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Successful US three-track AFPAK strategy has facilitated troop drawdown: Clinton


June 24, 2011 - Washington

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on hursday said that the United States has been very successful in eeting its goals through a three-track strategy in Afghanistan and

Pakistan.

Deposing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee here, Clinton aid that all three surges - military, civilian and diplomatic - havehelped Washington and specifically President Barack Obama to go through with their decision to announce an American troop drawdown in prescribed phases between July 2011 and December 2014.

She claimed that the military surge had ramped up pressure on Al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents, the civilian surge had bolstered the Afghan and Pakistani Governments, economies, and civil societies, and undercut the pull of the insurgency, while the diplomatic surge was supporting Afghan-led efforts to reach a political solution that will chart a more secure future.

She described all three surges - military, civilian, and diplomatic - as part of the "vision for transition that NATO endorsed in Lisbon last December and that President Obama reaffirmed last night."

Amplifying her statement on the military effort, Clinton said that the Taliban's momentum has been broken, and therefore, the drawdown of troops was being done from a position of strength.

On the civilian surge, she said supporting Afghan civil society was vital to solidifying America's military gains and advancing its political and diplomatic goals in the region.

"Since January 2009, we have tripled the number of diplomats, development experts, and other civilian specialists on the ground in Afghanistan, and we have expanded our presence out in the field nearly six-fold. And, these new civilians have changed the way we do business, focusing on key ministries and sectors, and holding ourselves and our partners to higher standards," Clinton said.

She said that there should be no doubt about the results of Washington's investment, despite the very difficult circumstances.

" Economic growth is up, opium production is down. Under the Taliban, only 900,000 boys and no girls were enrolled in schools. By 2010, 7.1 million students were enrolled, and nearly 40 percent of them girls," she said.

She also said that hundreds of thousands of farmers have been trained and equipped with new seeds and other techniques. Afghan women have used more than 100,000 microfinance loans. Infant mortality is down 22 percent.

Clinton said that despite many challenges, life is better for most Afghans. "The aim of the civilian surge was to give Afghans a stake in their country's future and provide credible alternatives to extremism and insurgency," she said.

"We have now reached the height of the civilian surge. Any effort of this size and scope will face considerable logistical challenges. And we have worked hard in the last two and a half years to strengthen oversight and improve effectiveness. We have, frankly, learned many lessons, and we are applying them," she added.

On the diplomatic surge, she said that efforts were on to support of an Afghan-led political process that aims to shatter the alliance between the Taliban and Al-Qaida, end the insurgency, and help to produce more stability.

"We are working with the Afghans on a new strategic partnership declaration that will provide a long-term framework for bilateral cooperation and NATO cooperation, as agreed to, again, at Lisbon. And it will bolster Afghan and regional confidence that Afghanistan will not again become a safe haven for terrorists and an arena for competing regional interests," the Secretary of State said.

"In the last four months, this Afghan-led political process has gained momentum. Twenty-seven Provincial Peace Councils have been established in Afghanistan, and the Afghan High Peace Council has stepped up its efforts to engage civil society and women, even as it also begins reaching out to insurgents," she added.

"With bin Ladin dead and Al-Qaida's remaining leadership under enormous pressure, the choice facing the Taliban is clear: Be part of Afghanistan's future or face unrelenting assault. They cannot escape this choice," she said.

She also informed the committee that President Obama's Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Marc Grossman, is leading an active diplomatic effort to build support for a political solution.

She said that Pakistan must be part of this reconciliation process.

She said that Washington is looking to Pakistan to take concrete counter-terrorism actions.

" Counter-terrorism cooperation continues and several very key extremists have been killed or captured. As I told the Pakistanis, America cannot and should not try to solve Pakistan's problems; they have to eventually do that themselves. But nor can we walk away from this relationship and ignore the consequences," Clinton said.

ANI

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