Briefing En Route Kabul, Afghanistan

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
En Route Kabul, Afghanistan
November 18, 2009


QUESTION: Good. How are you? Did you get some rest?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I got a little bit. How about you guys?


QUESTION: Not enough.

QUESTION: Could I start off?


QUESTION: I guess maybe I’ll ask a general question. What message are you going to bring to President Karzai, both over dinner tonight and in any other meetings? Is there anything specifically the President has asked you to relay to him?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this is a specific opportunity for everyone to take stock of where we are and to determine how we’re going forward together. And I will be both talking and listening a lot to President Karzai and others with whom I’ll meet to make sure that they understand our concerns and we understand their concerns.

QUESTION: There’s been quite a bit – obviously, you’ve addressed some of this in the Sunday shows – of concern about the president really tackling corruption and being serious about it. Beyond the general admonition of “We hope you crack down on corruption,” is there anything specifically you’ll ask him to do in terms of benchmarks or things you really want to see in a measurable way?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are asking that they follow through on much of what they have previously said, including putting together a credible anticorruption governmental entity – a commission, an agency, something that truly can deliver on the concerns that we and the people of Afghanistan have about corruption. They’ve done some work on that, but in our view, not nearly enough to demonstrate a seriousness of purpose to tackle corruption. And it is going to be one of the principled requests that we make. But it is reflective of what members of the government and others tell us they want to see happen as well.

QUESTION: But what if it doesn’t happen? Then what?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are concerned about corruption and we obviously think it has an impact on the quality and capacity of governing. So we’re going to be persistent, asking for the kinds of outcomes that we think reflect that they are serious about this. But I can’t predict what will or won’t happen at this point.

QUESTION: But you --

QUESTION: Sorry. He’s appointed already a vice president that has had some allegations of corruption surrounding him. He’s made alliances during the campaign and with General Dostum. That doesn’t bode very well.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it certainly raises questions, and whether those two problems are dealt with directly or whether there are other approaches that create confidence in the government’s commitment to not only fight corruption, because that’s only part of the equation, but to actually deliver results that work to stand up the Afghan national security force, to recognize the necessity for a new compact with the people of Afghanistan, and the recognition of the commitment that the international community is willing to make if we can see clear and effective results. We just have to continue to press for that and to try to achieve it.

But we do need to listen to what’s on their minds. It has to be a better two-way communication in order to be able to produce the kinds of results we’re seeking.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you just --

QUESTION: Hold on for a moment just on that. Can I just follow on that? Beyond – vis-à-vis on the corruption issue, do you think he has the vision for Afghanistan and for governing Afghanistan in a way that is responsible and that not only you, but the international community would approve of?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, look, I think he has demonstrated vision and commitment. There’s no doubt of his passion and patriotism about what he would like to see happen in Afghanistan. But we also have been operating on a relatively short historical frame.

Eight years is a lot in our minds. It is not a lot in the minds of a lot of other countries and societies and individuals. And I’m always reminded by people who have a broader view that positive changes have happened in the last eight years, and we don’t really talk about those very much. I mean, if you are looking at social indicators, well-being of people, opportunities for women, it’s not all a one-sided negative story. It’s much more balanced than that.

And I think if President Karzai were sitting here, he would say, do you know how hard it’s been to do what I have done over the last eight years? And I think if we don’t recognize the progress that they believe has occurred, then we lose credibility, in their eyes, in understanding the challenges they face in trying to move forward.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you – can I just ask – in your Sunday interviews, you talked about how we don’t have a long-term stake in Afghanistan; we don’t want to stay there. Can you just explain a little bit more? Because that seems to go against this notion of having a counterinsurgency that would protect the people and get all of the things --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think so. I know we’re landing, but – and they want us to sit down – but let me say quickly, we don’t have a long-term military stake. We’re not seeking to occupy Afghanistan for the undetermined future. We don’t want bases in Afghanistan. And I think that’s an important message.

We do want to help the Afghan Government and people build up their own capacity so that they can defend themselves. I mean, the most common statement that we hear all the time from people in the country is, look, we want you to stay, we want your help, you need to give us the tools to be able to defend ourselves, and then we want you to leave. That’s a military context.

Would they want our help going forward on schools and healthcare and agriculture? Of course. But everybody is rightly focused on what is the military commitment and is this some kind of nose in the – camel’s nose in the tent that the United States is engaged in. No, it’s not.

QUESTION: And yet the Karzai government would like that. They have said repeatedly they would like more of these troops.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they – but they would like a security understanding the way we have with many countries, but not necessarily troops stationed in their countries in large numbers.

STAFF: Thank you. See you guys on the ground.

QUESTION: Thank you.

PRN: 2009/T15-19