New Review

By John Liang / February 10, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama has asked Bruce Riedel from the Brookings Institute to chair an interagency review of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today.

Riedel is working at the White House for 60 days while on temporary leave as a senior fellow at Brookings' Saban Center for Middle East Policy. The study is to be completed before the NATO summit in April, according to the White House transcript of Gibbs' remarks on board Air Force One.

Amb. Richard Holbrooke and newly minted Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy have been appointed as co-chairs of the review, according to Gibbs. Riedel will report directly to the president and National Security Adviser James Jones, Gibbs added.

The proposed study is separate from the military review slated for completion this month. U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus is overseeing that one.

Given that the economy has been pretty much dominating today's news as well as this morning's press gaggle, here's the only question that was asked at the White House (or should we say Air Force One) briefing about Riedel's Afghanistan-Pakistan study:

Q: Robert, just a quick question on the Afghanistan panel. How broad is that mission going to be? Is it going to look at troop increases and things like that? Or is it more going to look at --

MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously, there's a review that overlaps also with what General Petraeus is doing. I think everyone has mentioned that in order for us to change the direction that we see in Afghanistan, we can't simply focus on just the military aspects, that we have to focus on the diplomatic, the civil society, the reconstruction.

So I think with what Bruce is doing, and what other military planners are doing, is looking at the Afghanistan and Pakistan policies in a -- not just in how many troops, but in a broad sense of what is possible and what needs to happen in order to change the direction.