The Vice President on Afghanistan at NATO
March 10, 2009
11:21 AM EDT
11:21 AM EDT
In Brussels today at NATO Headquarters, Vice President Biden stated his purpose at the meeting: "I came to listen."
What we want to learn is what your countries believe are working, what you think is not working, how we can do a better job in stopping Afghanistan and Pakistan from being a haven for terrorists. And the United States believes that we share a vital security interest in meeting that challenge.
The Vice President emphasized how much value he and the President see in America’s alliances, and explained from experience how consensus can be built not just amongst international governments, but amongst the peoples of those countries:
I had been a United States senator for 36 years before becoming Vice President. I have made multiple trips to this building. I've observed when we consult, when we genuinely consult, when we internally argue and bang out our differences, we generate the kind of consensus that our political leadership needs to take to our own people to make the case about what we've decided.
The Vice President was also asked about the new strategy being considered by the President in Afghanistan of talking with moderate elements of the Taliban:
Well, let me just say -- and to paraphrase Secretary Holbrooke, our Special Envoy, and I agree with his assessment after numerous visits to the region and throughout the country -- 5 percent of the Taliban is incorrigible, not susceptible to anything other than being defeated. Another 25 percent or so are not quite sure, in my view, the intensity of their commitment to the insurgency. And roughly 70 percent are involved because of the money, because of them being -- getting paid.
To state the obvious, as you know, the Taliban, most of whom are Pashtun -- you have 60 percent of the Pashtun population in Pakistan; only 40 percent live in Afghanistan. The objectives that flow from Kandahar may be different than Quetta, may be different than the FATA. So it's worth exploring.
The idea of what concessions would be made is well beyond the scope of my being able to answer, except to say that whatever is initiated will have to be ultimately initiated by the Afghan government, and will have to be such that it would not undermine a legitimate Afghan government. But I do think it is worth engaging and determining whether or not there are those who are willing to participate in a secure and stable Afghan state.