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Clinton Maps Approach to Iraq, Afghanistan at Confirmation Hearing

Sara Moore - American Forces Press Service

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be top priorities for President-elect Barack Obama's administration, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama's nominee to be secretary of state, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at her confirmation hearing here yesterday.

The president-elect is committed to ending the war in Iraq responsibly and expanding the nation's strategy in Afghanistan, Clinton said.

In Iraq, the withdrawal is being worked on within the context of the status-of-forces agreement that the U.S. and Iraqi governments created together and which took effect Jan. 1, she said. The two governments also signed a companion document an agreement of friendship and cooperation that includes several areas the State Department will be working on, such as rule of law, education, health care, and technical assistance for the energy industry, she said.

"It is my intention that we will very quickly, in consultation with the Iraqi government and other agencies within our own government, put together the teams and activities that we will be offering that will support the withdrawal of our troops, and also fulfill the agreement that we have with the government of Iraq," Clinton said.

In Afghanistan, the new administration plans to conduct a comprehensive review of both the military and civilian policy, she said, noting that Obama believes that if the United States commits more troops and resources, NATO also needs to provide more support.

Clinton said that if confirmed, she would look at Afghanistan and Pakistan together, and would try to persuade the two countries to work together to protect their own security.

As the United States moves forward in Afghanistan, a Clinton-run State Department would work with the Defense Department and partner nations to root out al-Qaida, the Taliban and other violent extremists, the senator said.

"For terrorism, we must have a comprehensive strategy levering intelligence, diplomacy and military assets to defeat al-Qaida and other terrorist groups by rooting out their networks and drying up their support for violent and legalistic extremism," she said.

Clinton said she looks forward to working with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who she said has a distinguished record of service to the country and believes in a strong partnership between the Defense Department and the State Department. As it works to take on more responsibility in foreign policy, she added, the State Department will have to work to disprove the presumption that the military can move more quickly and work more effectively.

"I'm working with Secretary Gates," the senator said. "He's very open to cooperative efforts. But we have to prove that we can shoulder this responsibility." She cited the need to prove the State Department can handle stabilization, reconstruction and other "outcomes-oriented development aid" quickly and without enormous bureaucracy.

Clinton vowed to promote diplomacy and work with other government organizations to protect America's security and values. She also pledged to work against nuclear proliferation, and specifically to use diplomacy, sanctions and other means to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapon power.

The new administration doesn't plan to take any option off the table when dealing with Iran, she said, and likely would pursue a different approach from that of President George W. Bush's administration.

If confirmed as secretary of state, Clinton said, she would use bipartisan foreign policy to renew America's leadership around the world. She noted that the nation and the world face challenges on many fronts, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, climate change, financial meltdowns and worldwide poverty.

Clinton also pledged to work on partnerships with nations around the world to address security and economic concerns, climate change, humanitarian crises, poverty and women's rights. However, she stressed that American leaders must be realistic and recognize they cannot solve all the world's problems.

It would be up to her and other leaders to make tough choices and establish priorities, she said, promising to provide forward-thinking, sustained diplomacy in every part of the world and to cooperate with the military and other agencies of government, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and international organizations.

"Diplomacy is hard work, but when we work hard, diplomacy can work -- not just to diffuse tensions, but achieve results that advance our security, interests and values," she said.

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