WASHINGTON– Civilian partnerships, in combination with military efforts, are crucial to success in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday.

The current civilian effort would expand through a “civilian surge” if Congress approves Obama’s strategy for the way ahead, Clinton said.

“Civilian experts and advisors are helping to craft policy inside [Afghan] government ministries, providing development assistance in the field, and working in scores of other roles,” the secretary said. “When our Marines went into Nawa this July, we had civilians on the ground with them to coordinate assistance the next day.”

For the nonmilitary portion of the president’s strategy to be effective, Clinton said, the Afghan people and the United States must hold Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government accountable for keeping its promise to fight corruption and improve governance. The State Department intends to help in strengthening Afghan institutions at every level of society so that the country doesn’t fall into chaos when U.S. troops begin to withdraw in 2011, she added.

As part of the effort to shore up Afghanistan and prepare it to take responsibility for its own security, the civilian strategy involves supporting an Afghan-led effort to welcome Taliban members who want to become productive members of Afghan society.

“We understand that some of those who fight with the insurgency do so not out of conviction, but due to coercion or money,” Clinton said. “All Afghans should have the choice to pursue a better future if they do so peacefully, respect the basic human rights of their fellow citizens and reintegrate into their society.”

The economy is another factor in the State Department’s key to success in Afghanistan, Clinton told the senators. A civilian corps with expertise in such things as governance and agriculture — the traditional core of the Afghan economy — will go a long way to bolstering the country’s independence, she said.

“We will be delivering high-impact assistance and bolstering Afghanistan’s agricultural sector,” the secretary said. “This will create jobs, reduce the funding that the Taliban receives from poppy cultivation, and draw insurgents off the battlefield.”

The State Department’s role in stabilizing Afghanistan will take it outside that country’s borders to neighboring Pakistan, Clinton said. The country of 175 million with a nuclear arsenal and its own challenges must become a key partner in the fight against violent extremism, she said, noting that terrorist attacks in Pakistan earlier this year have made the country increasingly aware that it shares a common enemy with the United States.

“We will significantly expand support intended to help develop the potential of Pakistan and its people,” she said. “We will do so by demonstrating the United States’ commitment to addressing problems that affect the everyday
lives of Pakistanis and bring our people closer together.”

The partnership also will bolster the country, currently a safe haven for and target of terrorists, against the threat of extremism, said the secretary added.

The United States will not face these challenges, military or civilian, alone, Clinton said. “We share this responsibility with governments around the world,” she told the Senate panel.

The United States is looking beyond NATO to build the broadest possible global coalition to meet the challenges ahead, Clinton said.

“Our NATO allies have already made significant contributions of their own in Afghanistan, … and we’re also asking the international community to expand its support to Pakistan.”

The United States faces a range of difficult choices in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Clinton acknowledged, and she said the president’s plan represents the “best way we know to protect our nation today and in the future.”

That plan also involves sending an additional 30,000 U.S. troops into the fight.

“We will be asking them – and the American people who support them – to make extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country,” Clinton said. “I want to assure the committee … that we will do everything we can to make sure their sacrifices are honored and make our nation safer.”

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