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U.S. On Afghanistan And Pakistan

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher said the United States supports efforts by the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to reach out to those who want an end to violence and lawlessness.

In a recent interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Assistant Secretary Boucher said that authorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan have made it clear "that they have a path for people who have been fighting them to come in an live under government authority."

Afghan and Pakistani officials joined tribal leaders in an October 27 "jirga," or tribal council, where they agreed to reach out to militant elements that previously allied themselves with the Taliban but now may be willing to abandon violence, accept government authority and return to civilian life.

More than 30 former militants handed over their weapons to Afghan officials at a November 2 peace and reconciliation ceremony in Herat. "Once you start getting the locals on your side then the enemy is more isolated, then you use that process to extend it into areas where the enemy wants to, maybe on local level, lay down their arms and make peace," said Mr. Boucher.

Assistant Secretary Boucher said reconciliation is a matter for the Afghan and Pakistani people to decide.

Mr. Boucher noted that during 2008 more emphasis has been put on supporting provincial and local government in Afghanistan. And that's as it should be. Afghanistan's military is progressing well, he said and is increasingly taking the lead in operations against extremists.

Afghan police need more help and training, he said. And the U.S. is looking at ways to help Afghanistan better meet civilian needs such as governance and agriculture. The U.S. said Assistant Secretary Boucher, is working with the government of Afghanistan to help that government extend itself and deliver what the people want."