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Tuesday, June 29, 2010
REMARKS TO THE PRESS BY U.S. AMBASSADOR KARL W. EIKENBERRY
JUNE 24, 2010
AMBASSADOR EIKENBERRY: Friends, welcome to the United States Embassy. As always, it’s a pleasure to be with you this afternoon. I thought that given the news of the past several days that [it] would be very timely now to see you and answer any questions that you might have.
I know you’re aware that yesterday President Obama accepted General Stan McChrystal’s resignation as the Commander of the NATO-International Security Assistance Force here in your country. I think you’re aware also that President Obama called your President, President Karzai, last night before he addressed the American people to give him this news personally over the telephone.
This was a difficult decision that our President felt he had to make as our Commander-in-Chief, out of responsibility for the American troops, our American military, serving here and to ensure the effectiveness of this very critical mission. Now, he made his decision with considerable regret, but also with the certainty that it was the right thing to do for the mission and for America’s national security.
In his announcement that he made last night, President Obama expressed very great admiration for General McChrystal and his gratitude for General McChrystal’s extraordinary dedication and the role he’s played directly in helping lead our strategy inside of Afghanistan. I can only add my own admiration and gratitude to that of the President. Stan and I have known each other for a very long time, and worked shoulder-to-shoulder here together under very difficult circumstances over this past year. He was an excellent partner and we all owe him our deepest thanks.
But as our President said, the United States cannot allow diversions to prevent us from carrying out our mission with unity of purpose. Our President felt that a change was needed to maintain that unity of purpose and so he made that change. He told us, [his National Security Team], that it is time for us to come together and that’s what we are going to do.
The President has nominated General David Petraeus, who is currently the Commander of United States Central Command, to take command here in Afghanistan. He asked the Senate if it would be possible to act to confirm General Petraeus in this new job as rapidly as possible. This will allow the United States and Afghanistan to maintain the momentum and the leadership that we need.
Let me be very clear that this is a change in personnel but it is not a change in our policy. The United States will continue to carry out the strategy that President Obama outlined on December 1 of last year during his speech at our United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
We continue to have a very clear goal. We are going to break the Taliban’s momentum. We are going to build Afghan capacity, especially in the area of your Army and your police. We are going to relentlessly apply pressure against al Qaeda and its leadership, which is going to strengthen the ability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will push hard in both countries for those results.
I know there could be concern among Afghans about whether the policy, the strategy, continues. Well, let me remind you General Petraeus fully participated in the U.S. policy review last fall, and he both supported and he, in fact, helped design the strategy that we have in place today. In his current post at United States Central Command, General Petraeus has worked closely with our U.S. forces and our civilian team here in Afghanistan. He has worked closely with the Afghan government and military, and with all of our partners in the region. I think you’ve seen that President Karzai has already welcomed General Petraeus’ nomination.
General Petraeus has our President’s full confidence. We have worked together – General Petraeus and I have worked together for many years and I know that he is going to do a superb job if he is confirmed by the United States Senate. We at our United States Embassy, just down the street [from ISAF headquarters], look forward to working closely together with General Petraeus as one fully-integrated civilian-military team to implement the President’s strategy.
That was my opening statement. Can I answer…can I take a couple questions?
Please read the entire interview at http://kabul.usembassy.gov/official_transcripts.html