Obama nominee spells out way forward for peace deal with Taliban

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The panel's chairman, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), said Congress and the administration must start planning for the 2014 elections “now” to ensure that responsibility for the nation's security gets transferred to a legitimate government.

“Ultimately, it is the political transition that will determine whether our military gains are sustainable and the strength and quality of the Afghan state we leave behind will be determined by that political transition,” Kerry said. “Our role should not interfere in domestic politics. It is critical that Afghans must pick their leaders freely and fairly. But we should make clear that we will only support a technical process that is transparent and credible. Selection of an accountable Independent Election Commission, transparency in new elections laws, and early preparation of voter lists are all critical steps for Afghans in order that they have a voice and choice in the election.”

But some members are balking at continued financial aid for the country.

“We have an administration in Afghanistan that undoubtedly is significantly corrupt,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), warning that he could not guarantee “open-ended support” for the country.

If confirmed, Cunningham will replace Ryan Crocker, who is stepping down after serving just one year, citing health reasons.

In neighboring Pakistan, Richard Olson has been tapped to replace Cameron Munter, who also resigned after less than two years on the job. Olson is currently the coordinating director for development and economic affairs at the embassy in Kabul.

Olson said Tuesday's signing of a memorandum of understanding to reopen NATO supply routes in Pakistan is a chance for improved relations, but lawmakers expressed concerns.

The relationship with Pakistan, said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), is “transactional” and “not built on goodwill.”

The State Department hopes the Senate will confirm both nominees before leaving for summer recess at the end of the week.