Interview With Mujahid Jawad of Radio Azadi

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Embassy Kabul
Kabul, Afganistan
November 19, 2009

QUESTION: Your Excellency Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, first thank you very much for giving time to Radio Azadi. My first question is: The international community, especially the United States, urges Hamid Karzai not to include warlords in Afghan Government. But on the other hand, you are meanwhile supporting the peace talks with Taliban, who are also armed militants.


Don’t you think the international community rejects one type of warlords and accept another kind of warlords?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think what was important about today was President Karzai’s speech outlining a vision for Afghanistan in the future, where he’d like to see the country at the end of his second term. But it was also very specific about what needed to be done for the people of Afghanistan.


I had the opportunity to meet with a number of your ministers. I met with four last night who gave me very detailed accounts of what they’re doing in agriculture and education and finance and intelligence. And I think that the quality of the people in the government is really quite positive. And I know that there are all kinds of international commentary about who’s in the government and who is not in the government.


We’ve made it clear that we want to see capable people. We want to see people devoted to the people of Afghanistan who can improve their lives. So I think that if the president continues to utilize the talents of the kind of people that I met with last night, I think we will be able to work together very effectively.


With respect to the question about any political resolution regarding the Taliban, that’s really up to the people of Afghanistan. But I think it is important to make sure that anyone who would be invited back into society gives up violence. There should be the end of any kind of armed capacity outside the military and the police, which is why we are committed to helping build a professional, disciplined army and police force for your country.


QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. But just – I want to have a short follow-up. If there is a wide infusion of warlords in the new cabinet, so will the United States support still the new government?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there are warlords and there are warlords. There are people who are called back who fought on behalf of the people of Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, who fought against al-Qaida and the Taliban and their allies. And there are people who had very serious breaches of human rights and mistreatment of people during war, which is always difficult to look back on and figure out how to judge.


So I have made it clear, as have others, that we would far prefer that the president have people in the cabinet with professional skills, with experience and expertise who can actually do the work that is required. And I think he understands that and he is certainly giving me the strong impression that that’s what he intends to do.


QUESTION: Thank you. And one of the main concern during Hamid Karzai’s previous term was the wide range of civilian casualties. There are American forces in Afghanistan, and this, in fact, caused it to have a negative impact on Karzai’s government credibility among Afghans. Will America put any new measures to prevent from these casualties in Karzai’s – this new term?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. In fact, we’ve already begun to do that. I share the concern and regret about civilian casualties. And under the new rules of engagement that General McChrystal has put into place, not only the United States, but all of the allies plus the Afghan military will do everything they possibly can to avoid civilian casualties. It is not always possible. There are unfortunate, tragic circumstances. But I think in the last months, under General McChrystal’s leadership, there has been a decrease, a notable decrease.


QUESTION: Thank you. President Obama gave Hamid Karzai the deadline of six months to eradicate corruption, but many Afghan experts believe that it would be difficult for Karzai to meet the deadline. So if Karzai failed, what will be your country’s reaction?


SECRETARY CLINTON: I was pleased to hear what President Karzai said today about corruption, and in fact, it produced spontaneous applause in the audience when he made such a strong statement against corruption and impunity, when he set forth some of the steps that he intends to take requiring government officials to list all of their assets, creating a major crimes tribunal, reinvigorating the anticorruption commission. These are all very positive steps.


I think that that demonstrates good faith on President Karzai’s part, and so he’s taking those actions and I think that is exactly what President Obama wanted to see.


QUESTION: Thank you. Your Administration has been reportedly pressing the Pakistani military to move against the Mullah Omar-led Taliban and the Quetta Shura and the Hakani network in North Waziristan. Do you now see the Pakistani military moving against these networks after it is claiming victory against the Taliban in South Waziristan tribal region?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I know that the Pakistani military is working very hard in South Waziristan, and they do have to have priorities as to how they will spend their resources and their troops. But we will continue to press them to go after all of the extremists in Pakistan, some of whom target Pakistan, some of whom, as you know, target Afghanistan. And we think there has to be an effort to root out the extremists in Pakistan who threaten Afghanistan.


So that is the message that I took to Pakistan when I was there a few weeks ago. It’s the message that I continue to stress with our friends in Pakistan. Because we know that there is a cross-border fertilization of extremism and terrorism. Afghanistan cannot get control over its territory and defeat the Taliban if they can go across the border into Pakistan as a safe haven. And similarly, Pakistan cannot root out the people that threaten them and their government if they can seek refuge across the border in Afghanistan.


So that’s why we look at Afghanistan and Pakistan together when it comes to this fight against terrorism.


QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. And my last question: There are reports in the media that U.S. is negotiating specific benchmarks with Afghanistan and Pakistan to pave the way for the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan. Can you speculate on these benchmarks?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think that they’re benchmarks that are as you describe them. I think what we’re trying to do is create some measurements that can determine whether we’re succeeding. I had a long discussion with the minister of defense, Minister Wardak. He’s very pleased at how much better integrated the Afghan military is with ISAF and the troops under the ISAF command. There’s more sharing of intelligence. There are more joint missions, more joint training.


That’s a good benchmark. That’s the kind of benchmark we’re looking at, because what we want to see is how can we determine that we’re making progress on the path that President Karzai outlined today, where your military will have what it needs to begin to take responsibility for much of the country moving toward the primary responsibility for all of the country.


Now, the United States wants to have a long-term relationship with Afghanistan. But we don’t see it as always primarily a military relationship, where we are putting our troops in to do combat. We see over time the professionalization of the Afghan military so that we would provide advice and training, certain kinds of support that you might not have on your own. But we also have a big civilian commitment. We have tripled the number of civilians who are doing development work, who are working with your government to build capacity within in your government.


That, to us, is equally important, and we want to be there for the long term to help Afghanistan increase the educational system, improve the healthcare system, see agriculture resume the rightful place that it used to have in Afghanistan where so many people know that it was the garden district of Central Asia with the orchards and the exports. And there’s a lot of good promise that we see in Afghanistan, and we want to be a good friend and a partner to help you achieve that.


QUESTION: Thank you very much. Yeah.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. It’s great to talk to you.


QUESTION: Thank you very much. It was very nice meeting you.


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PRN: 2009/T15-25