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Hillary Clinton to visit Afghanistan next week for conference

By the CNN Wire Staff
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently visited Tbilisi, Georgia. She will visit Afghanistan next week.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently visited Tbilisi, Georgia. She will visit Afghanistan next week.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Clinton will be among dozens of officials at the Kabul conference
  • The conference is called the first of its kind
  • Officials from more than 70 countries and groups are attending

Washington (CNN) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading to Afghanistan on Saturday on a mission that will take her to a major international conference in Kabul focusing on the problems and the future of the war-torn nation.

The visit is part of a voyage through Asia that includes stops in South Korea and Vietnam. But it will begin with the Kabul conference on Tuesday, a gathering that will deal with economic development, governance, security and reconciliation across Afghanistan.

The Afghan government and the United Nations will be chairing the conference. Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, foreign ministers and top officials from more 70 countries and organizations will be attending the meeting, described as the first conference of its kind in Afghanistan.

It is the latest step in what Western and Afghan officials call the Kabul process -- the transition to more Afghan responsibility for running the nation. Earlier this year, two other high-profile meetings dealt with the issue -- an international conference in London, England, last January and a "peace jirga," a meeting of tribal and religious leaders in June.

"With its tremendous resources in terms of its people, minerals, water and agriculture, Afghanistan is poised to enter a period of great hope. International investment in developing these resources will lead to many benefits in the lives of ordinary Afghans," the conference website says of Tuesday's meeting.

"This international conference is all about how to enable greater Afghan involvement in the country's development, governance and security and how this will make a positive impact across the entire country," the site says.

Staffan de Mistura, Ban's special representative in Afghanistan, told the U.N. Security Council recently that the conference's main objective is to promote "public contract between the Afghan Government and the Afghan people" and social and economic improvements.

"It will give an opportunity for the international community to support Afghan-led priorities including fighting corruption, building up self-reliant Afghan national security forces, and undertaking reconciliation and reintegration activities to reach out to opposition and to encourage combatants to lay down their arms," de Mistura said in a news release.

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, touched on the issues at the Kabul conference during an appearance on Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

One of the issues he focused on was reintegrating Taliban fighters into society. Holbrooke said the plan, which Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced in London, will be unveiled fully in Kabul next week.

"The Kabul conference is going to have several focuses, but the one I want to draw attention to is the reintegration program, which has finally been announced and which is now the money has been assembled, a good chunk of money, and

we all agree there's no final military solution to this war. There has to be a way to get how about fighters off

the battlefield, and this is the route.," Holbrooke said.

"if the reintegration program gets off the ground and if it's successful, it will have a huge effect."

Holbrooke also stressed the importance of dealing with the militants in neighboring Pakistan and improving the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"You cannot succeed in Afghanistan without Pakistan's involvement," said Holbrooke.

"We set out the goal of improving that relationship and in recent months there has been that first narrowing of the distance between Kabul and Islamabad."

 
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