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DOD News Briefing with Maj. Gen. Jones via Teleconference from Afghanistan

Presenter: ISAF Force Reintegration Cell Director Maj. Gen. Phil Jones
September 08, 2011

            MR. GEORGE LITTLE (Defense Department Press Secretary): Good morning here, and good evening in Afghanistan. I’d like to welcome back to the Pentagon Briefing Room British Army Major General Phil Jones, director of the Force Reintegration Cell of International Security Assistance Force headquarters.

            General Jones assumed his current assignment in May of last year and is nearing the end of an 18-month tour. This is his fourth tour in Afghanistan. Past tours include service as an infantry battalion commander in Kabul in 2002, as the director of plans for Combined Joint Task Force -- 180 in 2003, and as the military advisor to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in 2006-2007. He last briefed us in May of this year.

            The general joins us today from ISAF headquarters in Kabul to provide us an update on the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program. He’ll make some opening comments, and then will take your questions. And with that, general -- welcome again -- and now I’ll turn it over to you.

            MAJOR GENERAL PHIL JONES: Thank you very much. Just one point to note: You're quite quiet in my ear, if we can raise the volume slightly. But ladies and gentlemen, good morning. It's very good to be able to talk to you all again about the Afghan Peace and Reintegration program.

            I last spoke to you on the 19th of May of this year. We're now one year -- just over one year into this initiative. But last time I spoke to you, we had just over 1,700 men formally enrolled into the program, and we were right in the middle of assisting the Afghan government in building political and administrative committees and secretariats across the country.

            So today I'll give you an update. As many of you know, this peace program was formally launched at the Kabul conference in July 2010. And the Afghanistan High Peace Council sat for the first time in October last year. So over the past 13 months, ISAF has been supporting Afghan political leaders in the creation and execution of this initiative.

            This time last year, the process existed only on paper, with a small group of highly committed Afghan leaders just beginning to build the administrative structures and the processes. But more than the creation of the infrastructure, their huge challenge was to overcome some of the incredible skepticism and doubt that a peace program of any type could emerge in the middle of a conflict.

            And the Afghan vision of peace building and reintegration is focused on the building of trust and confidence amongst people who have been fighting the government and each other for many years. Through the outreach of political, social and religious leaders of the provinces and districts, peace is built village by village if necessary. When a more stable community environment is created, fighters will be brought home to reintegrate back into their communities. This means that fighters return to peace as a consequence of peacebuilding, not as a result of material or financial incentives. So while we all feel a great sense of urgency to break the cycle of violence, it's incredibly important to understand and respect the necessity of the courageous, patient, confidence-building and conflict resolution work of leaders and elders.

            Now let me give you a feel for what we see happening. Now we're at the beginning of September 2011. A year ago, the initial level of ambition in the original strategy document in the prevailing circumstance -- circumstances of the day was to have eight provinces with active structures and up to 1,000 reintegrees enrolled in the program by the end of the first year. Today, at the end of the first year, the High Peace Council has a joint secretariat to manage the process, with peace committees in 32 provinces, secretariats functioning in 25 provinces, provincial budgets activated and 2,418 former fighters enrolled in the program. These are 2,418 men who are no longer shooting at the coalition and Afghan soldiers, no longer laying roadside bombs that kill innocent women and children.

            Reintegration is happening today in 20 provinces. To my mind, that's a magnificent achievement. So during a tough year of building credibility, buy-in and outreach, the joint secretariat has also built a range of active political and administrative structures from nothing. And the joint secretariat never had the luxury of spending the first year of building the processes in isolation. Groups of insurgents were coming to join the peace process even before the president had signed the decree that brought the Afghan peace and reintegration program to life.

            Of course, on the surface it's clear that the number of formal reintegrees is still relatively modest in comparison to our scale of ambition. And the overwhelming majority of groups joining the process so far have been low-level fighters. But today, a year into this process, we're seeing more significant groups beginning to flow in across the country. Importantly, this is beginning to take place in the provinces of the south and the east, where reintegration is always going to be more of a challenge. And in many parts of the country, we're seeing low-level day-labor type fighters simply going home, or if you like, informally reintegrating back into their communities.

            While these fighters are hard to track and quantify, the departure from the battlefield is an important contribution to peace in Afghanistan. As the process continues to push ahead, we see confidence grow, enabling provincial peace councils across the country to build peace strategies and work on grievance resolution.

            But remember, please, that building peace out of war is a tough process. After 30 years of conflict, people will be cautious and wary. Skepticism and doubt is widespread. This is a deeply human process that depends on increasing confidence day in, day out. This requires courageous Afghan leaders to make bold decisions to reject the cycle of violence and work to build local and national peace. It requires huge energy to overcome the inertia of war, and great persistence to build the confidence and trust necessary to achieve momentum.

            ISAF's part in all of this is to work with all of our Afghan military and civil partners to bring increasing synergies between security, political outreach, governance, the rule of law and development. This is an Afghan program, designed by Afghans and led by Afghans. But we're keen supporters, able and willing to do whatever we can to support the Afghan peace and reintegration program.

            Thank you. And now I'll take questions.

            MR. LITTLE: Questions?


            Q: General, it's Mike Evans from the London Times here. Can I ask you, you've achieved two thousand -- whatever the figure was that you gave us -- 2,418 in a year. You've got this deadline ahead of you of 2014, basically, when the drawdown of all the troops will probably have been completed -- of all the ISAF troops. Do you find that this drawdown is in fact an obstacle? In other words, people have to be pretty motivated to come forward and join this reintegration program. If they see that everyone's going to leave by 2014, does that act as a sort of disincentive?

            GEN. JONES: Well, it's a really interesting question, and thank you for asking it. I mean, a first point to make is that, you know, we're not anticipating everyone leaving at 2014. We're anticipating there being an international community presence here that runs well beyond 2014 and into the future. Quite what that will be is yet to be fully described.

            But one of the important messages here is that this is not a precipitous drop off the edge of a cliff at the end of 2014. This is an orderly process of transition that hands over Afghan sovereignty in every respect. But there'll be a requirement for an international presence to support many parts of the growing elements of government for some time to come.

            Now, does that impact on reintegration? Well, interesting enough, those provinces that are already in tranche one of reintegration are seeing great synergies between the really sort of moral messages of the mutually supporting effect of transition, the regain of sovereignty, and with that, the regain of responsibility, and the process of peace-building. So you know, in some places there were concerns that, you know, this might work against the sort of sense of building confidence and momentum. And actually, in many of the places -- you know, we were in Laghman the other day, which -- where Mehtar Lam is a tranche-one transition capital, and the provincial governor there, Governor Azizi, was talking about these mutually interlinked, mutually supporting -- with a strong moral message running through them of peace and transition working together.

            MR. LITTLE: Jennifer.

            Q: OK. Hi, General. It's Jennifer Griffin from Fox News. Can you tell us, of the 2,418 fighters, how -- which provinces are they from? How many are from the south and east? Are they -- are they evenly distributed? And what estimate do you use for how many Taliban fighters or fighters there are in the country? So what percentage is there of that? And then what incentives are you providing these fighters to stop fighting and to reintegrate?

            GEN. JONES: Yes. OK. Well, this reintegration took off much faster in the north and the west. And so even today the overwhelming number of people in the reintegration program are across the provinces, the nine provinces of the north and the four provinces of the west. Probably about two-thirds today are from those provinces. And those reintegration groups are made up of all sorts of different elements of instability and insurgency.

            About a third have come from the south and east. For example, we've got about a hundred in Kandahar. There's only 20 or 30 so far in Helmand, but we're aware of large numbers who have what I'd call informally reintegrated in central Helmand. In other provinces, the east, you're starting to see this emerge. There's 40 or 50 in Kunar, for example, right out in the east. There's plus of a hundred now in Laghman. And so you can see it's emerging in much smaller -- much smaller groups in the south and east. But this is where we're starting to see some of the real growth in people tackling this process.

            In terms of what are the broad estimates, ISAF, I think, has routinely estimated in the public forums a rough estimate -- and it is a very rough estimate because it's extremely hard to judge -- of somewhere in the region of 25,000 fighters within the insurgency, and that's a mix of full-time, you know, professional fighters, if you like, and the sort of fighters that we're dealing with an awful lot, which is these low-level village groups who are, you know, a combination of day laborers and people who've fought against the government for years. And so we're looking, I think, at the moment, you know, you could say in broad-order terms something like 10 percent of those people have been involved in the insurgency.

            But of course, that doesn't describe the sort of qualitative difference between village-level groups, who are of their villages, who have become alienated from the government, who are now rejoining the government, so to speak, and those much more hard-core Talib networks, many of them operating from sanctuaries in Pakistan, with whom we're just starting to get some contact in some of the areas, so are just starting to negotiate very discreetly to come into this.

            In terms of incentives, the international community -- to include the United States, who donated money to this -- were very clear, and the Afghan government were very clear as well, there should be no perverse incentives, no material gain for combatants and ex-combatants. So the international funds go to community-based projects. The $142 million that is in the international trust fund is almost exclusively focused on community development projects in response to peace.

            Fighters themselves have the greatest incentive of all, which is to be able to step off the battlefield with their honor and dignity intact and return to Afghanistan and live in peace. In other words, we try to give them some sense of security guarantees that if they join the peace process and remain in the peace process, they can live in peace at home. And that's the greatest incentive of all.

            One last point on that is that what we do offer them is three months of a stipend, 90 days, to ease them out of the fight and ease them back into the communities, and that stipend equates to roughly $120 per man per month for three months.

            Q: Sir, Richard Sisk, The War Report online. How is this integration achieved? Can you describe it? Do you contact them? Do they contact you? Do they walk in? How does this come about?

            GEN. JONES: It's all of the above, frankly, Richard. And it's a fascinating process. And what we're finding is that it's a combination of outreach -- this is the first stage of the program, to build confidence -- so that Afghan leaders, whether they be tribal, religious or members of the government or Afghan leaders in the security forces, reach out through multitudes of contacts to insurgent groups, insurgent leaders, mostly through mediators, and they start to talk them in over time.

            On the other side of this, there are insurgent groups, for a number of reasons -- tired of fighting is a classic reason, military pressure, but also the sense that they're fighting in a false jihad and peace is coming -- are reaching out the other way. And at the start there is no doubt that the outreach was going from, sort of, our side, if you like, to them, predominantly, and more and more across these networks in Afghanistan we're seeing these -- both the combinations of low-level fighters and the networks start to reach out in the other direction and make contact through a number of mediators and a number of routes.

            Q: General, thank you. Raghubir Goyal for India Globe and Asia today. My question is, marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11, as far as security in Afghanistan is concerned how do you feel that international community is now more confident to work and live there to rebuild Afghanistan? And finally, how does the Afghan people feel today, 10 years ago and today and beyond?

            GEN. JONES: Well, you know, it's easy to make sweeping generalizations about how Afghan people feel 10 years after 9/11. As you'd expect, a nation that has an insurgency within it is challenged by many of the problems that are well known in Afghanistan: poverty and the social inequities; the sort of progress in the rule of law, or the absence of justice in some areas still; imbalances in the economy; you know, tackling corruption. You know, it is a very complex place, where people have multiple concerns, not just about the conflict, but also about their own lives and the future of their families.

            And when I got back to Afghanistan last spring, I was, you know, quite shocked to find that some of my Afghan colleagues who I knew very well over the years felt profoundly gloomy about the future of Afghanistan. Remember that a year and a half ago, transition as a process didn't exist. There was a real concern that there was going to be a very precipitous drop-off of the international community this year, while the Taliban was still seen as an existential threat to the government in some provinces. And over the period of winter, you know, the surge, the troop surge -- but that's shorthand for so many other things.

            The civilian surge and the surge in Afghan security capability and all of that has had, to my mind, quite a profound effect. It hasn't tipped the strategic balance of confidence conclusively one way, but it's certainly reshaped it from a profound gloom to people who are starting to grapple with a more orderly future and starting to grapple with a sense of transition allowing them to achieve sovereignty in so many domains with a structured process around it.

            And confidence is fragile. These processes in some respects remain irreversible. This continues to be a tough process, to build confidence day by day. But there's an increasing recognition, particularly amongst the educated youth who are beginning to populate the ministries and things, that, you know, this is a nation that has a chance and this is a nation that has greater cohesion, step by step. But let's not forget, you know, it's a tough life for people out there in the distant rural communities.

            Q: Just two questions. First, you mentioned -- Dan De Luce, from AFP -- you talked about security guarantees. How effective can those guarantees be, given the assassination campaigns that the insurgents have carried out? Could you explain how you are able to provide those guarantees?

            GEN. JONES: Yeah. Yeah, I think, in some sense, the guarantees will always be a misnomer in this, because nothing can be guaranteed. As we've seen, even with, you know, extraordinary levels of security, there have been some assassinations that have affected people in parts of the country quite deeply. But the essence here is, of course, to get as close to that as possible.

            And in our dealings with ex-Talib leaders and Talib leaders who have joined the process, we know that the first question they want to ask is: Can we -- can we come home in peace? Will you arrest us? Will you shoot at us? Because some of these groups have tried this in the past over the years. You know, some of them will say: Well, we tried to come home in 2003, or 2005, and there was no one to go to, and some of our colleagues were arrested or shot. So how can we trust this process? And building that trust that: No, no, we are sincere; you really can come home. If you join the peace process, we will support you going back to your communities. We'll work with your communities; we'll work with the local Afghan security forces; we'll work with our cells. If you're a significant leader who sits in our intelligence systems, we'll put you on a restricted target list, which means we'll lift targeting off you -- and these sort of things.

            But one has to be realistic: You can't make promises that you can't deliver on. This is -- you cannot deliver a perfect guarantee in this system. And indeed, there are integrees who have joined the process who have died -- you know, a relatively small number, thankfully. But, you know, this just reminds us that this is a tough process, and you're dealing with people who know the consequences of this. This is not -- these are not decisions taken in a glib manner. People weigh up their decisions and come to this. And it's remarkable that in some really challenging circumstances, against quite a lot of intimidation, we're starting to see people take bold steps forward.

            Q: Just another question?

            MR. LITTLE: A follow-up?

            Q: You mentioned the south, and how you could see just the beginnings of the process in the south. Could you talk a little bit in more detail about where that's happening, and also how it relates, directly or indirectly, to the -- to the NATO-led military operations there?

            GEN. JONES: Yeah, for sure. Well, let's take Helmand, for example. Governor Mangal has been one of the more active governors in all of this, and he -- he's been conducting a great deal of outreach with him and his colleagues since probably about November last year. He was one of the first to get into this, really working through the tribes, the tribal elders, through the religious leaders, to reach out to build peace.

            Rather as I described it in my opening statement, governors see this as a function of building peace with the tribes -- and, of course, between the tribes because an awful lot of the conflict in Afghanistan has been generated from tribal disputes -- so building peace, working with tribes who generate -- there's a recruiting platform for Talibs and working with Talib groups.

            And I was in Helmand, I think about three weeks ago, talking to his chief of staff, who works with us. And the governor is -- has sort of relatively formally but very discreetly reintegrated 2(00) or 300 people in central Helmand back into their communities, very quietly. They're not registered in our program yet. They will come.

            But beyond that, of course -- and that really sort of solidifies the sense of increasing stability in central Helmand. But beyond that, of course, you know, he's been working on this -- the Sangin peace agreement with the tribes. It's been running since January of this year. That's a challenged situation. The Talibs, you know, attack it. There's still violence. But it's made a big difference to the security laid down in Helmand.

            You come across to Kandahar -- you know, Kandahar is a very complicated province, and an awful lot of the grievances are old and run very deep. And yet we have in Kandahar a gentleman called Noor-ul-Aziz Agha, who has featured in the press in the past, who reintegrated about five months ago, a significant local Talib leader who fought in Helmand and Kandahar up to about six months ago, reintegrated five months ago. Noor-ul-Aziz Agha, who we now know quite well, is now the Minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs in Kandahar. He's in the government. I think this is remarkable, and it sends a very strong message of inclusion.

            And that has an impact politically in Kandahar. And the aim in Kandahar is to engender this sort of, you know, political stabilization and political inclusion on the back of the great security gains that were hard-won and hard-fought through the winter and spring. That's the sort of thing we're looking at. That's how it impacts on the counterinsurgency campaign.

            MR. LITTLE: Yeah.

            Q: General, Karen Parrish, American Forces Press Service. Can you tell us what sort of follow-up process there is from the low-level fighters who reintegrate up to the more significant figures such as the gentleman you just discussed? What ongoing monitoring is taking place to ensure that trust is working from that direction as well?

            GEN. JONES: Yeah, it's a very good question. Like many things in this program, there are many aspects of really being able to track this in some detail that are still growing across the country. In the conditions of Afghanistan, it takes time to put, you know, clinical processes in place such that you can track each and every person.

            The first point is, of course, is that each and every person who enrolls in the program is biometrically registered. They're interviewed in detail. Their case files, so to speak, are on database here in Kabul. We know who they are. We know the demographics. And so we can reach back and check on them.

            Of course during the early stages, this payment of the stipend over three months is a key engagement process to really solidify that initial dialogue.

            Thereafter the process really is much more about sort of inclusivity and political outreach to them and their communities. So it's more about the communities and community engagement and that sort of follow-up across the board.

            And of course it -- there's great differences between working with, you know, people of the villages who have been village defense forces fighting for their villages against the government and against us, who are now realigning themselves, and the more sophisticated Talib leaders who come in, like Noor-ul-Aziz Agha, who get a lot more bespoke attention, and you know, they are, you know, part -- becoming much more part of life out there and they're known.

            But this sense of sort of long-term of tracking, of course, is also a function of the third stage of reintegration, if you like, which is this business of community recovery, you know. And let's take Badghis, for example, which is a province that's been running reintegration for about nine months, one of the earliest provinces to come. Right now you have community recovery programs such as a Ministry of Labor and Social Affair reintegration trust fund-funded vocational training center, which is running 4(00) or 500 reintegrees and community members through six-month programs.

            We also have de-mining programs in Badghis running. They're just doing the second tranche of training of reintegrees and community members.

            So all of this contributes to making this a longer-term process, because, of course, reintegration isn't just being registered. Reintegration is this function that takes time over months and years to really reintegrate people back to a normal, peaceful society.

            MR. LITTLE: Jennifer.

            Q: You mentioned -- Jennifer Griffin from Fox News -- you mentioned that there were 200 reintegrees in Helmand who had not been part of your program. First of all, why haven't they been a part of your program? And is the former president, Burhanuddin Rabanni, still in charge of this reintegration process? He was appointed by Karzai, I believe, in the beginning. And do you see him as an obstacle, since the Taliban despise him from the days when he was in power?

            GEN. JONES: Yeah, OK. Well, first, in Helmand -- and I've had this conversation with Governor Mangal, and so has Minister Stanekzai, the minister who leads this process, in a structural sense, with Governor Mangal, many times.

            And one of the elements of genius in this program is it recognized that each province is very different -- each district and each village, in many respects, is very different -- and they need to find their own paths to peace.

            And in the southern-border provinces, this sort of sense of this being a public process of celebration is something that's really difficult to deliver down there, because the intimidation is tough; you know, security is still solidifying. And, you know, people in some respects are still weighing up whether they really want to commit themselves conclusively to the government, but they wanted to step out of the fight; they want peace and stability.

            And Governor Mangal has always described this, in Helmand, as a process of capitalizing on security gains to solidify the social and political structures, if you like, to bring fighters back into their communities as a stepping stone. That is, if you like, part of the first stage of the process -- outreach, confidence building.

            When these communities become ready -- and we have had our first demobilization down there, somewhere between 20 and 30 men about a month ago. As these communities become ready, we will start to see some of the people come through. He's had a very formal negotiation process with them and has had people going home. He knows exactly where they are. They haven't stepped forward formally into the program. And that will come, and we need to have patience. And you could -- you could undo an awful lot of confidence by forcing the pace in this. The important thing here, of course, is to break the cycle of violence and then register and track and everything else.

            In terms of the High Peace Council, yes, Professor Rabbanistill heads the High Peace Council. And many of the people on the High Peace Council are controversial figures. And, you know, this is very much the essence of Afghan peacemaking. This is a country that has fought amongst themselves and against each other for many years, and indeed, on the High Peace Council you have people who have fought together. And this was one of the challenges when they sat together in October of last year, was to spend the first month or two really sorting themselves out and working out how they were going to lead this process and set the conditions for peace.

            President Karzai was very clear; it's that -- the adage of you don't make peace between your friends; you make peace with your enemies. We have to bring complicated and controversial peace -- people together and set the example and move on from there.

            MR. LITTLE: Mike.

            Q: General, you mentioned just now that one or two or some of the reintegrees had died. Because they'd been found by the Taliban and been killed or were there other circumstances?

            And also, can I ask you a more general question? You've been involved in this process for quite sometime now. How -- with 25,000 roughly estimated Taliban fighters in the country, how much do you feel you're just chipping around the edges of this rather than actually getting to grips with something which will really make a huge impact on the whole peace process?

            GEN. JONES: Yeah, yeah, OK. Well, I mean, let me describe the first time we lost people in this process, the very first group, the very first group in Baghlan in the north who came to us, about 50 or 60 HIG [Hizb-I Islami Gulbuddin] fighters, local people. And actually, in many respects, they said to us: You know, we're not HIG. You label us HIG. We're village defense forces. We look after ourselves.

            But they reintegrated back into very difficult conditions. And local Talib groups -- against whom they'd been fighting for sometime, by the way -- attacked very quickly, and about a dozen of them died in the space of three or four days. And it was really a salutary lesson to all of us in the early days that this is a tough process that will get challenged very vigorously, and it forced us all to have a really hard look at how we work the security, the local security in all of this. That was the first instance.

            About three or four months ago we lost a local commander who had reintegrated in Kunduz, in the north. He was a reasonably well-known commander who reintegrated and was assassinated sometime afterwards -- again, a salutary lesson. But not only that, in about three or four cases we've had these really courageous Afghan mediators assassinated. There were three assassinated in Zabul about two months ago -- you know, in the south -- people who are working for peace. It's one of the things that, you know, is really inspiring, is that you find these tribal and religious leaders who really are prepared to put their lives on the line to work for peace.

            And this rather sort of bridges into your second question about whether we're nibbling around the edges. And of course, one could say that, you know, at the moment, in raw metrics, you know, two and a half thousand people nearly, you know, maybe 10 percent of the insurgency -- you could -- you could charge that with perhaps this is just nibbling around the edges. But you have to start. And this was the essence of it. You know, last year many governors were really concerned about starting the peace process last year: Were the conditions right? What were we going to do? You have to start.

            You have to start breaking through the inertia and finding ways to break the cycle of violence. The level of ambition here is absolutely not to nibble about the edges, but really make a big impact.

            And if I come back to, you know, some of the provinces where we've been working for quite a long time -- let's look at Badghis that I mentioned earlier, where we've had about 600 people reintegrate of many different sorts, some hard-core fighters and some very low-level village guys as well. You know, I can tell you I sat with people from Badghis today, and they said this has made a profound impact on the four or five districts of the southern half of the province. They're still fighting in the north in the Bala Murghab, but it's much more decreased. The hard-core Taliban are now in the hills. They're not in the communities. You know, this has made a huge impact to a province that's very poor, very distanced, that was badly bruised by the insurgency. That's the sort of effect we're able to replicate everywhere.

            Now, of course as you reach into this -- and the aim is to link this up with a strategic political process that really reaches into the heart of the insurgent movements, you know, politically across the board. So this all joins up into a much wider peace process. That's the ambition of the Afghans.

            Q: Hi, General. Camille El Hassami from Al-Jazeera English Television. I wanted to know about the tracking: I've read some things about biometric registration, but I wondered if you could explain exactly what that is. And then also, do these reformed fighters -- do they -- how often do they have to check in? Is it -- do they check in in their community, or do they check in with you guys?

            GEN. JONES: Well, they certainly don't check in with us. Just remember that this is an Afghan political process. Now, we support it as much as we can, and we are a key stakeholder in terms of the security dynamics. And of course within ISAF we have many people who can help with development and these sort of things. So we are strong supporters throughout all of this. But this is very much an Afghan-led process. And for sure people come to us at times. They certainly want to look us in the eye and say, you know, just convince us that we're not going to end up in your prisons, that you aren't going to attack us and that sort of thing.

            But this is very firmly an Afghan-led process. So they lead at every stage. They do the demobilization. They take the biometrics. The biometrics data are stored on the MOI database -- Ministry of Interior database, that is. The case files are in the Joint Secretariat.

            But you asked about the biometrics. So Ministry of Interior teams biometrically register each of these people. They have their irises scanned. They have fingerprints scanned. They have photographs taken. Those are registered on databases and things. And they're also interviewed in some considerable detail. And that interview -- all the data from that interview is collected and stored on the database. And they're tracked thereafter.

            Q: General, Raghubir Goyal again. A question again, the past Afghans were complaining that they have security problem in Afghanistan as far as across the border from Pakistan. How do you feel now with this border?

            GEN. JONES: I'm really sorry. The line crackled just then. Could you just repeat that question?

            Q: A security problem now as far as across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

            GEN. JONES: Yes. Well, the border has always been an issue in this counterinsurgency campaign. In many respects, if you look at insurgencies across the world over history, quite often they've -- there's been a cross-border issue. And it continues to be an issue. It is a significant fracture line in the -- you know, the geopolitics of this region. And part of the challenge of the High Peace Council is to engage with regional neighbors, predominantly Pakistan, but also of course Iran and others, and build the regional conditions for peace. And the interaction between the High Peace Council and the government of Afghanistan and Pakistan is frequent and often, and there's sort of this building this social security matrix.

            And of course in ISAF we have very close contacts with the Pakistani armed forces on the other side of the border. We've been doing joint operations for many years now. And indeed, General Allen is in Pakistan today with General Kayani. And so both sides are working to try and work on the sort of the border security issues right across the border, not only in terms of security, but of course in terms of the social structures, the peace-building. Many of the tribes involved in the insurgency span the border. So there are multiple issues there.

            MR. LITTLE: General Jones, I think we're out of questions from the Pentagon. Thank you very much for joining us today for a very engaging discussion. Let me send it back to you for any final comments.

            GEN. JONES: Well, thanks very much indeed. Yes, I have got couple of closing -- couple of closing remarks, just as a couple of reminders really. The first thing to say is thank you very much for the dialogue. Thank you very much for the questions.

            First, I'd just like to reiterate a point that this is a tough process that depends on local communities and fighters making these brave decisions. Rejecting the insurgency and violence in the face of intimidation across the country isn't easy, and I have a great deal of respect for those that are doing this. This is happening. It is getting traction. And it is becoming one of ISAF's top priorities for our support. And indeed General Allen has made it quite clear that this is one of his personal top priorities to support this Afghan initiative.

            Second point is that for the Afghans this is all part of a wider peace process, that involves everything from the regional international stability dynamics that I've just described, outreach to the senior leadership of the insurgency, and this social movement for peace that we tend to call reintegration, that increasingly involves the people of Afghanistan as strong partners in peace building.

            My last point is that this process is a key supporting element of transition. As Afghans take up increasing responsibility for security, so too are they taking up responsibility for their local and national conflict resolution.

            On that, I'll close. Thank you very much indeed. Good night.

            MR. LITTLE: Well, General, thank you once again. Have a good evening.

            And thank you to those here at the Pentagon, as well. Have a good day.

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