Saturday, March 28, 2009

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON A NEW STRATEGY FOR AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN


March 27, 2009
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building




Today, I'm announcing a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this marks the conclusion of a careful policy review, led by Bruce, that I ordered as soon as I took office. My administration has heard from our military commanders, as well as our diplomats. We've consulted with the Afghan and Pakistani governments, with our partners and our NATO allies, and with other donors and international organizations. We've also worked closely with members of Congress here at home. And now I’d like to speak clearly and candidly to the American people.

The situation is increasingly perilous. It's been more than seven years since the Taliban was removed from power, yet war rages on, and insurgents control parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Attacks against our troops, our NATO allies, and the Afghan government have risen steadily. And most painfully, 2008 was the deadliest year of the war for American forces.

Many people in the United States -- and many in partner countries that have sacrificed so much -- have a simple question: What is our purpose in Afghanistan? After so many years, they ask, why do our men and women still fight and die there? And they deserve a straightforward answer.

So let me be clear: Al Qaeda and its allies -- the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks -- are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the United States homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan. And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban -- or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged -- that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.

The future of Afghanistan is inextricably linked to the future of its neighbor, Pakistan. In the nearly eight years since 9/11, al Qaeda and its extremist allies have moved across the border to the remote areas of the Pakistani frontier. This almost certainly includes al Qaeda's leadership: Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. They have used this mountainous terrain as a safe haven to hide, to train terrorists, to communicate with followers, to plot attacks, and to send fighters to support the insurgency in Afghanistan. For the American people, this border region has become the most dangerous place in the world.

But this is not simply an American problem -- far from it. It is, instead, an international security challenge of the highest order. Terrorist attacks in London and Bali were tied to al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan, as were attacks in North Africa and the Middle East, in Islamabad and in Kabul. If there is a major attack on an Asian, European, or African city, it, too, is likely to have ties to al Qaeda's leadership in Pakistan. The safety of people around the world is at stake.

For the Afghan people, a return to Taliban rule would condemn their country to brutal governance, international isolation, a paralyzed economy, and the denial of basic human rights to the Afghan people -- especially women and girls. The return in force of al Qaeda terrorists who would accompany the core Taliban leadership would cast Afghanistan under the shadow of perpetual violence.

As President, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people. We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future. We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States, our friends and our allies, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists.

So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That's the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: We will defeat you.

To achieve our goals, we need a stronger, smarter and comprehensive strategy. To focus on the greatest threat to our people, America must no longer deny resources to Afghanistan because of the war in Iraq. To enhance the military, governance and economic capacity of Afghanistan and Pakistan, we have to marshal international support. And to defeat an enemy that heeds no borders or laws of war, we must recognize the fundamental connection between the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan -- which is why I've appointed Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who is here, to serve as Special Representative for both countries, and to work closely with General Petraeus to integrate our civilian and military efforts.

Let me start by addressing the way forward in Pakistan.

The United States has great respect for the Pakistani people. They have a rich history and have struggled against long odds to sustain their democracy. The people of Pakistan want the same things that we want: an end to terror, access to basic services, the opportunity to live their dreams, and the security that can only come with the rule of law. The single greatest threat to that future comes from al Qaeda and their extremist allies, and that is why we must stand together.

The terrorists within Pakistan's borders are not simply enemies of America or Afghanistan -- they are a grave and urgent danger to the people of Pakistan. Al Qaeda and other violent extremists have killed several thousand Pakistanis since 9/11. They've killed many Pakistani soldiers and police. They assassinated Benazir Bhutto. They've blown up buildings, derailed foreign investment, and threatened the stability of the state. So make no mistake: al Qaeda and its extremist allies are a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within.

It's important for the American people to understand that Pakistan needs our help in going after al Qaeda. This is no simple task. The tribal regions are vast, they are rugged, and they are often ungoverned. And that's why we must focus our military assistance on the tools, training and support that Pakistan needs to root out the terrorists. And after years of mixed results, we will not, and cannot, provide a blank check.

Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders. And we will insist that action be taken -- one way or another -- when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets.

The government's ability to destroy these safe havens is tied to its own strength and security. To help Pakistan weather the economic crisis, we must continue to work with the IMF, the World Bank and other international partners. To lessen tensions between two nuclear-armed nations that too often teeter on the edge of escalation and confrontation, we must pursue constructive diplomacy with both India and Pakistan. To avoid the mistakes of the past, we must make clear that our relationship with Pakistan is grounded in support for Pakistan's democratic institutions and the Pakistani people. And to demonstrate through deeds as well as words a commitment that is enduring, we must stand for lasting opportunity.

A campaign against extremism will not succeed with bullets or bombs alone. Al Qaeda's offers the people of Pakistan nothing but destruction. We stand for something different. So today, I am calling upon Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by John Kerry and Richard Lugar that authorizes $1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years -- resources that will build schools and roads and hospitals, and strengthen Pakistan's democracy. I'm also calling on Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Maria Cantwell, Chris Van Hollen and Peter Hoekstra that creates opportunity zones in the border regions to develop the economy and bring hope to places plagued with violence. And we will ask our friends and allies to do their part -- including at the donors conference in Tokyo next month.

I don't ask for this support lightly. These are challenging times. Resources are stretched. But the American people must understand that this is a down payment on our own future -- because the security of America and Pakistan is shared. Pakistan's government must be a stronger partner in destroying these safe havens, and we must isolate al Qaeda from the Pakistani people. And these steps in Pakistan are also indispensable to our efforts in Afghanistan, which will see no end to violence if insurgents move freely back and forth across the border.

Security demands a new sense of shared responsibility. And that's why we will launch a standing, trilateral dialogue among the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Our nations will meet regularly, with Secretaries Clinton and Secretary Gates leading our effort. Together, we must enhance intelligence sharing and military cooperation along the border, while addressing issues of common concern like trade, energy, and economic development.

This is just one part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent Afghanistan from becoming the al Qaeda safe haven that it was before 9/11. To succeed, we and our friends and allies must reverse the Taliban's gains, and promote a more capable and accountable Afghan government.

Our troops have fought bravely against a ruthless enemy. Our civilians have made great sacrifices. Our allies have borne a heavy burden. Afghans have suffered and sacrificed for their future. But for six years, Afghanistan has been denied the resources that it demands because of the war in Iraq. Now, we must make a commitment that can accomplish our goals.

I've already ordered the deployment of 17,000 troops that had been requested by General McKiernan for many months. These soldiers and Marines will take the fight to the Taliban in the south and the east, and give us a greater capacity to partner with Afghan security forces and to go after insurgents along the border. This push will also help provide security in advance of the important presidential elections in Afghanistan in August.

At the same time, we will shift the emphasis of our mission to training and increasing the size of Afghan security forces, so that they can eventually take the lead in securing their country. That's how we will prepare Afghans to take responsibility for their security, and how we will ultimately be able to bring our own troops home.

For three years, our commanders have been clear about the resources they need for training. And those resources have been denied because of the war in Iraq. Now, that will change. The additional troops that we deployed have already increased our training capacity. And later this spring we will deploy approximately 4,000 U.S. troops to train Afghan security forces. For the first time, this will truly resource our effort to train and support the Afghan army and police. Every American unit in Afghanistan will be partnered with an Afghan unit, and we will seek additional trainers from our NATO allies to ensure that every Afghan unit has a coalition partner. We will accelerate our efforts to build an Afghan army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000 so that we can meet these goals by 2011 -- and increases in Afghan forces may very well be needed as our plans to turn over security responsibility to the Afghans go forward.

This push must be joined by a dramatic increase in our civilian effort. Afghanistan has an elected government, but it is undermined by corruption and has difficulty delivering basic services to its people. The economy is undercut by a booming narcotics trade that encourages criminality and funds the insurgency. The people of Afghanistan seek the promise of a better future. Yet once again, we've seen the hope of a new day darkened by violence and uncertainty.

So to advance security, opportunity and justice -- not just in Kabul, but from the bottom up in the provinces -- we need agricultural specialists and educators, engineers and lawyers. That's how we can help the Afghan government serve its people and develop an economy that isn't dominated by illicit drugs. And that's why I'm ordering a substantial increase in our civilians on the ground. That's also why we must seek civilian support from our partners and allies, from the United Nations and international aid organizations -- an effort that Secretary Clinton will carry forward next week in The Hague.

At a time of economic crisis, it's tempting to believe that we can shortchange this civilian effort. But make no mistake: Our efforts will fail in Afghanistan and Pakistan if we don't invest in their future. And that's why my budget includes indispensable investments in our State Department and foreign assistance programs. These investments relieve the burden on our troops. They contribute directly to security. They make the American people safer. And they save us an enormous amount of money in the long run -- because it's far cheaper to train a policeman to secure his or her own village than to help a farmer seed a crop -- or to help a farmer seed a crop than it is to send our troops to fight tour after tour of duty with no transition to Afghan responsibility.

As we provide these resources, the days of unaccountable spending, no-bid contracts, and wasteful reconstruction must end. So my budget will increase funding for a strong Inspector General at both the State Department and USAID, and include robust funding for the special inspector generals for Afghan Reconstruction.

And I want to be clear: We cannot turn a blind eye to the corruption that causes Afghans to lose faith in their own leaders. Instead, we will seek a new compact with the Afghan government that cracks down on corrupt behavior, and sets clear benchmarks, clear metrics for international assistance so that it is used to provide for the needs of the Afghan people.

In a country with extreme poverty that's been at war for decades, there will also be no peace without reconciliation among former enemies. Now, I have no illusion that this will be easy. In Iraq, we had success in reaching out to former adversaries to isolate and target al Qaeda in Iraq. We must pursue a similar process in Afghanistan, while understanding that it is a very different country.

There is an uncompromising core of the Taliban. They must be met with force, and they must be defeated. But there are also those who've taken up arms because of coercion, or simply for a price. These Afghans must have the option to choose a different course. And that's why we will work with local leaders, the Afghan government, and international partners to have a reconciliation process in every province. As their ranks dwindle, an enemy that has nothing to offer the Afghan people but terror and repression must be further isolated. And we will continue to support the basic human rights of all Afghans -- including women and girls.

Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course. Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable. We’ll consistently assess our efforts to train Afghan security forces and our progress in combating insurgents. We will measure the growth of Afghanistan’s economy, and its illicit narcotics production. And we will review whether we are using the right tools and tactics to make progress towards accomplishing our goals.

None of the steps that I've outlined will be easy; none should be taken by America alone. The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos or al Qaeda operates unchecked. We have a shared responsibility to act -- not because we seek to project power for its own sake, but because our own peace and security depends on it. And what’s at stake at this time is not just our own security -- it's the very idea that free nations can come together on behalf of our common security. That was the founding cause of NATO six decades ago, and that must be our common purpose today.

My administration is committed to strengthening international organizations and collective action, and that will be my message next week in Europe. As America does more, we will ask others to join us in doing their part. From our partners and NATO allies, we will seek not simply troops, but rather clearly defined capabilities: supporting the Afghan elections, training Afghan security forces, a greater civilian commitment to the Afghan people. For the United Nations, we seek greater progress for its mandate to coordinate international action and assistance, and to strengthen Afghan institutions.

And finally, together with the United Nations, we will forge a new Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan that brings together all who should have a stake in the security of the region -- our NATO allies and other partners, but also the Central Asian states, the Gulf nations and Iran; Russia, India and China. None of these nations benefit from a base for al Qaeda terrorists, and a region that descends into chaos. All have a stake in the promise of lasting peace and security and development.

That is true, above all, for the coalition that has fought together in Afghanistan, side by side with Afghans. The sacrifices have been enormous. Nearly 700 Americans have lost their lives. Troops from over 20 countries have also paid the ultimate price. All Americans honor the service and cherish the friendship of those who have fought, and worked, and bled by our side. And all Americans are awed by the service of our own men and women in uniform, who've borne a burden as great as any other generation’s. They and their families embody the example of selfless sacrifice.

I remind everybody, the United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 of our people were killed on September 11, 2001, for doing nothing more than going about their daily lives. Al Qaeda and its allies have since killed thousands of people in many countries. Most of the blood on their hands is the blood of Muslims, who al Qaeda has killed and maimed in far greater number than any other people. That is the future that al Qaeda is offering to the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan -- a future without hope or opportunity; a future without justice or peace.

So understand, the road ahead will be long and there will be difficult days ahead. But we will seek lasting partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan that promise a new day for their people. And we will use all elements of our national power to defeat al Qaeda, and to defend America, our allies, and all who seek a better future. Because the United States of America stands for peace and security, justice and opportunity. That is who we are, and that is what history calls on us to do once more.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Help the Victims of the Red River Floods



On Wednesday President Obama declared a major disaster exists in the entire state of North Dakota, due to severe storms and flooding of the Red River. Yesterday the President declared an emergency exists in seven Minnesota counties to the east of the Red River as well.

Melting snow and heavy rains have caused the river to rise to record levels. Current projections are that the river could crest as high as 20 feet above flood level by Saturday, and water levels could remain high for many days.

Sandbagging operations in Fargo, North Dakota have continued non-stop throughout the week in subfreezing temperatures. City officials reported that about 3 million sandbags have been filled, but more volunteers are still needed. The American Red Cross is sending disaster workers into North Dakota and Minnesota to staff shelters that will be needed in the event of evacuations.

Despite the challenges, we've seen time and again that when ordinary people act together, they can make a difference.

Learn how you can help support the Red River disaster relief efforts.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by the floods.

Learn more what you can do to help at RedCross.org.

Weekly Address: Crisis and Service

This week the President dedicates his address to the people of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota as they face down disastrous flooding. He speaks of what the government is doing, but also stresses that times of crisis like this are reminders of the need and opportunity Americans have to keep their dedication to service. He commends the Edward M. Kennedy National Service Act, which passed the Senate this week following similar legislation in the House last week, for helping to rejuvenate this spirit.

"In the Fargodome, thousands of people gathered not to watch a football game or a rodeo, but to fill sandbags. Volunteers filled 2.5 million of them in just five days, working against the clock, day and night, with tired arms and aching backs. Others braved freezing temperatures, gusting winds, and falling snow to build levees along the river’s banks to help protect against waters that have exceeded record levels."




Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Washington, DC


Even as we face an economic crisis which demands our constant focus, forces of nature can also intervene in ways that create other crises to which we must respond – and respond urgently. For the people of North and South Dakota and Minnesota who live along rivers spilling over their banks, this is one such moment.

Rivers and streams throughout the region have flooded or are at risk of flooding. The cities of Fargo and neighboring Moorhead are vulnerable as the waters of the Red River have risen. Thousands of homes and businesses are threatened.

That is why, on Tuesday, I granted a major disaster declaration request for the State of North Dakota and ordered federal support into the region to help state and local officials respond to the flooding. This was followed by an emergency declaration for the State of Minnesota. And we are also keeping close watch on the situation in South Dakota as it develops.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency continue to coordinate the federal response. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is helping to oversee federal efforts and she remains in close contact with state officials. Acting FEMA administrator Nancy Ward has been in the region since yesterday to meet with folks on the ground and survey the area herself.

In addition, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is assisting in the emergency construction of levees. The Coast Guard is aiding in search and rescue efforts while the Department of Defense is helping to move people and supplies. Members of the National Guard have been activated and are on the scene as well.

Hospitals and nursing homes in the area are being evacuated and residents in poor health or with special needs are being transported to higher ground. Teams from the Department of Health and Human Services are aiding in this work. And the Red Cross is in place to provide shelter and supplies for folks in need.

It is also important for residents in these states to remain vigilant in monitoring reports on flood crests and to follow instructions from their state and local leaders in the event that evacuations become necessary.

My administration is working closely with Governors John Hoeven, Mike Rounds and Tim Pawlenty. And I’ve been meeting with Senators Byron Dorgan, Kent Conrad, and Amy Klobuchar, as well as Congressmen Earl Pomeroy and Collin Peterson, to pledge my support. I will continue to monitor the situation carefully. We will do what must be done to help in concert with state and local agencies and non-profit organizations – and volunteers who are doing so much to aid the response effort.

For at moments like these, we are reminded of the power of nature to disrupt lives and endanger communities. But we are also reminded of the power of individuals to make a difference.

In the Fargodome, thousands of people gathered not to watch a football game or a rodeo, but to fill sandbags. Volunteers filled 2.5 million of them in just five days, working against the clock, day and night, with tired arms and aching backs. Others braved freezing temperatures, gusting winds, and falling snow to build levees along the river’s banks to help protect against waters that have exceeded record levels.

College students have traveled by the busload from nearby campuses to lend a hand during their spring breaks. Students from local high schools asked if they could take time to participate. Young people have turned social networks into community networks, coordinating with one another online to figure out how best to help.

In the face of an incredible challenge, the people of these communities have rallied in support of one another. And their service isn’t just inspirational – it’s integral to our response.

It’s also a reminder of what we can achieve when Americans come together to serve their communities. All across the nation, there are men, women and young people who have answered that call, and millions of other who would like to. Whether it’s helping to reduce the energy we use, cleaning up a neighborhood park, tutoring in a local school, or volunteering in countless other ways, individual citizens can make a big difference.

That is why I’m so happy that legislation passed the Senate this week and the House last week to provide more opportunities for Americans to serve their communities and the country.

The bipartisan Senate bill was sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Ted Kennedy, a leader who embodies the spirit of public service, and I am looking forward to signing this important measure into law.

In facing sudden crises or more stubborn challenges, the truth is we are all in this together – as neighbors and fellow citizens. That is what brought so many to help in North Dakota and Minnesota and other areas affected by this flooding. That is what draws people to volunteer in so many ways, serving our country here and on distant shores.

Our thanks go to them today, and to all who are working day and night to deal with the disaster. We send them our thoughts, our prayers, and our continued assistance in this difficult time.

Thank you.

Around the Agencies: Back to Nature

The EPA is all over Earth Day – send in your videos and photos of what you’ve done to help your little corner of the earth, or just a little corner of the earth you admire, and the EPA will feature them. We liked this one taken in Kaikoura, New Zealand and submitted by pixel_fairy22:




Speaking of helping little corners of the earth, Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced plans to invest $3.2 billion in energy efficiency and conservation projects in U.S. cities, counties, states, territories, and Native American tribes.


ED.gov has a good video on a Recovery Act success story. Powerpoint if you prefer.
The USDA has a good story: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today presided over the Washington, D.C., graduation ceremony of 26 minority farmers from the Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Training Institute, a 2-year course of study that gives small, socially disadvantaged, limited resource and/or farmers of color the knowledge to become successful agricultural entrepreneurs. "President Obama recognizes that small farm operators are the custodians of about 48 percent of this nation's farm and ranch land," Vilsack said.

HHS gives community health centers a big boost: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced the release of $338 million to expand services offered at the nation’s community health centers. The money was made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and comes as more Americans join the ranks of the uninsured. "More Americans are losing their health insurance and turning to health centers for care," said Health Resources and Services Administrator (HRSA) Mary Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N. "These grants will aid centers in their efforts to provide care to an increasing number of patients during the economic downturn." It’s a big story around the country.

A Special Moment for Service

Last night the Senate passed a bill close to the President’s heart, we asked Carlos Monje Jr., Senior Policy Advisor at the Domestic Policy Council to go explain what it meant a little more in-depth:

We had an exciting day in the White House yesterday. The Senate passed legislation to dramatically expand service opportunities for Americans of all ages. By an overwhelming vote of 79-19, the Senate approved the Edward M. Kennedy National Service Act, a bill that will take the next quantum leap in national service.

The legislation is important because it is core to what the President believes – that all of us need to work together to make a difference. As he said in his praise of the bill’s passage:

"Our work is not finished when I sign this bill into law – it has just begun. While our government can provide every opportunity imaginable for us to serve our communities, it is up to each of us to seize those opportunities. To do our part to lift up our fellow Americans. To realize our own true potential. I call on all Americans to stand up and do what they can to serve their communities, shape our history and enrich both their own lives and the lives of others across this country."

The bill contains key elements of the President’s national service agenda: Creating an army of 250,000 Americans a year involved in full and part time service to address some of our nation’s greatest challenges, including healthcare, education, energy and economic opportunity; expanding service-learning to engage young-people and put them onto a pathway to service; providing better service opportunities for seniors and boomers; and establishing a Social Innovation Fund to identify and grow programs that fix tough community problems.
Public service is something close to the President and First Lady’s hearts. President Obama started his career as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, and Mrs. Obama was the founding executive director of Public Allies Chicago, an AmeriCorps Program. They have talked often about how service can transform individuals and the communities in which they work. Last week, the First Lady made her own case for service when she joined YouthBuild participants on the National Mall. She told the young people:

"Community service is an integral part of empowering our people and making our communities stronger. And service must become a part of each of our lives. It has to be an integral part of each of our lives if we're going to create a more unified nation that we all want and that our President talks so much about."

Seeing this bill moving one giant step closer to completion is a special moment. I was lucky enough to work on national service issues during the campaign, and watching these ideas move from a conference table in Chicago to the halls of Congress shows what an incredible movement the American people created in electing Barack Obama president.

More than that, I continue to be amazed by the thousands of people who have spent decades building the national service movement and believing in its potential. The men and women who serve in nonprofit groups across the country live their lives according to the creed that ‘I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper.’ They make this country work and they have maintained momentum for this legislation. The employees of the Corporation for National and Community Service--many of whom have been working there since its inception in 1993—are an incredible team. They wake up every day with the sole mission of giving other Americans the chance to serve, and they have been instrumental in improving this legislation line by line.
The House and Senate Staff who have been working long nights and longer weekends are incredible professionals whose quick work will see this legislation through to final passage. And these bills would be nowhere without the work of leaders like Harris Wofford, the former U.S. Senator and former CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, who at 82 is an indefatigable champion of service.

This is a piece of legislation everybody in the Administration will feel proud of when it’s signed, it feels close.

A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan



"Good morning," began the President today. "Today, I am announcing a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this marks the conclusion of a careful policy review, led by Bruce [Reidel], that I ordered as soon as I took office."

The President stressed the perilous position we find ourselves in there, and the threat that would arise should safe havens on Pakistan go unchallenged or should the government in Afghanistan fall to the Taliban again. He also noted that 2008 was the deadliest year to date in that war.

The President put forth the central question:

Many people in the United States -- and many in partner countries that have sacrificed so much -- have a simple question: What is our purpose in Afghanistan? After so many years, they ask, why do our men and women still fight and die there? And they deserve a straightforward answer.

And gave his answer:

So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That's the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just.

He described the need for a comprehensive strategy in the two countries, including a "standing, trilateral dialogue among the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan." The President expressed his profound respect for the Pakistani people and their history, and pledged that the United States would so all it could to help Pakistan fight against the terrorists who have so often attempted to destabilize the country, including with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
So too did he express his admiration for the people of Afghanistan, before going on to describe the shift coming on the ground there as well:

Our troops have fought bravely against a ruthless enemy. Our civilians have made great sacrifices. Our allies have borne a heavy burden. Afghans have suffered and sacrificed for their future. But for six years, Afghanistan has been denied the resources that it demands because of the war in Iraq. Now, we must make a commitment that can accomplish our goals.

I've already ordered the deployment of 17,000 troops that had been requested by General McKiernan for many months. These soldiers and Marines will take the fight to the Taliban in the south and the east, and give us a greater capacity to partner with Afghan security forces and to go after insurgents along the border. This push will also help provide security in advance of the important presidential elections in Afghanistan in August.

At the same time, we will shift the emphasis of our mission to training and increasing the size of Afghan security forces, so that they can eventually take the lead in securing their country. That's how we will prepare Afghans to take responsibility for their security, and how we will ultimately be able to bring our own troops home.

For three years, our commanders have been clear about the resources they need for training. And those resources have been denied because of the war in Iraq. Now, that will change. The additional troops that we deployed have already increased our training capacity. And later this spring we will deploy approximately 4,000 U.S. troops to train Afghan security forces. For the first time, this will truly resource our effort to train and support the Afghan army and police. Every American unit in Afghanistan will be partnered with an Afghan unit, and we will seek additional trainers from our NATO allies to ensure that every Afghan unit has a coalition partner. We will accelerate our efforts to build an Afghan army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000 so that we can meet these goals by 2011 -- and increases in Afghan forces may very well be needed as our plans to turn over security responsibility to the Afghans go forward.

This push must be joined by a dramatic increase in our civilian effort. Afghanistan has an elected government, but it is undermined by corruption and has difficulty delivering basic services to its people. The economy is undercut by a booming narcotics trade that encourages criminality and funds the insurgency. The people of Afghanistan seek the promise of a better future. Yet once again, we've seen the hope of a new day darkened by violence and uncertainty.

So to advance security, opportunity and justice -- not just in Kabul, but from the bottom up in the provinces -- we need agricultural specialists and educators, engineers and lawyers. That's how we can help the Afghan government serve its people and develop an economy that isn't dominated by illicit drugs. And that's why I'm ordering a substantial increase in our civilians on the ground. That's also why we must seek civilian support from our partners and allies, from the United Nations and international aid organizations -- an effort that Secretary Clinton will carry forward next week in The Hague.
At a time of economic crisis, it's tempting to believe that we can shortchange this civilian effort. But make no mistake: Our efforts will fail in Afghanistan and Pakistan if we don't invest in their future.

The President described a new regime of accountability in the execution of this war, beginning with contractors, and stretching to demanding clearly understood goals:

There is an uncompromising core of the Taliban. They must be met with force, and they must be defeated. But there are also those who've taken up arms because of coercion, or simply for a price. These Afghans must have the option to choose a different course. And that's why we will work with local leaders, the Afghan government, and international partners to have a reconciliation process in every province. As their ranks dwindle, an enemy that has nothing to offer the Afghan people but terror and repression must be further isolated. And we will continue to support the basic human rights of all Afghans -- including women and girls.

Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course. Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable. We’ll consistently assess our efforts to train Afghan security forces and our progress in combating insurgents. We will measure the growth of Afghanistan’s economy, and its illicit narcotics production. And we will review whether we are using the right tools and tactics to make progress towards accomplishing our goals.

PRESS BRIEFING BY PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS

Q Thanks for the warning.

MR. GIBBS: Are your ready? Do you want me to go back out?

Q Seriously --

MR. GIBBS: Well, I wanted to go talk to the President and get his thoughts on the bankers meeting. So I apologize for --

Q I know, but it happens every day. I don't want to be like a big showdown, but it irritates everybody here. If you could just be on time or give us better warning.

Q You just gave us a two-minute warning. You guys gave us a two-minute warning -- that's why we all came out.

MR. GIBBS: Okay, well, my apologies. I was in talking to the President. So I apologize for the inconvenience.

Let me start with a couple of announcements and I'll give you a rundown of the President's thoughts on the meeting that he just finished.

As you all know, the Vice President arrived today for a four-day trip to South and Central America, to consult with Latin American leaders gathered in Chile and Costa Rica to discuss the upcoming Summit of the Americas. He's on the trip with Dr. Jill Biden.

In Chile, the Vice President will attend the Progressive Governance Conference with several Latin American and European heads of state, and hold bilateral meetings with leaders. In Costa Rica, the Vice President will hold a bilateral meeting with the President before participating in a multilateral meeting with Central American leaders. He returns to Washington, D.C. late Monday evening.

Secondly, let me give you just a quick rundown on the situation in North Dakota and in Minnesota. The White House is actively monitoring the impacts of the flooding in North Dakota and Minnesota. As you know, the President approved a major disaster declaration for the state of North Dakota on March 24th, and last night the President approved an emergency declaration for the state of Minnesota.

On the ground, the federal government continues to actively coordinate with state and local governments in both states to address the ongoing flood fight. This effort has been underway since late last week. FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the National Guard, and other federal agencies, as well as the American Red Cross, have been -- continue the actively work with these officials to ensure their needs are being met.

Federal support is being provided up and down the Red River. Nancy Ward, the Acting FEMA Administrator, is on the ground currently in Fargo, and directly talking with federal, state and local officials to ensure that federal assistance is provided to support the response to the flooding. The President this morning talked with Governor Hoeven, Governor Pawlenty, and Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker today to discuss his concern for the residents of North Dakota and Minnesota, and to ensure that the states are getting the federal assistance they need to supplement any state and local efforts. Secretary Napolitano has been in contact with state and local officials to express her support, and she also briefed the President this morning on the latest developments.

This is important -- we cannot reinforce enough the importance for residents in both states remain vigilant in monitoring the reports of flood crests and to follow the instructions from their state and local leaders in the event that evacuations in their local areas become necessary.

And again, the President continues to be impressed with ongoing efforts of thousands of volunteers as they continue to work to protect their community.

And then, lastly, let me just give you a quick rundown of the President's thoughts about the meeting that just concluded with the bankers. The President believed they had a good, productive and frank conversation. The President opened up by talking about the importance of dealing with toxic assets and getting banks lending again. There was a discussion about the President's and the administration's plan to deal with housing that many of the bankers discussed positively.

There was next a discussion about regulatory reform, and it's fair to say that they agreed on the need to update the framework of regulation and that being important. Also discussed were issues of compensation and the importance of recognizing what the American public is going through in this economic crisis. The President emphasized that Wall Street needs Main Street, and that Main Street needs Wall Street; that everybody has to pitch in; that we're all in this together.

Overall, the President was very pleased about the meeting; continued to stress the need for open lines off communication, and also to stress that there was no agenda -- he had no agenda beyond working to get a solution -- the right solution for our financial system and to get it stabilized and working again for the American people.

And with that --

Q Thank you, Robert. This morning when the President talked about Afghanistan and Pakistan, the only cost he talked about was the Kerry-Lugar bill, which just deals with Pakistan civilian projects. What can the American people expect this initiative to cost, and are you confident that the Congress will go along with the cost?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the budget itself is being readied. I don't have an exact increase in monthly operational costs. I think that everybody understands the importance of getting this effort right; that a regional approach that addresses the safety and security of the two countries and of the United States, and working together to ensure that what happened on September 11th doesn't happen again.

Obviously, it's all -- it's going to cost money, and we're asking for a renewed commitment from the American people, and certainly both the men and women in uniform that will serve, as well as an increased number of civilians that will go over to demonstrate all elements of our national power. But as the President said, it is a goal that -- to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda. And that's something that we can't afford not to do.

Q Any idea how soon you might have some estimates of the --

MR. GIBBS: I don't. I can certainly check.

Q On the bankers meeting, how strongly did the President press the bankers to sell their toxic assets through the Geithner program? As you know, a lot of them are reluctant to sell them at these prices, hoping that when the economy recovers they can get a better price, and that won't solve the problem.

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think there was a broad discussion about the program. Obviously, as I talked about a couple times this week, and many people have talked about the need for the financial system to be stabilized by getting a lot of these toxic assets off the balance sheets of bankers, and that because of that, there's an incentive through the market to get a price that's established that works for both investors and for those that want to rid their balance sheets of these assets.

So I think the policy is structured so that there is that incentive, and obviously the President believes that -- and I think the bankers said after the meeting -- that what they've heard is a positive first step.

Q But the incentives for the taxpayers are different than the incentives for the bankers. They want the highest possible price --

MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think -- you know, obviously there's -- and one of the reasons that many, many months ago under Secretary Paulson, the theory was that you might not be able to get this worked because you had -- you lacked an incentive to change something that somebody might value at 95 cents on a dollar and someone might value at 25 cents on a dollar.

Obviously we believe that because of the way the plan is structured, there is an incentive that protects the taxpayers but also gives incentives for banks to want to move those assets off their balance sheets by not totally giving up on them.

Q And what did they say about his message on compensation? Were they receptive to that?

MR. GIBBS: Well, yes, I -- look, I think, and, again, I think as you heard the bankers say, they understand that. I think --

Q They said you didn't talk about it.

Q They said it didn't come up.

MR. GIBBS: I did not hear that. It was discussed.

Q -- said it didn't come up.

MR. GIBBS: It was discussed.

Q Were you in there?

MR. GIBBS: No, Jen was, but I also talked to the President about it.

Yes, Jake.

Q I actually want to follow up on both their points. On Afghanistan, you said that the mission is to disrupt, destroy, et cetera. Other than the new troops, the new commitment of troops, 21,000 more troops, how -- what are the specific ways that this policy is different from the Bush administration policy?

MR. GIBBS: Sure. Well, I think -- I'll pick on several different points, and I'll take you back a little bit and give a little bit broader -- as you well know, the President originally believed that the decision to go into Iraq took the focus and resources away from our effort in Afghanistan; and that today's decision and announcement refocuses on that region of the world where what the President believes is our primary security threat.

It does so with a more tightly focused goal that the President enumerated, with a substantial effort at ensuring that the resources that are needed to achieve those goals are brought to the region, not just in, as you mentioned, the expansion of both combat groups and trainers, but also, as you heard officials talk about, an increase in civilians, in development; that -- I think another thing that builds on the civilian part of this is using all elements of our national power through both -- through those civilian agencies and through diplomacy; that we're looking at this, again, as the President talked about, not as an Afghanistan issue but as an Afghanistan and Pakistan issue.

And obviously the President will do more of this in the coming days as we go overseas, drawing on an international effort to ensure that we continue to put an emphasis in resources in this region of the world.

Q And to follow up on Karen's question, some of the bank -- bank CEOS came out and said that they liked the first -- their first impressions of Geithner's plan to get the toxic assets off the books, but they're waiting for more details. What more details could they possibly be waiting for?

MR. GIBBS: I think that's a better question for them. I don't know the answer to that.

Q Are there more -- I guess the better question for you is, are there more details that you guys are set to introduce?

MR. GIBBS: I think maybe what they're talking about is just the logistics of asset auctions and things like that. But I can certainly check with Treasury -- I mean, obviously, there will be an effort from -- between now and when that happens that we'll roll out plans and details on that. But I'll check specifically with Treasury on that one.

Helen.

Q What proof does the President have to become so hawkish now and to raise the ante on the troop level going in? We were misled so much on Iraq. Why shouldn't we be misled again?

MR. GIBBS: Well, regrettably I think in 2001 we learned the danger of giving extremists that hope and wish us harm the space in a safe haven to plan, practice, coordinate and ultimately execute deadly attacks on this country.

Q Can you prove it? I mean, why don't the American people get more evidence?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I -- one, I think the American --

Q You're going back to 2001.

MR. GIBBS: Well, no, I'm using 2001 as certainly one example, obviously a fairly poignant one. But I think it is -- without getting into details that I can't get into, when the President talks about continuing to get assessments on just how dangerous this part of the world is, I think they can be assured that this region of the world presents many dangers for this country. I think this region of the world poses dangers for Afghanistan. And, look, regrettably, just today, we can see that the extremists in this area pose a danger to Pakistan.

The leader of Pakistan is in power because the leader before was assassinated. I forget the exact number of people that were killed today in a bomb blast. I think there's very credible evidence that the threat exists and that the President will do all in his power to protect the American people.

Q Are they wrong to not want us there?

MR. GIBBS: Is who wrong?

Q The Afghans.

MR. GIBBS: Again, we're there to ensure that al Qaeda and its affiliates don't create a safe haven and don't topple the Afghan government and ultimately use that space to plan and execute those attacks. The President obviously has spoken with leaders of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and they understand why we're there.

Dan.

Q The President really had the focus, in terms of the threat, on Pakistan. And we see the buildup, the troop buildup, for Afghanistan. But what is the U.S. planning to do to go after this threat? If the terrorists are hiding out and currently planning to strike us, what is being done to cut that off?

MR. GIBBS: In Pakistan?

Q In Pakistan.

MR. GIBBS: Well, I'm not going to get into operational details --

Q Is there something being done?

MR. GIBBS: Is there something being done --

Q To go after the threat in Pakistan? Because there's $5 billion a year in humanitarian, but nothing -- we haven't heard anything at all about some active engagement to go after that threat if we know the threat is there.

MR. GIBBS: I think it would be wise for us not to lay out in front of the world the plan -- that plan of attack.

Q Well, I'm not looking for the plans. Is there something that is ongoing to go after that threat? Because he stated the threat is there; they're planning to attack us.

MR. GIBBS: I think you can be very assured that we're taking the steps necessary to address the threat and to protect the American people.

Q In terms of the timeline, no timeline to extract troops out of Afghanistan. The President I believe in the past has talked about wanting to have a timeline. Why no timeline? Why not sort of set some sort of mark and say, we need to be out by this time?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President did state quite clearly that the policy would be reviewed and evaluated as we go. Obviously if you add in the increase in the number of troops that were added in -- before the President took office, in addition to the 17,000 that the President ordered previously, and the 4,000 trainers today, you're looking at an expansion of roughly 30,000 American troops.

So we have important elections coming up in Afghanistan in a deteriorating security situation, and I think -- first of all, I think the President wants to evaluate what -- and the security team want to evaluate what that increase means for the situation in the region. Obviously the announcement today is to build the capacity of the Afghan army to ensure that ultimately that responsibility of rooting out extremism and protecting the democratically elected government can be done by the Afghans. And also the President will look to evaluate the policy as we move forward as we increase our diplomacy, as we increase the number of civilians that are there to do what the President talked about in terms of the delivery of services without corruption, and for developmental aid.

And so I think that the President will have said and set forward -- and I think you guys heard last night about a flexible strategy that allows the team to evaluate whether the goals are being met and whether the benchmarks are being met, so that we can determine the progress toward making that region of the world safe and stable.

Chuck.

Q Quick bank clarification: Did the issue of timing of returning the TARP money come up at the meeting --

MR. GIBBS: I believe it did. The President and I did not specifically talk about that.

Q So you don't know whether -- what was said, you just know the subject was talked about?

MR. GIBBS: I know the subject came up. I can check with him and see what --

Q Okay. Two unrelated questions here -- everything that's been going on here today. The FAA apparently is not going to -- apparently the FAA is being pressured not to release publicly incidents that have to do -- where incidents occur, whether these bird -- where birds hit planes and what caused the crash on the Hudson, because airlines don't want to give the information -- I mean, isn't this a public safety issue? Shouldn't the government sort of demand that this information be public?

MR. GIBBS: I saw a blurb on it, I read part of it. I would direct you to the FAA on that. I don't have anything on that.

Q Don't have anything?

MR. GIBBS: I don't have anything on that.

Q And it's also our understanding that the President met with some 9/11 families yesterday, this week.

MR. GIBBS: I don't -- I will check on that.

Q Some 9/11 families have asked him about -- had asked the President to get involved with the rebuilding at Ground Zero and some of the delays?

MR. GIBBS: I will check on that. That is not on my stuff, either, but I will have somebody work on that.

Q Following up on Dan's question about the timetable, Robert, would it be accurate to call the military presence there open-ended?

MR. GIBBS: Again, I think the President has set forth a new regional strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that he looks to monitor closely and assure -- to assure that we are making progress and to use benchmarks to measure that progress.

I think any conflict -- I don't think any conflict is open-ended. I don't think the President would see it that way. I think the President believes we're setting forth the best strategy that we need to achieve more tightly focused goals of disrupting and destroying al Qaeda; of doing it through the -- with the resources that are needed to get that done in a regional way, using all elements of our national power.

Q Throughout the discussions, have you heard anyone mention any date of when this -- when the troops might come home?

MR. GIBBS: Well, no, I've -- I think they're focused on initially -- obviously there -- as I said, there have been decisions by the previous President and by this President to greatly increase the troop presence. That presence will be evaluated. We have -- we will begin moving an increased amount of civilian personnel in there to more greatly focus, as I said, on the delivery of basic governmental services, on developmental aid that the President talked about in both countries, as well as trainers to ensure that we are making the sustained progress that has to be made and needs to be made to give the responsibility for security back to the Afghans.

Q Has the notion of or concern about mission creep come up?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think that's always discussed. I mean, I think that -- I think in any decision that is made, you want to ensure that, and I think the President did through enumerating that tightly focused goal -- and that that can be evaluated through benchmarks to measure that progress, to evaluate the policy, and to make the necessary changes. So I think there's -- there's a refocusing. There are -- it's goal-oriented; it's resourced; it's regional. It uses all elements of our power and it will be evaluated each step of the way.

Jonathan.

Q A number of those bank CEOs have spoken out publically against the bonus tax legislation both in the House and the Senate. And I'm wondering if that came up in that compensation conversation and what did the President offer them by way of assurances?

MR. GIBBS: That was not something the President and I talked about, but I'll check on that, as well.

Yes, sir.

Q One of the things the President wanted to get out of this meeting also was an update on the economy. What did he hear from them on the economy?

MR. GIBBS: Well, one of the -- and I think you heard some of the CEOs at the stakeout talk about this -- one of the things that they spent some time talking about and that I think is a positive development is the administration's housing plan; that rate -- mortgage finance rates have hit a low -- are at their lowest point since they began recording statistics, I believe, in 1971; that millions are taking advantage of the ability to refinance their home; that banks are adding people to their employment rolls in order to process those refinancing.

So I think largely the review that the President got is not a ton different than what he's given you and what I've given you, that there are -- that we're still facing a lot of tough challenges; these are unprecedented times. There are figures here and there that demonstrate good news -- spending figures today, the discussion of the housing plan. But obviously all the people in that room recognized that we have quite a long ways to go.

Q Did they make or suggest -- just as a follow-up -- did they make or suggest anything else that the administration could do to accelerate a recovery?

MR. GIBBS: I will check on that.

Yes, sir.

Q Robert, could you go over the numbers, the goals, on training Afghanistan military and police where they are now and where you're headed?

MR. GIBBS: I don't have those numbers in front of me, but I will get those to you. But I think some were in the President's speech and I think some have been in briefings that we've given either today or --

Q They were, but there is some confusion in some other agencies about the exact numbers, so I just thought --

MR. GIBBS: We will get that.

Q One other question for you. In the President's speech he talks about aid and military assistance to Pakistan, but says we're not going to give them a blank check; and then goes on to say that when there is -- that we expect them to take action against extremists within their borders, and when there is intelligence on high-level extremists, we expect action to be taken. He makes it sound as if there is a condition for aid, and that if action is not taken, that aid might be withdrawn.

MR. GIBBS: I think what the President's larger message is, as we refocus on policy, as we draw into that regional aspect, that we have to think about how we're doing this differently; that we have to work with both the Afghans and the Pakistanis achieving those goals and those benchmarks; and also, to understand, as I said earlier, that the extremists in those countries don't just pose a threat to our country -- they do -- but they also pose a threat to both Afghanistan and to the Pakistani people.

Again, the current government is there because of the killing of the past leader, and the country remains -- as evidenced today, still struggles for peace and security. And the President believes that one of the things that we have to do in this policy is convince others that the threat is not simply to us but also to them and their democratically elected government.

Q But he also said, "We will also insist that action be taken one way or another." Does that suggest that if the Pakistanis do not act, others will have to?

MR. GIBBS: I think that's a reasonable reading of that, and I think it's consistent with the President's policies and what he said throughout the campaign.

Jon.

Q I just had a question on the issue of the low interest rates, because on the other end that, potentially, is inflation. Is that something that the President is talking about with his economic advisors?

MR. GIBBS: I think they've both talked about the worries about inflation and deflation, given different statistics at different times. Absolutely they've talked about it in the daily briefings that the President gets from his economic team.

Q Can I also ask you about the bankers? Because in his statements before the meeting, the President was talking about how everybody needs to do what's best for, I guess, the global national community -- I don't remember the exact wording, but that was the tone. Just trying to get inside his head. As he's talking to them about selling these bad assets off the books, was there any appeal to not get rid of incentive for profit but maybe not try to go as far as possible to get the highest profit? Was that part of his argument at all?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think inherent in the discussions that he's had with them, inherent in what Secretary Geithner has proposed in terms of new rules of the road, and inherent in his discussions about changing the culture of Wall Street is understanding that while nobody in this country begrudges somebody doing well and somebody taking risk, and using their money to make more money, I think he emphasized to them why it would be frustrating if you're a family struggling to make a mortgage payment each month and pay your health insurance if you're lucky enough to have it -- why it would be frustrating to see an executive get a huge paycheck or a bonus when they work for an institution that needs extraordinary help from the government.

I think that's in some ways why the President put in place in February and announced stricter -- strict rules and regulations about executive compensation at banks that do receive that extraordinary help. And I do think there's a -- there's, rightly so, a message of this notion that we are all in this together. As I said and as the President said directly to me, that Wall Street needs Main Street; Main Street needs Wall Street; and that only working together and only solving the problem for both will we eventually get our economy back on track and make progress.

Q Do you know if he tied that in to how they'll approach the toxic asset --

MR. GIBBS: I don't know that. I can check specifically on that.

Sheryl.

Q Robert, looking ahead to Monday, the President is slated to make an announcement on the automakers. He said yesterday, we will provide them some help, but they will have to make drastic changes. Has he already made a decision about what kind of help he's going to provide them, and will it be short-term help or long term? Will it be all that they asked for? Will there be conditions?

MR. GIBBS: I know there were at least two meetings with him yesterday on this, but I know the President's Auto Task Force is meeting today. I think they are winding down the decisions that have to be made and putting in place a plan that the President will announce on Monday. But I don't want to get into that announcement until then.

Q Can you just talk about -- in terms of his announcement, will it be a very short-term announcement, or will he outline sort of a longer vision for where he sees the companies headed? Because he seemed to hint -- he did say yesterday it's not going to be like the 1950s where we see this growth; they're going to have to look different in a new global economy.

MR. GIBBS: And I think that is what the President will discuss. I think what the President has talked about throughout this process is the need for a viable American auto industry, but that that viability is largely going to depend on a restructuring that allows it to compete in a very changed global economic environment, and to do so without continued government assistance.

And, look, as I talked about yesterday, this is -- obviously we've all watched and the President has certainly watched management decisions that have been made over a longer course of time that have seen companies fail to invest in technologies and efficiencies that would have created a broader group of cars that they sell that could do well in good times and in bad.

The auto industry also, in all frankness, suffers, as I said yesterday, from the sheer notion of competing in an environment where they're selling a little more than half of what they sold two years ago. The annualized car sales at this point look like we're on pace for the industry itself to sell about 9 million cars in this country, and that's down a couple of years ago from 16 million. I think any industry would be faced with some very difficult decisions if, regardless of what your product line was, you were selling a little more than half of what you were selling in more robust times.

So the President I think will outline what he thinks is the best way forward to achieve viability for the companies in both that short term and in the long term. How do these companies get through the global recession that sees a great decrease in demand for the product? And how, when we emerge from recession to recovery, how do we have a sustainable path that makes good business decisions not just for one year but for many years?

Q How is he going announce it?

MR. GIBBS: Somewhere over here.

Q Will it be a speech?

MR. GIBBS: Yes, speech or announcement, something like that.

Q Robert.

MR. GIBBS: Yes, sir.

Q On the Europe trip, can you talk a bit about what the President's standard for success is? What is he trying to accomplish, substantively and symbolically? And what message is he trying to broadcast to the world?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the message -- let me take the second part first -- the message that he brings is that Europe and the G20 have, in America, a partner willing to work for success in moving the economy forward, in getting the economy back on its feet and recovered, as well as instituting stricter regulation to ensure that we don't face these problems again. And obviously, the latter part of the trip he'll talk about the shared responsibilities for security that we all have in dealing with the region of the world that he talked about today.

We'll have more on this I think tomorrow when -- I think sometime tomorrow morning we're going to do a background briefing call for you guys on the schedule and what you'll expect.

Q Is that going to be on the record -- the background briefing? Can we have it on the record?

MR. GIBBS: I have no idea, to be honest with you.

Q Is it a conference call, or here?

MR. GIBBS: I think we'll do it both here, and for those that don't want to be here at, like, 10:00 a.m. in the morning can also join on the phone. We're a full-service outfit.

Q This will be on the record, right?

MR. GIBBS: Honestly, you're, like, two hours ahead of me. But we'll endeavor to get you what you need.

Q You're supposed to be ahead of us.

MR. GIBBS: You know, I tried -- I stopped trying to be ahead of you guys at, like, day 50. (Laughter.)

Yes, sir.

Q I'd like to follow up on Turkey. What is the purpose of the trip to Turkey? He's spending two days there. And what are his aims in Turkey?

MR. GIBBS: Well, let me not get ahead of what we're doing, in terms of talking about the schedule, but we'll have more for you on that tomorrow morning.

Kirk.

Q Thanks, Robert. The House is poised to include reconciliation in its budget. Has the President discussed that with Speaker Pelosi?

MR. GIBBS: Not that I'm aware of, no.

Q Does he have any views on that?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think his main view on this and the view that I've enunciated from here is that there seems to be a lot of consternation about what could happen months down the line when the best way to be involved in discussing, whether it's health care or anything else, is to take active part in an introduction of ideas as the polices are all being created. I think that's the -- the best way to be involved in the policy process if you're a Democrat or a Republican is through the notion that it's going on right now.

Q And in an unrelated -- I mean, in a separate topic -- immigration -- is that a priority this year, and should the Congress take the initiative on that, or will the White House in terms of --

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President has talked about that it is a priority and I think the only way that's going to get done is by everybody working together.

Q Thank you, Robert.

MR. GIBBS: Yes, sir.

Q The Turkey trip -- is that stop -- the President made the promise of speaking in a Muslim country within 100 days -- is that it, or is there going to be another country?

MR. GIBBS: That's not the speech that he talked about.

Q It's not the speech?

MR. GIBBS: It's not.

Q -- expect him to go to a Muslim country within 100 days?

MR. GIBBS: It's not the speech.

Thanks, guys.

Q Can you react to one thing?

MR. GIBBS: Yes, sir.

Q DNI Blair in a briefing yesterday said if we're going to release Gitmo prisoners into the United States, we're going to have to do something to help them establish a new life; that there might have to be some conditions on them. Do you know anything about plans -- what would happen if we were to release Gitmo prisoners --

MR. GIBBS: I'd have to look at what Blair said about that. I don't have it.

Q Can we get just like the four-day ahead, since we know he goes --

MR. GIBBS: Well, the President will be here for an announcement Monday.

Q A.M. or P.M.?

MR. GIBBS: I believe A.M. There may also be a bill signing later in the day. And then Tuesday -- I think the press plane leaves Monday night -- I don't want to leave you guys out of this. The President is wheels up from Andrews I believe at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday for our European vacation. (Laughter.)

Q And this weekend?

MR. GIBBS: The President is going to leave later this evening to go see Michelle and the girls as they finish Spring Break at Camp David.

Q Will there be a briefing on Monday?

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Q How long has his family been up there?

MR. GIBBS: All week.

Q Do you anticipate the President coming back Sunday morning, Sunday evening?

MR. GIBBS: I think they're coming back Sunday afternoon, but I will -- I'm pretty sure there are meetings, that he has meetings here in the afternoon on Sunday.

Q And you'll brief on Monday?

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key administration posts: Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, Department of Defense; Donald Remy, General Counsel of the Army, Department of Defense; J. Randolph Babbitt, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration; Jose D. Riojas, Assistant Secretary for Operations, Security and Preparedness, Department of Veterans Affairs; John Trasviña, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Department of Housing and Urban Development; Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, Department of Commerce; and Cathy Zoi, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy.

President Obama said, "At this critical moment in our nation’s history, I am grateful that these exceptional public servants have chosen to help my administration bring the change our country needs today."

President Obama made the following announcement today:

Ray Mabus, Nominee for Secretary of the Navy, Department of Defense
Ray Mabus has served as Governor of Mississippi, Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Chairman and CEO of Foamex, a large manufacturing company. As the youngest governor of Mississippi in more than 100 years at the time of his election, he stressed education and job creation. He passed B.E.S.T. (Better Education for Success Tomorrow), one of the most comprehensive education reform programs in America and was named one or Fortune Magazine's top ten education governors. During his tenure as Ambassador, a crisis with Iraq was successfully deterred and Saudi Arabia officially abandoned the boycott of United States businesses that trade with Israel. He was chosen CEO of Foamex to help lead it out of bankruptcy. Less than nine months after his appointment, Foamex successfully emerged from Chapter 11. Governor Mabus has been awarded the U.S. Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award, the U.S. Army's Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Martin Luther King Social Responsibility Award from the King Center in Atlanta, the National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Award, the King Abdul Aziz Award from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Mississippi Association of Educators' Friend of Education Award.

Donald Remy, Nominee for General Counsel of the Army, Department of Defense
Donald Remy is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Latham & Watkins. From 1997-2000, Remy served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice, where he handled numerous cases, including those arising out of the events at Waco and Ruby Ridge. In addition to Mr. Remy's practice experience, he currently serves in a management role at the firm as a member of the Global Training and Career Enhancement Committee. During his legal career, Remy also served as Judicial Clerk for the Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and Assistant to the General Counsel for the Department of the Army. Remy has published, lectured and testified before Congress on legal topics relating to Torts, Constitutional Law, Employment Law, Diversity, Government Contracts, Litigation and Compliance. In 2005, Mr. Remy was recognized by Black Enterprise as one of America's most powerful executives under 40.

J. Randolph Babbitt, Nominee for Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration
J. Randolph Babbitt, known as Randy, is a partner in the worldwide aviation consultancy of Oliver Wyman. He was the former Chairman and CEO of Eclat Consulting until they were acquired by Oliver Wyman in 2007. Babbitt is internationally recognized as a leader in the field of aviation safety and policy, and labor relations with almost 40 years of experience in the industry. Babbitt began his aviation career as a pilot for Eastern Airlines and flew for more than 25 years. He served as President and CEO for US ALPA, the world’s largest professional organization of airline pilots. In 1993 he served as a Presidential appointee on the National Commission to Ensure a Strong Competitive Airline Industry. In 2008 Babbitt was named by the Secretary of Transportation to an independent review team of aviation and safety experts tasked with evaluating and crafting recommendations to improve the FAA's implementation of the aviation safety system and its culture of safety. Babbitt attended both the University of Georgia and the University of Miami.

Jose D. Riojas, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Operations, Security and Preparedness, Department of Veterans Affairs
Jose D. Riojas, began his military career after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as a second lieutenant in the Field Artillery in 1976. He is also a 1997 graduate of the U.S. Army War College completing studies in National Security Strategy. His 30 year military career encompassed numerous and significant operational assignments throughout the world to include, Korea, Germany and Southwest Asia (Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm). His assignments include: service with the U.S. Department of State, service as the Army’s representative on the Joint Requirements Oversight Panel, and Executive Officer to the Chief of Staff of the Army. He served in 5 different Army Divisions: the 2nd Infantry, 7th Infantry (Light), 2nd Armored, 25th Infantry (Light), and the 3rd Infantry (Mechanized). He commanded for over 10 years at the battery, battalion, division artillery and task force levels. His last military assignment was as the Commanding General of Joint Task Force North (JTF-N). The mission of JTF-N was to provide Department of Defense resources throughout the continental U.S. in support of law enforcement agencies so that they could more effectively interdict Transnational Threats including: terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, aliens from special interest countries and narco-terrorism. His responsibilities at UTEP include strategic initiatives in support of Homeland Security/Border Security, Homeland Defense and economic development. Riojas serves as the Director of the DHS Center of Excellence for Border Security and Immigration. He also serves as the Executive Director for the Center for Defense Systems Research, a DOD research center headquartered at UTEP. Additionally, Riojas serves as Chairman of the UTEP National Security Advisory Board, is a member of the Border Biomedical Research Center advisory committee, serves on the El Paso Regional Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors and is serving, by appointment, on the Texas Governor’s Emerging Technology Fund Advisory Committee.

John Trasviña, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Department of Housing and Urban Development
John Trasviña has devoted his legal career to public service in civil rights and immigration policy. In the 1980s and 90s, he served as Chairman Paul Simon’s General Counsel & Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. Thereafter, he was appointed Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs in 1993. In 1997, President Clinton appointed Trasviña as Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices. As Special Counsel, he led the only federal government office devoted solely to immigrant workplace rights and was the highest ranking Latino attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. After returning to California, he taught immigration law at Stanford Law School. In 2006, he was named President & General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF). A native of San Francisco, Trasviña is a graduate of Harvard University and Stanford Law School. In recent years, he was a member of the San Francisco Elections Commission, president of the Harvard Club of San Francisco, and a board member of the La Raza Lawyers Association, CORO of Northern California, Lowell High School Alumni Association, League of Women Voters and Pacific Coast Immigration Museum. He serves on the boards of the Latino Issues Forum and Campaign for College Opportunity and recently served as Chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda.

Lawrence E. Strickling, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, Department of Commerce
Lawrence E. Strickling is a technology policy expert with more than two decades of experience in the public and private sectors. As Policy Coordinator for Obama for America, Strickling oversaw two dozen domestic policy committees and was responsible for technology and telecommunications issues. Prior to joining the campaign, Strickling was Chief Regulatory and Chief Compliance Officer at Broadwing Communications for three years. His private sector experience also includes serving in senior roles at Allegiance Telecom and CoreExpress, Inc. and as a member of the Board of Directors of Network Plus. In government, Strickling served at the Federal Communications Commission as Chief of the Common Carrier Bureau from 1998 to 2000. Prior to that, Strickling was Associate General Counsel and Chief of the FCC's Competition Division. During his tenure at the FCC, Strickling developed and enforced rules to foster competition and protect consumers in the telecommunications marketplace. Prior to joining the FCC, Strickling was Vice President, Public Policy at Ameritech. Before Ameritech, he was a litigation partner at the Chicago law firm of Kirkland & Ellis. Strickling earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Maryland with a degree in economics. He serves on the Board of Visitors at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the University of Chicago's Court Theatre, and on the Board of Directors of Music of the Baroque in Chicago.

Cathy Zoi, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy
In January 2007, Cathy Zoi joined the Alliance for Climate Protection as its founding CEO. Established and chaired by former Vice President Al Gore, the Alliance is a non-profit organization spearheading a multi-year, multimillion dollar effort aimed at persuading Americans of both the urgency and solvability of global warming. From 2003 until joining the Alliance, Zoi served as Group Executive Director at the Bayard Group. The firm, recently renamed Landis+Gyr Holdings, is a world leader in energy measurement technologies and systems, with operations in 30 countries and revenues in excess of $1.2 billion. Her work focused on the key role of smart metering to improving energy efficiency in markets in North America, Europe, India, China , Brazil and Australia. Prior to joining Bayard, Cathy was Assistant Director General of the New South Wales EPA in Sydney, Australia. She was also the founding CEO of the NSW Sustainable Energy Development Authority, a $50 million fund to commercialize greenhouse-friendly technology, from 1996-1999. Under her leadership, SEDA launched the world’s first nationwide Green Power program (1997) and the world¹s largest solar-powered suburb (1998). Cathy has served on boards and advisory committees of a variety of companies in the clean technology sector. Cathy was Chief of Staff in the White House Office on Environmental Policy in the Clinton-Gore administration, where she managed the team working on environmental and energy issues (1993-95). She was also a manager at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where she pioneered the Energy Star Program. Ms. Zoi earned a B.S. in Geology from Duke University and an M.S. in Engineering from Dartmouth College.
Search Obama'12 Articles ▼

OBAMA and Economy