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Steady Progress In Afghanistan

A contemplative student at a school in Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on Sunday, March 20, 2011. (S.K. Vemmer/Department of State)

"As security has improved, the development pace has picked up rapidly."

In December 2009, President Barack Obama decided that an extra push was needed to turn the tide against the extremist insurgents and committed an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.

To support the progress of the military "surge", the international community has also ramped up its civilian and diplomatic contingents, who are working with their Afghan partners to strengthen governance, expand economic capacity, and build civil society.

And they have done their job well, said Major General Richard Mills, who recently left Afghanistan after a year commanding the Marine Expeditionary Force in Helmand and Nimroz provinces. "As security has improved, the development pace has picked up rapidly," he said:

"We’re beginning to see a real flowering of the education system within Helmand province, with 125,000 students attending school, to include some 20,000 female students. . . .

We’re also seeing an opening of numerous roads that will tie parts of the province together to allow for freedom of movement of the people and commerce throughout the area and a freedom of movement of ideas, sparked by telephone coverage that’s been restored by the Department of State efforts. . . .”

According to General Mills, all of these positive developments have been made possible by the improvement of security within the province, spearheaded by the Afghan security forces themselves.

This is a transition which, when complete, will see all government functions in the hands of the Afghan civilian leadership. It is a slow process. And to ensure that it is irreversible, the transition must be underpinned by sufficient governance and development in each transitioning area.

The United States and its partner countries will stand by Afghanistan and do whatever they can to support this process.