Clinton says Taliban faces choice on al-Qaeda ties

"They cannot defeat us," says Clinton


Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents cannot outlast U.S. military pressure and face an increasingly stark choice to break with al-Qaeda, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to say on Friday.

"They cannot wait us out. They cannot defeat us. And they cannot escape this choice," Clinton will say in a speech to the Asia Society think tank, excerpts of which were provided by the State Department.

Clinton's speech will outline "three surges" the United States and its allies are undertaking in Afghanistan, matching the military offensive with efforts to strengthen Afghanistan's government and an "intensified diplomatic push" to bring the conflict to an end.

"The first two surges set the table for the success of the third, which aims to support an Afghan-led political process to split the weakened Taliban off from al-Qaeda and reconcile those who will renounce violence and accept the Afghan Constitution," Clinton will say, according to the speech excerpts.

"That would leave al-Qaeda alone and on the run," she will say.

Clinton's speech will repeat the Obama administration's intention to begin drawing down troops in Afghanistan in July "based on conditions on the ground", and to complete the process by the end of 2014.

"As transition proceeds and Afghan leadership strengthens across the country, a process of political reconciliation will become increasingly viable," she will say in the speech.

Clinton will say that escalating U.S. military pressure is forcing the Taliban to make a decision on its ties to al-Qaeda, which it harbored following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

"Refuse and you will continue to face the consequences of being tied to al-Qaeda as an enemy of the international community," Clinton will say.

Clinton's speech is also expected to include the announcement that retired veteran diplomat Marc Grossman has been chosen to replace the late Richard Holbrooke as the Obama administration's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Holbrooke, who had guided U.S. policy on the unfolding battle against Islamic militants in both countries, died suddenly in December.