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Clinton Seeks 'Reality Check' on Afghan Future


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center left, meets with Afghan women during a Civil Society roundtable discussion at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan October 20, 2011.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center left, meets with Afghan women during a Civil Society roundtable discussion at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan October 20, 2011.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told a group of women and politicians in Afghanistan that she is there for a "reality check" on the country's future, ahead of talks in Kabul with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Clinton told the group Thursday at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that she wants to hear the Afghan people's thoughts about the way forward.

She arrived late Wednesday on an unannounced visit, and is set to meet with Karzai to discuss efforts to reconcile with the Taliban and the transition of security in the war-torn country.

U.S. officials say the secretary will press for a binding strategic agreement between Afghanistan and the United States that will govern relations after 2014 when American troops are scheduled to return home.

Clinton also will preview plans for upcoming conferences on the future of Afghanistan to be held in Istanbul in November and Bonn, Germany in December.

The agenda is expected to include talks on ties between Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. Both U.S. and Afghan officials have accused Pakistan of supporting insurgent groups in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies.

The Afghan government's peace talks with the Taliban have stalled since last month's killing of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who had led President Karzai's outreach to the insurgents as head of the High Peace Council.

A suicide bomber posing as a Taliban emissary killed Rabbani at his home in Kabul September 20.

Rabbani's son, Salahuddin, was among the group Clinton met with Thursday at the embassy. She told him the former president was a brave man who was "trying to do the right thing."

There are currently more than 130,000 international troops in Afghanistan, mostly from the United States.

Most international combat troops are set to leave the country and transfer security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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