Official: Administration on Pace to Triple Number of Civilian Workers in Afghanistan

The Obama administration says it is on pace to meet its accelerated goal of tripling the number of American civilian workers in Afghanistan by year's end.

Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew, who is leading the recruitment efforts, said there are more applicants than positions available.

The status update comes during the administration's broad review of its overall Afghanistan strategy. But Lew said Monday that no matter what comes of that assessment, it is unlikely to lead to a drastic change in the government's civilian policy implemented in March.

That policy called for nearly 1,000 civilian workers from various Cabinet agencies -- including the State, Justice and Agriculture departments -- to assist local officials in building and sustaining Afghanistan's infrastructure.

Lew said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, has been closely involved in the civilian efforts to effectively target resources in the country.

"If we need a law enforcement officer, we're not going to send an agronomist," Lew said at a State Department briefing for reporters.

As an example of the type of work the American civilians have already accomplished, Lew pointed to positive reports from an Afghan government official in Helmand Province who praised the construction of an airstrip to help local farmers get their crops to market.

The link between the military operations and the civilian deployment is key because they work in tandem with each other. Lew said that work is mostly concentrated in the eastern and southern parts of Afghanistan, but there could be a geographic shift depending on the outcome of the broader strategy review.

Lew said the overall goal of having the Afghan people running their own affairs remains the same, adding that the "underpinning of this effort is that we send people who are properly trained."