Clinton: US, world stand with Afghanistan

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday vowed the United States and its allies will stand by Afghanistan even as fears are growing about the course of the nearly 9-year-old war and the Obama administration plans to begin withdrawing American troops from the country next year.

Clinton acknowledged deepening opposition to international involvement in the conflict amid the rising death toll of foreign troops in the country. But she told an international conference on Afghanistan’s future that the “world is with Afghanistan” and that the planned drawdown of U.S. forces was not a sign of flagging commitment.

“The July 2011 date captures both our sense of urgency and the strength of our resolve,” she said of U.S. plans to accelerate the process of turning over security to Afghanistan’s police and military. “The transition process is too important to push off indefinitely.”

“But this date is the start of a new phase, not the end of our involvement,” Clinton told the conference, which is being attended by senior officials from about 70 countries. “We have no intention of abandoning our long-term mission of achieving a stable, secure, peaceful Afghanistan.”

Mounting concerns about the war and rampant corruption in Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government have prompted many in the U.S. and allied countries to raise serious questions about the wisdom of carrying on the fight.

Clinton allowed that “the road ahead will not be easy,” particularly given those concerns, which could threaten funding for military operations.

“Citizens of many nations represented here, including my own, wonder whether success is even possible — and if so, whether we all have the commitment to achieve it. We will answer these questions with our actions,” she said, pledging to step up U.S. civilian assistance to help rehabilitate and reconstruct the war-shattered nation.