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London Conference Supports Afghan Reconciliation and Handover Strategy

Major world powers pledged support for reconciliation in Afghanistan to include members of the Taliban and mapped out a strategy for handing over increasing security responsibilities to Afghan forces. The decisions were announced as ministers and delegates from more than 70 countries and organizations met in London.

After a day of talks, consensus emerged on two main issues; try to bring at least some members of the Taliban into the Afghan government fold, and strengthen efforts to get the Afghans to take over responsibility for their own security.

At a closing news conference, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband described 2010 as a decisive time and said the conference had delivered a unified strategy.

"I believe that 65 or 70 foreign ministers will leave today's conference very clear not just about the challenges in Afghanistan, but how they will be met first of all by the Afghan authorities critically with the support of the international community," said David Miliband.

A process of reconciliation to include members of the Taliban is high on the agenda and was outlined by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"We must reach out to all of our countrymen, especially our less enchanted brothers who are not part of al Qaida or other terrorist networks who accept the Afghan's constitution," said Hamid Karzai.

President Karzai said he would convene a traditional peace council for the purpose.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States welcomes the effort.

"We believe that a lot of the foot soldiers on the battlefield will be leaving the Taliban because many of them have wanted to leave, many of them are tired of fighting," said Hillary Clinton.

Clinton said what is needed are incentives to protect those fighters and allow them to re-integrate into society.

A special international fund has been set up to help facilitate the process and Foreign Secretary Miliband said pledges for $140 million were received at the conference for it.

The United States and its allies have more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan with more on the way. But with waning domestic public support for the war, foreign powers are eager to bring the conflict to an end.

"Afghanization" is part of that strategy, as outlined at the conference by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"Building up the Afghan institutions, the army, the police, civilian government, so that as they become stronger we can hand over to them the responsibility of tackling terrorism and extremism and our forces can start to come home," said Gordon Brown.

Prime Minister Brown said he believes the process of handing over to Afghan forces, district by district, could begin later this year.