Two White House officials held a conference call for reporters this afternoon to preview the president’s Afghanistan strategy speech tonight. (It was on background, so we’re not allowed to say who they were — frustrating, but those were the rules.)
Most of it was focused on the military aspects of Obama’s new strategy, but the officials also said Obama will spend some time in tonight’s speech talking about the civilian role in Afghanistan:
The president will announce how we’re sending additional civilian experts to Afghanistan to team up with military units.
[…] Their approach has to go well beyond Kabul. They have to reach out in a bottom-up approach, in the provinces and districts… and he will announce that our top development priority in Afghanistan will be agriculture.
The administration has struggled to find civilians to deploy to Afghanistan, though. Obama announced a 1,000-strong “civilian surge” in March; Richard Holbrooke, his envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, says those personnel won’t finish deploying until early next year. And many experts have said Afghanistan needs thousands more civilians for meaningful development work.