Last week, President Barack Obama delivered remarks on the way forward in Afghanistan. President Obama said:
"...In one of the most difficult decisions that I've made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al Qaeda, to reverse the Taliban's momentum, and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country. I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to draw down our forces this July.
"Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security."
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "...The United States is meeting the goals [President Obama] set for our three-track strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The military surge has ramped up pressure on al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents. The civilian surge has bolstered the Afghan and Pakistani governments, economies, and civil societies, and undercut the pull of the insurgency. The diplomatic surge is supporting Afghan-led efforts to reach a political solution that will chart a more secure future."
Secretary Clinton continued, "...It's important we have the resources to continue implementing our strategy. The State Department is following the Pentagon's model and creating a special emergency fund -- an Overseas Contingency Operations account -- that separates normal operating costs from extraordinary wartime expenses. Now, I will hasten to say we are painfully aware of today's fiscal reality. And I know that it is tempting for some to peel off the civilian and diplomatic elements of our strategy. They obviously make fewer headlines; people don't know as much about them. And it would be a terrible mistake, and I'm not saying that just for myself, but as our commanders on the ground will tell you, the three surges work hand-in-hand."
Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake offered a glimpse of civilian efforts in Afghanistan, spotlighting how regional partners are supporting educational initiatives in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Monique Quesada, Political and Economic Chief at the U.S. Consulate in Herat, explained why she volunteered to serve in Afghanistan.
While remembering former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, Secretary Clinton spoke about the dedication of Foreign Service Officers. The Secretary said, "...It takes a special commitment to join the Foreign Service, a willingness to live and work in far-off places, to learn languages like Serbo-Croatian, and it's a commitment not only by officers, but by their families."
Secretary Clinton continued, "...Fifty years from now, many of us will no longer be here, but at the State Department, I am confident people will still be telling stories about Lawrence Eagleburger -- the Foreign Service officer who rose all the way to the seventh floor as Secretary of State, the diplomat who helped presidents and secretaries and America lead through times of crisis, the man who traveled with briefcases full of cartons of cigarettes, who always made time to talk with the junior officers. His time as Secretary was brief, but his service was long, and his impact will endure."
In other news, Secretary Clinton traveled to Guatemala and Jamaica, where she participated in the Central American Security Conference and the High-Level U.S.-Caribbean Conference. Secretary Clinton addressed the growing violence and insecurity that transnational crime has spawned in Central America and celebrated the contributions of the Caribbean diaspora in the United States.
Venezuelan-born Greivis Vasquez, an NBA rookie with the Memphis Grizzlies, WNBA star Kayte Christensen, and former NBA player Darvin Ham hosted a series of basketball clinics for children from underserved neighborhoods in Caracas and demonstrated the ability of sports to connect people across borders. Meanwhile, Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs Reta Jo Lewis participated in several events to promote peer-to-peer dialogue among U.S. mayors and their international counterparts. Special Representative Lewis also met with Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland and Mayor Edwin M. Lee of San Francisco, which host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Senior Official's Meeting and the Women and the Economy Summit (WES) this September.
During a special press briefing, Assistant Secretary of State East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell outlined U.S. long-standing interests in the Pacific and previewed his travel to the region this week with colleagues from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense, and the Pacific Fleet. Secretary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, and Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa participated in the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting.
Secretary Clinton also met with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung, Hwan, and USAID Administrator Raj Shah joined her for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on development cooperation between the United States and South Korea. USAID Administrator Shah also joined Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats to announce the recipients of the 2011 World Food Prize, honoring individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. Meanwhile, Pacific Partnership 2011 continued its humanitarian mission to Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.
First Lady Michelle Obama traveled to Botswana and South Africa, where she met with young people and organizations dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS. In other news on the continent, the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement reached an agreement to reduce tensions in Abyei and improve the security and humanitarian situation on the ground, while American diplomats continued to expand relationships with local leaders, international partners and civil society organizations in Southern Sudan to promote peace and stability.
Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Eric Schwartz underscored the critical role refugee assistance plays in U.S. government efforts to ease suffering and promote conditions for reconciliation and peace. Dora Chanesman shared her remarkable journey from refugee to American citizen. Her entry was part of our ongoing effort to commemorate the Refugee Convention, approved 60 years ago by a special United Nations conference.
Last week, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations hosted the original UN Charter, reminding us that "while the world's most pressing challenges cannot be tackled by the United States alone, there is no substitute for U.S. leadership in the world."
In related news, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on sexual and gender identity, while U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice addressed multilateral efforts to promote human rights for LGBT persons around the world. Secretary Clinton will address the human rights of LGBT people and U.S. foreign policy on Monday, June 27 at 10:25 a.m. (EDT). You will be able to watch her remarks streamed live on www.state.gov and DipNote.
Secretary Clinton will also release the annual Trafficking in Persons Report on Monday, June 27, 2011, at 2:00 p.m. (EDT). You will be able to watch the report's rollout on www.state.gov and DipNote. Later in the week, Secretary Clinton will travel to Budapest and Vilnius, where she will participate in the Community of Democracies 6th Ministerial. Stay tuned to DipNote for more on her trip. In the meantime, we thank our readers for your comments and look forward to continuing to hear from you this week.