<!-- IMAGE -->U.S. President Barack Obama said in a major speech about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan that "our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future."
"To meet this core goal," wrote Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in her introduction to a report on Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy, "President Obama has outlined a strategy that includes supporting the Afghan and Pakistani Governments' efforts to defeat the extremist threat."
That strategy includes a number of political, economic, and diplomatic efforts, programs that aim to achieve realistic progress in critical areas. These programs are aligned with Allied security objectives and have been developed in close consultation with the Afghan and Pakistani Governments, as well as our international partners, wrote Secretary Clinton.
According to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, "over 70 percent of the people fighting with the Taliban are not ideologically committed to al-Qaida or the Taliban. They're fighting for local grievance, or they've been misled about the purposes of . . . the alliance presence in Afghanistan."
President Karzai proposes a bold plan that would help reintegrate, or "absorb back into Afghan society the local insurgent commanders and their followers, most of whom have no links to al-Qaida or any extremist political agenda."
The Afghan government plans to identify groups and individual Taliban soldiers for reintegration, to offer jobs, vocational training and a variety of financial incentives to those who are willing to lay down their arms. The goal is to reach out to as many as thirty five thousand low-level Taliban militia.
An international trust fund for reintegration announced in London, the Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund, will support Afghan-led reintegration efforts to draw disaffected Taliban back into society so long as they renounce violence, renounce al-Qaida and agree to abide by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan. It will ensure that financial resources are available as soon as operationally required.
The United States is reviewing the best means to contribute to Afghan-led reintegration, in line with our legal and Congressional authorities.
Speaking in London at the International Conference on Afghanistan, Secretary of State Clinton said, "We expect a lot of the foot soldiers on the battlefield will be leaving the Taliban because many of them have wanted to leave, many of them are tired of fighting.
"We believe the tide has turned against them."