By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 29, 2010 - Defense Department officials are hailing yesterday's International Conference on Afghanistan in London as a major step toward integrating the governance and developmental goals they say must go hand in hand with security efforts being advanced through the troop surge. Representatives of more than 60 nations and international institutions focused on the best way to work together toward a stable Afghanistan that's able to sustain its own security, exercise sovereignty over all its territory, provide governance and economic prosperity, and ultimately, play a constructive role in the region.
Although the conference wasn't scheduled to raise funds or solicit pledges of additional troops, a communiqué released at its conclusion offered assurances of international support to expand the Afghan national security forces. The participants committed to an October 2011 timeline for growing the Afghan National Army to 171,600 troops, and the Afghan National Police to 134,000 members.
The communiqué also endorsed transitioning security responsibility to the Afghans in some provinces by late this year or early 2011.
Another major focus of the session was Afghanistan's efforts to reintegrate low- and mid-level insurgent fighters and commanders who agree to cut ties with extremists, support the Afghan government and rejoin Afghan society through vocational training and jobs.
Participants pledged $140 million for a new Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund to finance the effort that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and others have recognized is critical to resolving conflict in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who led the U.S. delegation at the conference, recognized the importance of getting former enemies to renounce their insurgent ties and take a positive role in Afghan society.
"You don't make peace with your friends. You make peace with your enemies," she said during an interview yesterday with CNN. "You have to be willing to engage with your enemies if you expect to create a situation that ends an insurgency."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Clinton noted, is trying to send clear messages to those associated with the Taliban only as a way to make a living, or through intimidation, to "come off the battlefield and reintegrate into society."
"If you are a mid-level leader of the Taliban, not ideologically committed to their view, then you, too, can rejoin society," she said. "However, there are very clear conditions: You must renounce violence. You must lay down your arms. You must renounce al-Qaida. And you must be willing to live by the laws and the constitution of Afghanistan."
Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, and his team who are working to reverse the Taliban's momentum, recognize lessons learned through the "Sunni Awakening" in Iraq about turning insurgents' allegiances to support the government, Clinton said.
"There is an opportunity to try to convince the insurgents to quit the fight and come back," she said. "And that's part of this peace effort."
Just as in Iraq, U.S. military members on the ground will have access to funds to support these battlefield decisions, within established rules and regulations, Clinton said.
"What our commanders tell us is that it is extremely useful when someone shows up and says to a young lieutenant or captain, 'I'd like to quit. I want to go home. I want to plant my fields,'... to be able to say, 'OK, and here's what you'll get if you meet our conditions and you go forward as a member of society,'" she said. "So, we want to equip our military."
Clinton said she has "the greatest confidence in General McChrystal and his team to know how to pull this off."