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Clinton: US Committed to Success in Afghanistan


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U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says Washington is committed to the goals set out for Afghanistan, but says much more is expected of the Afghan government. Clinton spoke while visiting Britain.

The commander of the British Army's 19th Light Brigade, Brigadier Tim Radford, just returned from Afghanistan. He says it was a long tour. He lost 66 men, many from roadside bombs.

"It has been a tour where we have seen things changed," he said. "We have faced an enemy who do not want to fight us force-on-force, rather they wanted to lay improvised explosive devices to halt us in our path and this summer total of 1,800 Improvised explosive devices laid in our path, so we have had to adapt quickly."

The U.S. administration is also trying to adapt to the changing situation in Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, on a European tour told British radio America's goal is clear.

"We are not changing our strategy, our strategy remains to achieve the goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaida and its extremist allies, and denying them safe haven and the capacity to strike us here in London, or New York or anywhere else," said Clinton.

She says President Barack Obama is consulting with military commanders and other advisors to work out the best way forward in Afghanistan.

"The in-depth discussions we are having, where we are testing our assumptions, where we are looking at how better to integrate our civilian and military components and our very clear understanding that Pakistan and the region must be addressed as well, is leading to some welcome clarity and the kind of commitment that is needed," she added.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has reportedly asked for up to 40,000 more troops. President Barack Obama has not indicated whether he will grant the request.

Clinton says whatever decision the president makes, the United States remains steadfast in Afghanistan.

"One should never doubt our commitment or our leadership, we intend to pursue the goal. We will not rest until we do defeat al-Qaida. But we want to be smart about how we are proceeding," she said. "The lives that our young men and women both American and British have put at risk and lost are very much on our minds, and we intend to get this as right as its humanly possible."

Part of rethinking the situation includes redefining the enemy.

"We are doing much more careful analysis of who actually is allied to al-Qaida. Not everyone who calls himself a Taliban is necessarily a threat to the U.K. or the United States," said Clinton. "There well may be a number of people who are considered Taliban because they get paid to fight, because they see no alternative."

General McChrystal has said winning the population's trust is central to success in Afghanistan.

The Secretary of State emphasized that many factors are being considered. One of them is the political situation. Afghanistan held elections in August but the results are contested amidst allegations of fraud. Clinton said if incumbent Hamid Karzai emerges as the winner, he will have to change.

"If this election results in his being re-elected, there must be a new relationship between him and the people of Afghanistan and between his government and governments like yours and mine, which are supporting the efforts in Afghanistan to stabilize and secure the country," she said.

The British Prime minister is expected to make an announcement about Afghanistan on Wednesday, but all eyes are on the United States and what President Obama will decide is the best way to achieve America's goals in Afghanistan.

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