WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday she will go to Pakistan in the fall, saying that the U.S. goal of defeating al Qaeda and its Taliban allies required working with Pakistan.
Clinton, who leaves for India on Thursday, also reiterated the U.S. willingness to deal with Taliban members who renounce al Qaeda, lay down their arms and are willing to participate in a democratic Afghanistan.
“Success in Afghanistan also requires close cooperation from neighboring Pakistan, which I will visit this fall,” Clinton said in a speech at the Council of Foreign Relations think tank.
U.S. President Barack Obama has identified the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the main threat to U.S. security and is presiding over an escalation strategy in which the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will rise from 32,000 to 68,000 by the end of the year.
About 57,000 U.S. troops are in place now, along with another 36,000 troops from Western allies. Commanders have said they expect a spike in casualties as new troops move into areas held by fighters ahead of Afghanistan’s August 20 presidential election.
“In Afghanistan and Pakistan our goal is to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies and to prevent their return to either country,” Clinton said.
“We and our allies fight in Afghanistan because the Taliban protects al Qaeda and depends on it for support,” she added. “To eliminate al Qaeda, we must also fight the Taliban.”