to be able to identify a certain thing that they want, and we get them to the point of, okay, what is the requirement that you need to be able to do?
                Yes, ma'am.
                Q     There was talk last week about reimbursements, trying to expedite the reimbursements to -- for counterterrorism operations. Can you talk a little bit about that, why that's been so in the past and what might change from here on out?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Yeah. As you know -- great question, because it talks about coalition support funds. Since 2001, under Operation Enduring Freedom, we reimburse countries. Pakistan happens to be -- get about 80 percent of the money that's been paid out recent -- in the -- since 2001, as one of the several countries that are able to submit what they do as reimbursable costs for their contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom. 
                We had, for the first five years of the fund, from 2001 to about 2006, 2007, we had disbursed, over the five years, about $6.3 billion in reimbursement costs to Pakistan. There was a concern and interest in Congress that ended up in a GAO report that came out and audited what the count was, what the reimburse was.
                In 2008, we implemented essentially new procedures based on the GAO report, procedures that required better accounting, better cost analysis of what we were reimbursing Pakistan for their -- for their efforts for Operation Enduring Freedom.
                We have worked very closely with the OSD comptroller, CENTCOM J8 comptroller and requirements, and our own staff in Office of Defense Representative, Pakistan, through several meetings through the period, to explain to them and look and work with them to try to identify the right accounting system and the right receipts for some of the claims that have gone in.
                That has -- that has caused kind of a new shift. And so it was a requirement. They don't have, as you would expect, the same accounting level system as we do, so it took a while. It took several months -- in fact, many months -- to be able to get the right claims contracts, receipts for some of the reimbursement claims. At the same time, also, there was an issue going on with visas that also slowed down some of our comptrollers to be able to come and to audit.
                A combination of these things that we're working through has resulted in, essentially, the payments being a little bit slower than we'd like to do. We are working on a process now to expedite the claims and to -- and to potentially come up with new ideas to be able to match the claims, their operational revenues -- almost a modeling system. But all that is still work in progress so as we look through the process.
                Yes, sir.
                Q     Dave Wood, from Politics Daily. It's my understanding that the Pakistanis were interested in armed Predators, or armed drones of some sort. What's the U.S. position on that? And in general, what's your timeline for getting them some drones, even if they're not armed?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: First question, on the -- on the strike capability of drones, as you know, it's not U.S. policy to be able to give any lethal capabilities with any of the drone technology that we -- that we do for any of the countries.
                Regarding drones, as you know, they do have some foreign tactical UAVs that they're currently using, but it's a mixed bag. They've also modified a C-130 with what they call a "Bright Star," which is an optical piece that they're able to do some ISR. With the long, persistent platform of the C-130, they modified some of those to be able to help them.
                And so it's a matter of -- okay, again, like we said, it's figuring out what the requirements are to be able to look. And part of that factor, I think, will be -- a key factor will be is how quickly we can get the capabilities to them. As you see, they're in the fight. And what's nice is, as you know, last year I got $400 million in a new -- called Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capabilities Fund and 700 million (dollars) this year to design specifically for that to be able to dedicate resources fairly rapidly to support their fight that they're currently involved in right now. So that's what we hope to be able to use some of that money for.
                Q     So what's your event horizon for getting them some conditional drones --
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Boy, I would love -- (laughs) -- if I knew the availability of finally when we get the requirements and then look at resources -- because, as you know, the tactical drones are huge. And we'll look at potential -- obviously acquiring them, and then maybe even the potential of having some -- assisting them in getting some of that until those tactical UAVs get there in time. But yeah, I couldn't really tell you a good time.
                Yes, ma'am, in the back.
                Q     Could I follow up on that?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Okay.
                Q     Yeah, so I -- just because when we were in Pakistan, again, the secretary announced these Shadow drones -- can you just tell me -- so are you sure you're not going to be giving them Shadow drones?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Shadow drones may in fact be the -- be the right platform at the end of the day. Again, what we're trying to do is get them to the point of what's the requirement, what do they want to have for tactical UAVs to support the fight, is the Shadow drone the right platform to be able to do it.
                Shadow is one of the things that they had asked for, and as we expanded and talked about other UAV platforms to be able to use is when they said: Well, let's take a look at them and then let's make sure we're picking the right ones.
                Q     If I can follow up, can we nail you down, and do you think that they'll be delivered within a year and it will be a dozen of whatever they are?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: We have -- I forget how much money's set aside for it, but in order to match the capabilities of the fight that they're in -- and I would -- I would like to think that we would get them within the year. 
                Q     (Inaudible.)
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: But I don't -- the quantity and so forth, I think, will depend on -- and again, what is the right -- what is the right ones and what is the units involved and how many makes sense for the fight that they're in.
                Q     Could it be more or less -- (inaudible) -- less --
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Could be more or less, depending on the need.
                Q     (Inaudible) -- question. On North Waziristan, we -- General Kayani -- (inaudible) -- he was saying that there are operations ongoing in North Waziristan right now, but I would like you to assess the nature of those operations. I mean, how extensive are they? And are they what the U.S. would like to see?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: As General Kayani briefed, there's probably about 40,000 troops in North Waziristan right now -- existing troops that are in the process of doing small operations in different areas of the tribal region. As you know, North Waziristan is made up of several different tribes. And they -- you know, kind of home court advantage, and knowing the tribes -- my understanding is, is they -- it will not be similar to what they did down in the Mehsud area of South Waziristan, where they did kind of a steamroller operation, for lack of a better term. I don't think we're going to see that in North Waziristan, but we are seeing quite a bit of activity that's going on. In a lot of ways, it supports what General Kayani's been telling us in some of the strategic dialogues and talks about his campaign plan.
                Yes, ma'am, in the back. 
                Q     There were six Mi-17s that the U.S. had done a lease to Pakistan for, that apparently they were not happy with and were returning. Are those going to be replaced by something else, either a U.S. airframe or another Russian airframe? 
                And then a second sort of unrelated question is, there have been problems in previous years with end-use checks: making sure the military equipment is where it's supposed to be, being used for what it's supposed to be used for. 
                Has that gotten better? 
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Okay, first question. On the Mi-17s, as you know, there was given -- in May, the lease is up on some of the leased Mi-17s that we have. We have indications that they are not willing to renew the lease, on some of those aircraft, and we'll probably be getting some of the Mi-17s back on some of the leases. 
                Regarding end-use monitoring, we are in a process as we do, with sensitive items, to be able to do annual end-use monitoring. The -- my security assistance office -- I've built up staff members, as more gear goes in. And so last year, we had no difficulties in doing annual inventories of the sensitive items that were required. 
                Yes, sir. 
                Q     Hi. 
                With the shadows or whatever you do provide eventually, what's the commitment or contribution that's going to be made, from U.S. military, to help train them specifically with these sort of trends? 
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Oh, with Pakistan right now, give you rough-ballpark, I have probably about 200 U.S. military in Pakistan that are involved in security assistance and training programs working with -- working with the Pakistan military and the Pakistan paramilitary forces of the frontier corps. 
                Q     (Off mike.) 
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: With some of the equipment as you know, there's a piece to it that we call the DOTMLPF: the doctrine, the training, the maintenance and so forth. Each one has its unique requirements. 
                And then we tailor it -- you know, due to the sensitivity, the number of U.S. in Pakistan we tailor to the package that they're going to receive. So that's a variable based on what the final equipment will be.
                Yes, sir.
                Q     General McChrystal's J-2, General Flynn, was quoted in The Atlantic as saying that Haqqani and Hekmatyar are basically people who can be dealt with, reconcilable. Do you agree with that?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Mike Flynn's great -- a great J-2 for ISAF. I think, as you know, the reintegration and reconciliation is a -- is an interesting and much-debated topic. I think, much like everyone else says, the reconciliation I think really has to be government of Afghanistan led and managed, in framework of what they define for their reconciliation.
                Under those terms, then, I think, you know, probably helping enlistment of Pakistan in that as well as -- in that framework. I think all those will be a blend. Some are -- some are reconcilable, some aren't. 
                Q     Well, what's going on in Pakistan with these guys now?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Until -- again, because of the effects, really, Afghanistan has really -- until we have an Afghanistan policy regarding reconciliation, a government of Pakistan that -- or a government of Afghanistan that controls it, and them understanding and -- because Pakistan has offered assistance to Afghanistan, if they would like, in helping, because of the tribal region and the nature of it.
                And I think there's probably a nexus here where I think they will work -- they will be able to work together to --
                Q     But what's your own sense? Are these guys reconcilable?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Boy, that's a -- that's a hard one to say. And I probably will -- probably won't answer that one from the standpoint of -- until we understand what are all the second- and third-order effects.
                Because just by reconciling how are they -- how are they brought back in the country, what demands -- there is a whole host of issues, I think, that need to be resolved in a framework to understand what are the terms of reconciliation and what is required, that I think in each of those, depending on tribe or whatever, will have a different impact.
                So I'm not sure, because of not knowing all the terms of what they want to outline for reconciliation. As you know, those tribes through the years -- the '80s, the '90s, and the Soviet -- fixed -- you know, bounced back and forth from different allegiances, based on the type of deals and plans. And I think until they resolve that framework, it'll be -- it'll be hard to tell. And, but I think in all the cases, to be able to deal with the tribes from -- as General Kayani says, and others -- from a stand of power, having control -- but, you know, their utility of resisting, you know, the government or whatever then adds in that calculus of what they'll agree to.
                Yes, sir.
                Q     Since the -- since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Pakistani government, military, intelligence services, have been willing to accommodate, if not harbor, Taliban, Afghanistan Taliban, inside Pakistan. Yet recently, we've seen Pakistani forces join with U.S. operatives in rounding up some of the leadership of Mullah Omar and the Haqqani Network. What was the catalyst for that? Why the sudden switch?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Wow, that's a -- that's a good question, on whether or not there was a switch or not. What I do know is, when I got there in 2008, there was quite a bit of discussions, quite an engagement by General Petraeus and Admiral Mullen and others with General Kayani.
                And General Kayani then, during his initial portion of his three-year tenure as the chief of Army staff, had talked to us about a campaign plan that was going to start up north at Bajaur and work its way through the -- through the FATA; got distracted a little with Swat in the north -- in the North-West Frontier. And so they seem to be abiding by kind of -- that kind of campaign plan, to be able to go and unroot the insurgencies in those areas.
                So I think, also, a realization of the syndicate nature of the -- of these forces; that although they might be wearing the -- you know, the big al Qaeda banner, that these forces do work together in different ways. And when the forces started attacking into the settled areas of Pakistan within the last two years, I think they really realized that this is -- this is a -- extremists that they had to deal with, you know, as they were taking over the Swat area and the very dramatic attacks inside, you know, Peshawar, Islamabad, Karachi; that I think it was a wake-up call to some extent that they needed to deal with this insurgency. And it became their war, not our war as it -- as it may have been portrayed in the past.
                Q     That appeared to be aimed primarily at Baitullah Mehsud's Taliban organization. And even an advance in Marja, the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan felt secure enough in fleeing to -- into Pakistan, that they would be somewhat unmolested, that they wouldn't -- they wouldn't suffer any prosecution by the Pakistani military government. Yet all of a sudden -- it was like a switch was flipped, just like that.
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Yeah.
                Q     And I'm just wondering, there had to have been a recent catalyst to go after these networks, the Mullah Omar and Haqqani networks.
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Well, I think it's the idea -- what I said earlier is that they realized that the syndication of all these different groups that feed off of each other and spread the insurgency throughout, I think, is part of it. 
                Part of it also is the -- is the coordination that we have now -- it's probably the best I've seen -- between Afghanistan coalition forces, Afghan forces and the Pak military, coordinating on a daily basis with Regional Command East in the 11th Corps in operations, working together very closely. And it's very -- it's wonderful to watch. And so that border that was very fluid now is starting to become problematic for the insurgencies to go back and forth.
                Q     (Off mike.)
                Q     And just one last question. So do you believe that the Haqqani and Mullah Omar networks can no longer rely on Pakistan for safe haven?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: I think, as you -- as you're seeing it progress -- you know, the question about North Waziristan, what they did in South Waziristan, what they're currently doing in Orakzai and Khyber -- I think you're seeing a trend where they are -- they are trying to remove the areas that were once unapproachable. I mean, General Kayani makes a bold statement of -- I mean, this was the first time that any military had really occupied South Waziristan. And their idea is to occupy all the other areas. And I think it will take time, but I think that's the -- the end state is to be able to oust the safe havens in these particular regions.
                Yes, ma'am.
                Q     So how do you see the relationship (from a ?) bigger perspective between the Pakistani leadership and the Afghan leadership at this point, the government, especially on the military side?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: I think -- like I said, the military relationship, I think, is the best I've ever seen it. And I've been there now a little over 20 months. Great cooperation. We have periodic Tripartite Commission talks that General McChrystal holds, our ISAF commander holds, along with Bismillah Khan Mohadammadi and General Kayani, on a routine basis.
                And the staff interaction from the lower levels all the way down to essentially task force levels on either side of the border are occurring with very, very frequent periodicity. In some cases we're talking on a daily basis regarding tactical operations and maneuvers on each side.
                And then the recent visit, I think, you saw in the press, with President Karzai into Pakistan, I thought was well received, of understanding that it's a regional context on this issue and they needed to work together. So I see it improving across the board.
                Q     I'd like to follow up on one other thing. What's your impression at this point of the view of the United States within Pakistan? Have you seen any significant shift in that? And how much do you think -- how much do you think the Pakistani leadership is doing or how much more could they be doing to turn that, to change that image?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Great question. And for my background, you know, I had been there in 2005, 2006. I headed up the joint task force for the earthquake relief. And that was our highest approval rating -- after the earthquake, after the six months or whatever, and it was up in the 70 percent. That, as you know, quickly fell off. Probably at the beginning of 2008, it was probably around 9 percent approval rating for the U.S. And subsequent to that, we kind of jokingly kidded -- it doubled. It's now up to 18 percent. It's still quite low, but as the -- and I think the strategic dialogue will help in a lot of -- in a lot of ways with the rhetoric of giving Pakistan, like you said, an ability to give them space because of more favorable approval ratings for the United States; will allow the government and the military, I think, to engage with us more openly and more frequently, because right now the media and the sentiment is somewhat anti-U.S.
                But that was an item in discussion throughout the strategic dialogues of -- when there are potentially false accusations, to be able to correct them. And we're doing an active campaign of that as well, for some of the more outlandish statements, to correct the record, to show the support in the relationship of the U.S. and Pakistan.
                (Cross talk.)
                MODERATOR: We do have another meeting at 10:30, so we're going to have to make this the last one. Perhaps somebody that hasn't had a chance to ask one.
                (Cross talk.)
                Q     Can I follow up -- (inaudible) -- then? Mik had asked earlier about the arrests and why Pakistan was stepping it up. And I was wondering if you could clarify your answer. Is it a fundamental shift in strategy, do you think, or are they continuing to use armed -- (inaudible)? And how much do you think the July of 2011 deadline has played into their decision to shift, as much as you see one?
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: The July 2011 is a hotly debated timeline that was put out there. Many engagements have restated July 2011 as a point at which we do another evaluation, and then, based on that we -- conditions-based -- then we would decide what the issues are going to be. So I think that's cleared up in their mind, so I don't think that July 2011 was a hard date that says, "Geez, I got to get this done," because if you use that as an example, I think they would have said, "Well, geez, if you're going to abandon us again, then I need to keep these proxies about."
                I really do believe it was a sense they realized that they had this insurgency problem inside their country, and they had to do something about it because it was coming after their government and their way of life to unseat what they did. And I think it spurred them on to taking action.
                Q     So it isn't just a strategy, as you see it. 
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: I think they always fought it. But until it really got I guess from my view into the settled areas, where it was occurring potentially in Baluchistan and the FATA, that area has always been considered unsettled area. And, but when it started moving in and causing the disruption, into the populated areas of Sindh and Punjab, I think it caused them much concern about what was happening inside their country. 
                Q     I don't mean to belabor the point. But I guess what I'm trying to understand is, do you think that they're doing this as a way to have a seat at the table for negotiations for the future of Afghanistan? Is it their way to keep a representative, if you will, at the table for the future of Afghanistan? (Off mike.) 
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: No, I don't think it's -- I don't think it's that -- if they do some action now, because it has been widely reported, hey, we rolled up Mullah Baradar because that way, you know, if there's a reconciliation, I have one of the key players. And so you have to include -- be into it. 
                I don't think there was that -- I can't agree to that. I think it was just, as you see, they're rolling up people left and right and have been for a while. But it really has been, is because they have this insurgency on their hand that I think finally we see a lot more of it, from what's going on, because of the activity --
                MODERATOR: I'm going to have to bring it to an end now. We're already past our time. And I want to thank the briefer for taking the time today. Obviously a lot of interest in this topic. And we'll see if we can't revisit this at a later date again.
                SR. MILITARY BRIEFER: Good. Thank you. 
                THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

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