Clinton Highlights Progress in Afghanistan

Posted June 23rd, 2011 at 2:25 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says considerable progress has been made in Afghanistan through the increased presence of U.S. military, civilian and diplomatic personnel.

Clinton testified before a Senate panel Thursday, one day after U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to withdraw 33,000 American troops from Afghanistan in about a year. Those troops were sent to Afghanistan as part of a surge announced in December 2009.

Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the military surge has increased pressure on al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents, while the governments, economies and civil societies of Afghanistan and Pakistan have benefited from the presence of more U.S. civilian personnel. She said a diplomatic surge is supporting Afghan-led efforts to reach a political solution that will chart a more secure future.

Clinton said the U.S. believes a political solution is possible, acknowledging what she described as “very preliminary outreach” from the United States to members of the Taliban. She said this is “not a pleasant business, but a necessary one” as part of efforts to end the insurgency.

The top Republican on the panel, Senator Richard Lugar, said troop withdrawals are necessary at this stage in Afghanistan, but that the U.S. policy is in need of more than pullouts on what he called a “political timetable.”

U.S. opinion polls indicate that the nearly decade-old Afghan war is increasingly unpopular with the American public.