AFP, February 10, 2009
WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President Barack Obama has named a former CIA official to chair a review of US policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan before a NATO summit in April, the White House said Tuesday.
Bruce Riedel, an expert who is now a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, will lead the inter-agency review of policy for a turbulent region that Obama has called the "central front" against Al-Qaeda.
Two other heavyweights will co-chair the review: Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy.
The announcement was made by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to reporters traveling with Obama to Fort Myers, Florida.
Holbrooke was in Islamabad on Tuesday meeting with Pakistani leaders who proposed a comprehensive policy review but also urged Washington to reconsider its use of missile attacks on suspected insurgents in tribal areas.
In his first White House press conference on Monday, Obama warned that the United States would not allow Al-Qaeda to operate "with impunity."
"My bottom line is that we cannot allow Al-Qaeda to operate, we cannot have safe havens in that region. And we're going to have to work both smartly and with consistency," Obama said.
The US military, meanwhile, has drawn up plans for the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan but is awaiting the go ahead as the administration weighs its options.
Riedel, who will report to Obama and National Security Adviser Jim Jones, is supposed to complete the review before a NATO summit April 3-4 in Strasbourg, France and Khel, Germany.
That would position Obama to lay down the new US line in his first meeting as president with the allies.
They have been reluctant to respond to US calls for more allied troops and resources for Afghanistan, despite warnings by senior US officials of a long and difficult struggle against a resurgent Taliban.
"What is required in my view is new ideas, better coordination within the US government, better coordination with our NATO allies and other concerned countries, and the time to get it right," Holbrooke told allies Sunday at a security conference in Munich.
In tapping Riedel to chair the review, Obama turned to a veteran CIA officer with a wealth of experience in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
During a 29-year career in intelligence, Riedel served as an advisor to three presidents on Middle Eastern and South Asian affairs.
He was senior director for Near East affairs on the National Security Council from 1997 to 2002, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Near East and South Asian affairs from 1995 to 1997, and National Intelligence Officer for Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Intelligence Council from 1993 to 1995.
Flournoy, the Pentagon's number three official, conducted major strategy reviews in previous stints at the Defense Department during Bill Clinton's administration.
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