- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 28, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan relies heavily on civilian efforts, and she is calling for all U.S. diplomats to contribute.

In a cable to U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, Clinton says the success of President Barack Obama’s plan depends on the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, whose ranks in Afghanistan and Pakistan are in line for boosts.

“Whether this strategy succeeds or not depends in large part on all of us,” she said in the cable to employees of the two agencies late Friday after Obama announced the results of his administration’s review of policy for the region.

The plan does have a significant military component and calls for sending thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan. But Clinton noted that the most recommendations fall under the purview of the State Department and the aid agency.

“The major shift in this strategy is to emphasize our diplomatic and civilian efforts to achieve our objectives,” she wrote in the cable, obtained by The Associated Press on Saturday.

“That means more civilian expertise working on the ground; it means pursuing greater regional diplomacy; and it means sustained high-level attention and focus in Washington,” she said.

Clinton leaves Monday for the Netherlands where she said she will seek foreign support for the program at an international conference on Afghanistan.

But the U.S. part of the strategy aimed at defeating al-Qaida, the Taliban and other extremists will see hundreds more diplomats and aid workers deployed in Afghanistan and provide $1.5 billion in annual development aid to Pakistan.

The White House has not released an estimate of the total cost. It is expected to run into the billions of dollars just on State Department and foreign assistance programs.

In the cable, Clinton said money for the effort was critical and would mean “changing the way we do business” to ensure congressional support.

“This new strategy makes clear that we must implement significant changes in the management, resources and focus of our foreign assistance,” she said.

She did not elaborate, but noted that the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, would play the main role on overseeing the civilian parts of the plan.

“I ask for all of your ideas, talent, creativity, hard work and sacrifice to help make this new strategy succeed,” she wrote. “The ability of the Afghan and Pakistani people to build peaceful and prosperous lives _ and the future national security of the United States _ requires nothing less.”

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