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In a speech regarding U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama stated that his administration's policy for Afghanistan has "a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda ... and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That's the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just." And as the President stated, "a dramatic increase in our civilian effort" is crucial to success in Afghanistan:
"The people of Afghanistan seek the promise of a better future. Yet once again, we've seen the hope of a new day darkened by violence and uncertainty. ... So to advance security, opportunity and justice -- not just in Kabul, but from the bottom up in the provinces -- we need agricultural specialists and educators, engineers and lawyers. That's how we can help the Afghan government serve its people and develop an economy that isn't dominated by illicit drugs. And that's why I'm ordering a substantial increase in our civilians on the ground."
And so, the Obama administration doubled the funding for the U.S. civilian effort in Afghanistan to $200 million a month. The U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Defense, State, and the U.S. Agency For International Development, among others, have all been involved in the reconstruction process.
It is an enormous effort, because nearly three decades of war and violence have devastated Afghanistan. Thus the process of rebuilding encompasses nearly all aspects of life, from primary education, vocational training and improved healthcare to road and irrigation network construction, re-forestation projects and micro-loans for small business owners.
But for the civilian portion of the President’s strategy to be effective, said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Afghan people must be involved in the process. They must hold the Afghan government accountable for keeping its promise to fight corruption and improve governance. And in an effort to promote internal reconciliation, they should lend their support to an Afghan-led effort to help Taliban members who renounce violence, become productive members of Afghan society.
"The road ahead will be long," said President Obama. "There will be difficult days. But we will seek lasting partnerships with Afghanistan ... that serve the promise of a new day for their people."