Interview With Renee Montagne of NPR

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

SECRETARY CLINTON: Military action is not enough alone. It has to be mixed with political and development work. And I think everyone has realized, as we did in Iraq, that you have to begin to go right at the insurgents and peel those off who are willing to renounce violence, renounce al-Qaida, agree to live by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan and re-enter society.

QUESTION: Although -- obviously, Afghanistan is not Iraq. And I think there might be those who are hearing this this week, Americans, knowing that American fighting forces are in Afghanistan putting up and just beginning a surge for a big fight with the Taliban. And it would be a surprise and maybe even disturbing to hear that there's now talk of talking to the Taliban.

SECRETARY CLINTON: You can't have one without the other. Only a surge of military forces alone without any effort on the political side is not likely to succeed. Only an effort to try to make peace with your enemies without the strength to back it up is not going to succeed.So, in fact, this is a combined strategy that makes a great deal of sense.

Now, I think underlying your question is the concern of people who say well, wait a minute, those are the bad guys. Why are we talking to them? We're not going to talk to the really bad guys because the really bad guys are not ever going to renounce al-Qaida, renounce violence, and agree to re-enter society. That is not going to happen to Mullah Omar and the like. But there are so many fighters in the Taliban who are there because, frankly, it's a way of making a living in a very poor country where the Taliban pay them a lot more than they can make as a farmer or in some other line of work out in the countryside. So we're already seeing people coming off the battlefield.

There was a big story in one of the papers today about the military working with a whole tribe in effect to give them an alternative to either being on the sidelines or siding with the Taliban.

QUESTION: It's interesting you mention the article that's in The New York Times. The tribe is the largest Pashtun tribe in Afghanistan, something like 400,000 members. And basically, what they said was we are going -- the tribe has pledged, all its leaders have pledged, to fight the Taliban, for as big as it is, quite a first.

The money that came from the American commanders went directly to the tribe, bypassed the government. How do you work out in a sense the tension between going directly to the people who are trying to do something, the tribal groups such as they are in Afghanistan, and also trying to support a government? In this case, the tribal group said they didn't trust the government to help them.

SECRETARY CLINTON : Well, there are two interconnected approaches. The story you're describing was a story of our American military making this decision similarly to what they had done in Iraq where individuals were given incentives to leave the battlefield -- tribal elders, villages.

The second aspect of this is what's called the reintegration fund that will be set up and funded by international donors. A number of countries have made some significant contribution commitments.. And I think that's smart because this has to be agile and flexible and fluid depending upon the circumstances.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, you were the first Secretary of State, and I think I'm right on this, who has put a big focus on women's rights. When you look ahead to integrating the Taliban, even those who have renounced violence, which of course they would have to do for that to happen, back into society and into some sort of political empowerment, are you worried about the effect that this might have -- the negative effect this might have on Afghan women?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I am concerned, and I've spoken about it with a number of Afghan women and advocates for Afghan women. If the --

QUESTION: And are they worried about it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: They are. They're worried because they don't know quite what it means and I think that's fair. I don't think there is cause for alarm that the current government or any foreseeable government will turn the clock back like that so long as there is enough power in the state and through the new Afghan security forces to make sure that there is never a resurgence of the Taliban that could come close to taking over large parts of the country. That's what we're preventing.

I don't want us to be so diverted into our military and security efforts or the political peace efforts that we forget this country still needs a lot of development, and the only way, in my opinion, that Afghanistan has a chance to develop is if women are given the opportunity to participate fully.

QUESTION: President Karzai said this week that he expects Western troops to be in Afghanistan for at least another decade. Is that a timeline that makes sense to you?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don't believe that most Western troops will be in a combat role, but there are in many countries Western troops who do training of national armies or police. There are Western troops that provide intelligence, logistics, et cetera. But it won't be as it is today where we are putting in thousands more troops -- 30,000 from our own country, 9,000 from other countries. That's not going to be there for 10 years. But I would imagine there will be continuing military assistance and liaison, which is common around the world.

QUESTION: Could you give me -- what would be an example of talking to let's say a mid level Taliban? I mean, will American officials sit down with Taliban? Would they work through -- what is the practicalities of that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Renee, I don't know that I can answer that because I think that this is a very new effort. It's a case-by-case effort. There already have been Taliban who have left and I think it is, for me, just the beginning. And how it goes will be a little bit like jazz. I mean, we're not sure; we can't lay it out completely. But there are a lot of so-called members of the Taliban who want out.

QUESTION: And of course, Western troops in a way want to get out of Afghanistan. Is this an exit strategy?

SECRETARY CLINTON: It's not an exit strategy; it is part of our comprehensive strategy. You have to have a very tough-minded attitude about this. This is not sweetness and light. You're dealing with a very difficult, complex phenomenon. A lot of things are moving in the right direction.

But most wars, most conflicts these days, don't end with a victory on the battlefield. So you've got to go at it in different ways. We found how to do it in Iraq. We've got some of the same people that worked on this in Iraq working with General McChrystal in Afghanistan, and I think we're headed in the right direction.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Good to talk to you.

PRN: 2010/T21-7