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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is traveling to London this week for meetings on Afghanistan and Yemen, two major U.S. foreign policy priorities.
Clinton recently unveiled a 30-page strategy paper that lays out the long-term goals of U.S. development experts in Afghanistan. She said civilians will remain in Afghanistan long after U.S. troops leave, and she is hoping other countries will make similar commitments.
Officials from countries surrounding Afghanistan and other major stakeholders are gathering in London to hear how Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to tackle corruption. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who was in Washington last week, said better governance is key.
"It's important to recognize that the Afghan government doesn't just need to avoid being outgunned by the insurgency; it must not be out-governed by the insurgency either," Miliband said. "For us, that speaks first to the need to tackle corruption at all levels; secondly, to achieve much greater focus on district and provincial governance."
Miliband said he is expecting Karzai to lay out more details on how he hopes to persuade some insurgents to lay down their arms.
In an interview this week, Clinton said that ultimately any conflict has to have a political resolution, but the U.S. wants a clearer understanding of what Karzai has in mind. She said convincing militants to disarm and live peacefully is the first step.
"There are two end states that are being discussed. One is called reintegration, which is done a lot on the battlefield. Our military did this in Iraq. They will do it again in Afghanistan with the same kind of approach," Clinton said.
"Then there is reconciliation, which would really look at seeing whether any level of leadership of the Taliban leadership will be willing to enter the political system in Afghanistan, eschewing violence, turning away from al-Qaida," she said.
James Dobbins, a defense and international security specialist with the Rand Corporation, a global policy think tank, says the U.S. is skeptical that Taliban leaders will give up their fight in return for anything Karzai could offer, but rank-and-file fighters might leave if the price is right.
"Offer them an alternative from continuing to take their Taliban salary — and the Taliban salaries are actually pretty good. And that's a question of resources. I think, for instance, one of the things Japan is going to announce is a substantial donation to fund that kind of a reintegration program," Dobbins says.
Helping Yemen control al-Qaida, as well as its own internal conflicts, is the topic of the first meeting in London. Clinton says this will be a chance for countries that have an interest in Yemen to brainstorm.
"They are coming together to discuss security and development — one without the other doesn't work. We'll be making clear to the representatives of the government of Yemen what we expect and how we intend to work with them," she said.
The international community needs to speak with one voice, according to Christopher Boucek, an expert on Yemen at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The meeting in London, which will include the Saudis and other Gulf states, is a chance, as Boucek puts it, to get ahead of a rapidly deteriorating situation.
One thing the U.S. can do is push for a cease-fire in the conflict in northern Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been actively involved in helping Yemen put down a rebellion.
"This is rapidly accelerating Yemen's economic collapse, because they are spending money at such an alarming rate, and every dollar that gets spent fighting this civil war, which the Yemeni government cannot win, is a dollar that is not spent on fighting terrorism or dealing with a post-oil economy or thinking about water or any other issues," Boucek says.