On her recent visit to Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Afghan President Hamid Karzai discussed the challenges and opportunities in the partnership between the United States and Afghanistan.
"We are focused," said Secretary Clinton, "on the shared goal of a stable, sovereign, independent and prosperous Afghanistan and a region free of al-Qaida and extremists who would try to undermine the progress that the people of Afghanistan have made." Together, the U.S. and Afghanistan are increasing pressure on the Taliban: they can either be part of Afghanistan's peaceful future and end thirty years of war, or face continuing assault.
The United States remains committed to an inclusive Afghan peace process that ends the conflict, protects the gains of the Afghan people and helps bring greater stability and prosperity to the wider region. Insurgents, said Secretary Clinton, must renounce violence, abandon al-Qaida and abide by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan, including its protections for women and minorities. The hard-won rights of Afghans, including women and minorities must not be rolled back, and the growth of civil society must not be quashed and the rule of law must not be threatened.
Afghanistan's political and economic future is tied to the region as a whole. That's why the United States is working to secure commitments from all of Afghanistan's neighbors to respect Afghan sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to support peace in Afghanistan.
Pakistan's cooperation is critical. Violent extremism has taken the lives of thousands of Pakistanis as well as Afghans. That's why it is essential that the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan resume their dialogue. Extremists must be denied a safe haven in Pakistan.
The time is coming when Afghan troops will take over security responsibilities in their country. But that doesn't mean the United States' commitment to Afghanistan will end. Both countries are working toward a Strategic Partnership Declaration that will provide a framework for long-term cooperation.
The United States, said Secretary Clinton, will remain committed and engaged in Afghanistan. But the time has come for the Afghan people to choose what kind of country they want. "I am confident," said Secretary Clinton, "given the strength and resilience of the Afghan people, that you will make a choice for a future of peace and prosperity."