STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Afghanistan is the focus of a big international conference in the Hague today. It comes after President Obama unveiled a new strategy for that country, a strategy that includes neighboring Pakistan. One of the people tasked with implementing it is Richard Holbrooke. He's the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. And he joins us live from The Hague.

Good morning.

Mr. RICHARD HOLBROOKE (U.S. special envoy, Afghanistan and Pakistan): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now, your title seems to sum up the administration's strategy. It's yoked together Afghanistan and Pakistan, basically saying you can't solve Afghanistan's problems without involving Pakistan. Let me ask you, are you confident that Pakistan is fully committed to rooting out the militants in the lawless tribal areas that border Afghanistan?

Mr. HOLBROOK: I think there's almost no issue that's been as hotly debated as that one. And I've heard conflicting views.

This morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and I met with the foreign minister of Pakistan, Mr. Qureshi, and with the head of ISI, the Pakistani intelligence services, General Pasha, and we went right to the heart of it. And General Pasha and Minister Qureshi just said, look, we know that some people don't think we're serious, but we are serious. That's them speaking. And our response was, well, the proof is in the pudding. We need to work together for practical results.

MONTAGNE: Although one of the things that is thought about Pakistan is that its focus is on militants that threaten its own government, understandably, but that it isn't very concerned or doesn't bother, if you will, with those who cross the border into Afghanistan.

Mr. HOLBROOK: Well, you know, there was a lot of talk this morning about the attack in Lahore in the police station yesterday in Pakistan. And the foreign minister said this is an attack on our very essence. It's outrageous. We want to work with you to root this out. So there's a lot of concern, and I think it's growing in Pakistan as the violence spreads out of the tribal areas and eastward into Swat and now even into Lahore.

MONTAGNE: Well, let me ask you about Afghanistan. President Obama has said that America's vital interest in that country is to make sure that it - and I'm quoting the president - "cannot be used as a base to launch attacks against the United States." In other words, no nation building.

Mr. HOLBROOK: That's your interpretation, not mine. We are asking the Congress for more resources for economic assistance and development assistance for Afghanistan. We're making a very substantial request to the Congress for Pakistan.

We're backing, vigorously, the bill in the Senate to triple foreign assistance to Pakistan. We are supporting the bills for a opportunity zone along the border in Pakistan.

So I don't think anything that we're doing would justify the idea that we're backing away from economic support. However, we are putting very heavy emphasis on the simplest of facts. Al-Qaida is still around. It's mainly in western Pakistan. And it's planning - I'm sure as we speak - it's trying to plan new attacks on the United States or Europe or other countries fighting in Afghanistan.

MONTAGNE: Well, as you suggested, something that military leaders have said about this conflict, it can't be won by military force alone, that there has to be good government. And that involves some measure of development. Give us an example of how the U.S. administration would see using that money.

Mr. HOLBROOK: Well, you know, as you called, I've been sitting here with two senior representatives of the World Bank who are attending this conference. And we've been talking about the World Bank contribution to the National Solidarity program and the possibility of this being increased.

Here is a very important program which gives money directly to villages. Twenty-two thousand villages in Afghanistan have already received direct aid from the World Bank to build bridges and culverts and irrigation and schools. And we're talking about how this can be increased. I can't imagine anything that has a greater and more direct impact on this war torn country.

Afghanistan used to be a food exporter. It produced grapes and wheat and saffron and pomegranates and many other things. And all of that was destroyed when the Soviet invasion was followed by the disasters. And for thirty years now, Afghanistan has been torn apart by war. And it has much greater potential than people think, and it deserves a chance.

MONTAGNE: Ambassador, thank you very much.

Mr. HOLBROOK: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Richard Holbrook is U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He joined us from the Hague where an international conference on Afghanistan is under way.

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