Remarks at the International Conference on Afghanistan

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
London, United Kingdom
January 28, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon, everyone. I think we have just wrapped up a very productive conference and we have seen the results of cooperation in the international community on a number of very important issues. I want to thank Prime Minister Brown and Foreign Secretary Miliband, the Government of Afghanistan, and the United Nations for bringing us all together and sponsoring this important meeting.

And I think that what we have seen is a global challenge that is being met with a global response. I especially thank the countries that have committed additional troops, leading with our host country, the United Kingdom, but including Italy, Germany, Romania. We also are grateful to all those who made their contributions known today. There are other countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, who are providing air space rights and other transit assistance.

But as important as our military mission is, we know that force alone cannot achieve our goals. Last week, I released the U.S. Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy. Its goal is to support Afghan-led efforts to transform and strengthen their own society and ensure their own security. As we heard a lot today, starting with Prime Minister Brown and President Karzai and many others, the goal is to have an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned strategy, and we are seeing that translated into reality every day.

President Karzai laid out an ambitious agenda for reform at his inauguration last year. There have been a number of plans put forth and Afghanistan has moved forward on preparation for a conditions-based transition to take responsibility for its own security and an agenda for development and governance, which is critical to the future. Among the decisions made today was to establish a Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund to support the Government of Afghanistan’s efforts to draw disaffected Taliban back into society so long as they renounce violence, renounce al-Qaida, agree to abide by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan.

Japan has shown an extraordinary commitment with its announcement of $50 million for the fund. And in parallel, the United States military has been authorized to use substantial funds to support the effort, enabling our commanders on the ground to support Afghan Government-led initiatives to take insurgents off the battlefield.

We’ve agreed to support NATO’s plan to work with the Afghan Government on the conditions-based, province-by-province security transition. As President Obama has made clear, our efforts will allow us to begin to transition our own troops out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. But as I said this morning and would underscore this afternoon, this is not an exit strategy. It is about assisting and partnering with the Afghans.

Now, the kinds of reforms that President Karzai and the Afghan Government have announced are important, and we’re going to watch them carefully and make clear our expectations that they be fulfilled. Among them are their efforts to combat corruption, provide more public services to people, effectively manage international aid. We also had very constructive conversations last night at dinner, hosted by Secretary Miliband this morning at breakfast, hosted by Prime Minister Brown and during the conference, about how the international community can support these reforms more effectively, including significant progress toward Afghanistan’s benchmarks for debt relief from the Paris Club and international financial institutions.

I also believe very strongly, as is apparent in what I say about this issue, that women have to be involved at every step of the way in this process. To that end, I unveiled our Women’s Action Plan. It includes initiatives focused on women’s security, women’s leadership in the public and private sector; women’s access to judicial institutions, education, and health services; women’s ability to take advantage of economic opportunities, especially in the agricultural sector. This is a comprehensive, forward-looking agenda that stands in stark contrast to al-Qaida’s recently announced agenda for Afghanistan’s women, attempting to send female suicide bombers to the West.

Date: 01/28/2010 Description: Secretary Clinton meets with women representatives of Afghan civil society following the conclusion of the International Conference on Afghanistan in London on January 28, 2010. - State Dept ImageSo the agreement reached today brings us closer to the goal of a stable Afghanistan and advances our efforts to combat the violent extremists who threaten all of our citizens. In addition to this important work on Afghanistan, I had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a number of my counterparts on the sidelines of this meeting. We discussed a wide range of common concerns, including relief efforts in Haiti. And I thank the British Government for its significant assistance support for the people of Haiti.

I also had a chance to discuss Iran’s refusal to engage with the international community on its nuclear program. They continue to violate IAEA and Security Council requirements. We were disappointed by the Iranian Government’s rejection of an offer that would have built confidence by trading some of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium for reactor fuel to meet the legitimate medical needs of the Iranian people.

The revelation of Iran’s secret nuclear facility at Qom has raised further questions about Iran’s intentions. And in response to these questions, the Iranian Government has provided a continuous stream of threats to intensify its violation of international nuclear norms. Iran’s approach leaves us with little choice but to work with our partners to apply greater pressure in the hopes that it will cause Iran to reconsider its rejection of diplomatic efforts with respect to its nuclear ambitions.

Tomorrow, I will travel on to Paris where I will continue many of these discussions with President Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Kouchner. I look forward to our close consultations with respect to the challenges facing us. And I’m delighted that we had an opportunity to get a lot of work done on many matters in one place, a particularly favorite place of mine. So again, I thank the British Government for their partnership and hospitality, and I’d be glad to take your questions.

MODERATOR: This question is from Duncan Gardham of the Daily Telegraph.



QUESTION: I’d like to ask about the general tenor of the conference seems to be changing the pace of what’s been going on in Afghanistan, and to some extent, looking towards the time when troops can leave. A time scale has been mentioned this morning by President Karzai of around 15 years. And I wondered whether you thought that was a practical time limit to start pulling troops out, and also to have the Taliban lay down their arms in that – within that sort of time period?

Date: 01/28/2010 Description: Secretary Clinton takes questions from Reporters following the conclusion of the International Conference on Afghanistan in London on January 28, 2010 - State Dept ImageSECRETARY CLINTON: No, and I don’t think that’s what President Karzai meant. First of all, we have increased the numbers of our military forces. There will be more to come. As you know, the United States has added 30,000. Other international partners have added 9,000. We have upped the tempo of our military engagement and we’re beginning to see some evidence of reversing the momentum of the Taliban. That is all to the good.

It is absolutely necessary in order to provide the conditions for stability and security, but it is not sufficient to provide the political environment in which a lasting peace could be negotiated. So therefore, as you heard today, we will be pursuing the military action, going very aggressively against the Taliban, those who are trying to kill our soldiers and civilians and wreak havoc in Afghanistan, and at the same time, creating an opportunity for Taliban who choose to leave the battlefield, renounce violence, renounce al-Qaida, agree to abide by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan to reenter society.

It is our working assumption that we can make gains on both of these tracks over the next few years and that we can begin to transition security to the Afghan security forces on a timetable that is conditions-based, but which begins to have the Afghan security forces assume greater and greater responsibility, province by province, beginning this year. July of 2011 will mark a point of transition for American troops as we take stock of where we have come with our security efforts. And we expect that there will be a portion of the country that will be under Afghan control, and we will move forward to transition out our forces as they are replaced by trained and qualified Afghan forces.

I think what President Karzai was referring to, and I’ve spoken to him about this personally on several occasions, is that our military presence may continue as it does in many countries, providing training, logistics, intelligence. But our combat role will diminish and transition out. That’s as it should be. There was a very significant event a few weeks ago with the multiply timed suicide attacks in Kabul. That was handled well by the Afghans themselves. There were no international troops involved. And the assessment by our commanders – American and NATO ISAF commanders – is that the Afghan forces performed commendably.

We have seen an increase in the recruitment of the young men joining the Afghan security forces in the last two months. We’ve seen an improvement in retention. We’ve increased the pay, something that was quite noticeably lacking since the Taliban paid more than the Afghan security forces or police paid.

So I mention all of that to create the context that we see this as an evolving process where we are creating the conditions for Afghanistan to assume responsibility for its own security, which will then permit the transfer out of international combat forces. Having said that, there will likely be continuing military aid, assistance, and advice from international partners beyond the combat mission.

MODERATOR: The next question’s from Andy Quinn of Reuters.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I’d like to ask a little bit about this reintegration and reconciliation process. As you doubtless know, the Afghan Government has invited the Taliban to take part in the loya jirga that that they’re planning to have this year. I’d like to ask, does the U.S. specifically support this invitation? And do you think that the invitation could or should include top Taliban leadership such as Mullah Omar as long as they, or if they, renounce ties to al-Qaida? Does the U.S. have any plans to contribute funds, beyond the military funds that you’ve mentioned, to the reintegration fund that the Japanese are helping to establish? And more broadly, do you feel that this reconciliation process that we’re talking about today represents the first point in a real roadmap toward ending the conflict in Afghanistan? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andy, I think that the starting premise is you don’t make peace with your friends. You have to be willing to engage with your enemies if you expect to create a situation that ends an insurgency or so marginalizes the remaining insurgents that it doesn’t pose a threat to the stability and security of the people.

When President Karzai announced that he would be holding a jirga, which is a traditional Afghan mechanism for trying to reconcile competing views and reach decisions to take, it was natural for him to say that if we’re going to have a peace jirga, people who are not already in agreement with you might actually come.

Now, we have a very clear understanding of what we expect from this process. We expect that a lot of the foot soldiers on the battlefield will be leaving the Taliban because many of them have wanted to leave, many of them are tired of fighting. We believe the tide is beginning to turn against them, and we need incentives in order to both protect them and provide alternatives to them to replace the payment they received as Taliban fighters. This is similar to what the American military did in Iraq. As it became clear that a number of Iraqis were tired of the brutality and barbarism of al-Qaida, as they began to see the potential alternatives available to them in the political system, they began to talk with our military personnel about changing allegiance and becoming part of the forces fighting against the terrorists.

So we have some experience in this now of recent vintage. Some of the same people, including a British general who is active in this area in Iraq, are advising General McChrystal. We’ve already seen some examples. In fact, we saw – there’s an article in one of the American papers today talking about a whole tribe, a whole tribe of Pashtuns, about 400,000 members, who want to fight the Taliban. But you’ve got to realize the circumstances. There was a tribe in a village in Pakistan who decided to fight the Taliban and they were targeted with these brutal suicide bombings, killing more than a hundred people at a volleyball match.

So in order to make good on the offer of an alternative that can create the conditions for peace, you have to be prepared to help fund it and provide protection for people. And that’s part of the planning.

We do not have any plans to add money to the reintegration fund because, as I said, we have a significant amount of money that’s being used for the same purposes coming through our American military. And this is an international effort, and a number of international partners have signed up and made commitments to the reintegration fund. But they will be working in the same arena with the same purpose.

MODERATOR: And our last question is Indira Lakshmanan from Bloomberg News.

QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, what did you hear from Chinese Foreign Minister Yang today that assures you China is ready to support a new UN Security Council sanction, or resolution on Iran? And what was Yang’s response to your call for an investigation of Chinese hacking against Google and other U.S. companies and your concerns about internet censorship in China? And lastly, what would you say to prominent American business leaders like Bill Gates, who this week said that China’s internet censorship is actually – quote – very limited?

SECRETARY CLINTON: On Iran, we had a very productive conversation with Foreign Minister Yang. They are part of the P-5+1 process, as you know. That process has been unified and we hope it continues to move forward on that same track to work together to change the strategic calculus of the Iranian leadership with respect to its nuclear program.

We shared some of our thoughts with our Chinese counterparts. We also set up some additional opportunities for expert consultations. We made it clear to everyone with whom I spoke today and yesterday that our efforts to apply pressure on Iran are not meant to punish the Iranian people, they are meant to change the approach that the Iranian Government has taken toward its nuclear program. And we made that clear when the P-5+1 agreed on a common plan to offer Iran the opportunity to ship out its LEU and have it reprocessed for their research reactor in Tehran, which they have thus far refused to accept.

So China is very much engaged, a very active member of the P-5+1, and we’re continuing to work together. I’m not going to preview what our plans our, but I think we had a very constructive conversation.

I raised the issue, as you would have expected I did, on the Google and internet freedom front. China has its approach. Obviously, they feel strongly that they are much more open than perhaps they’re getting credit for. We expressed – I expressed my concerns that we don’t want to create a series of actions that in any way impinges on the freedom and utility of the internet. But it was a very open, candid conversation. We agreed we will continue to discuss this matter in the context of our ongoing dialogue.

And as you can tell from the quote you referred to by Bill Gates, different people have different responses or different impressions. The overall issue is one that I think everyone should be concerned about, and that is making sure that no one uses the internet for purposes of censorship or repression. But we had a very positive exchange on this issue with the Chinese today.

Let me end, because you’ve been very patient – I know other people are probably waiting to come in and talk to you. Let me end by just asking these four women from Afghanistan to stand up. Would you all stand up? They are among the women who have been working in Afghanistan for the last years on behalf of expanding opportunities for women and protecting human rights and women’s rights. I’ve had a chance to work with some of the Afghan women who were here for the conference today in the past, and they are very much committed to their country’s future, but they’re also very committed to making sure that women in Afghanistan play their rightful role in that country’s future. And I just wanted to thank them for being here and for speaking out.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

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PRN: 2010/T21-2