U.S. President Barack Obama said after last November’s NATO summit that "early 2011 will mark the beginning of a transition to Afghan responsibility." At the suggestion of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Afghan forces will take the lead for security across the country by the end of 2014, he said.
To affect this transition, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained in mid-February that the U.S. has adopted a three-part strategy through which Afghans will “take responsibility for their own future."
"We are following a strategy with three mutually reinforcing tracks — three surges, if you will: a military offensive against al-Qaida terrorists and Taliban insurgents; a civilian campaign to bolster the governments, economies and civil societies of Afghanistan and Pakistan to undercut the pull of the insurgency; and an intensified diplomatic push to bring the Afghan conflict to an end and chart a new and more secure future for the region."
This third surge aims to support an Afghan-led political process to split the weakened Taliban off from al-Qaida, and reconcile those who will renounce violence and accept the Afghan constitution.
But for the plan to succeed, Pakistan must be a part of the process. First, if the region is to be stabilized, Afghanistan and Pakistan need to work closely together. Secretary Clinton recognized that “Pakistan has legitimate concerns that should be understood and addressed by the Afghan Government under any reconciliation process,” she said.
"If the countries of the region can move beyond their historic conflicts and cooperate to seize the opportunities of the 21st century, there are no limits as to what they can achieve.
"In every war of this sort, there is always a window for people who want to come in from the cold. . . .If they are willing to accept the red lines and come in . . . .there has to be a place for them," said Secretary Clinton, quoting the late Special Assistant for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke.
"And that is the policy of the United States. . . .It offers the best chance for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, who so richly deserve a different future. The United States will be there as a partner to help them achieve that, if that is the path they choose."