Remarks at Reception in Honor of Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good evening. Well, this has been an excellent day and we are delighted to share it with all of you this evening in such distinguished company. We often gather here in the Ben Franklin Room for special occasions, for ratifying treaties, marking other international milestones. Well, today we had in this room an excellent exchange of views between the leaders of our two countries, the United States and Afghanistan.
And President Karzai, I am so personally honored to host you here tonight after a long day of meetings on behalf of the U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership. It’s actually, in my view, not only been an exciting day, but a historic day. We have covered a wide range of issues from security, to governance, to economic development, agricultural and rural development, social issues, women’s issues. And we are working on plans for finalizing a new Strategic Partnership Declaration later this year.
I want to also thank the president for going out to Walter Reed Hospital earlier today with Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen to visit with our wounded warriors and their families, just as President Karzai has done with his own young warriors in Afghanistan. There is no more visual or visceral experience that demonstrates absolutely the commitment of our two countries as partners and allies on behalf of a better future, against a common enemy, with a resolve that we will be successful.
I hope it is clear to everyone that the partnership between our two countries reflects a long-term commitment to the people of Afghanistan, and it is not just with the Obama Administration or the American Government; it is with the American people. Our nation – and Mr. President, there are dozens of nations represented in this room by their diplomatic delegations – we share an interest in helping build an Afghanistan that is stable and secure; that can provide prosperity and progress and peace for its citizens. The only way that can come about is with our support as they take responsibility for their defense and their development to exercise their sovereignty and be integrated into a more prosperous and secure region. We have told President Karzai that the United States will be there as a partner and a friend long after the combat troops have left. Our commitment is one that is enduring and durable.
President Obama has said that the future stability of Afghanistan affects “the security of our allies, and the common security of the world.” And indeed, that is what so many nations believe, not only our own. We have representatives from more than 60 nations and international organizations contributing to helping Afghanistan rebuild and transition to genuine sovereignty and self-sufficiency.
And even in this time of global economic recession, partners are digging deeply to provide assistance. Japan has committed over $5 billion during the next five years. The UAE, Jordan, Malaysia, other Muslim-majority nations are providing both military and humanitarian assistance. So this, Mr. President, is a great vote of confidence in you, in your government, and in the people of Afghanistan.
At the same time, we must recognize that the best efforts of all of our governments combined – and we have indeed nations that have just appointed their first ambassadors to Afghanistan in recent years, like New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt – all of that is very good news. But long-term progress requires a fast-growing private sector that will create jobs, opportunities, infrastructure and tax revenue. And this evening I am delighted to welcome members of the American business community that are working in Afghanistan and who this month have launched the American Chamber of Commerce of Afghanistan. You know, Mr. President, when you get your own Chamber of Commerce, that says a lot. It says that people are looking for investment opportunities in your country.
And indeed, that’s what we’re seeing in construction, agribusiness, retail, telecommunications, mining, and so much more. Today we heard a very positive report from the finance minister about the progress that has been made. We heard a report about the progress from the education minister. We heard so much about what is happening that doesn't often get into the media, and I believe strongly that the story of what has happened in Afghanistan in the last several years is such a positive one.
The people of Afghanistan have endured conditions that, over decades, seemed almost insurmountable. And we know that there must be a concerted commitment that we are willing to undertake. Patience, persistence, partnership.
I appreciate, President Karzai, your comment this morning that the Afghan people remember a friend. We are your friend. You have many friends represented here. And we look forward to strengthening those bonds of friendship in the months and years ahead.
It is now my great pleasure and honor to introduce President Karzai. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Thank you very much. Madam Secretary, as always, you’re so good with words and kind, and the hospitality that you provide provides reassurance to the greatest of skeptics as well that Afghanistan is a friend and an ally. This morning, ma’am, you and I inaugurated a very important meeting of the representatives of the Afghan Government and the U.S. Government. We from Afghanistan came in a group of five clusters representing various walks of the Afghan Government and the efforts that they make, from agriculture to energy, to human resources, to infrastructure, to economic development, to security, and to governance. All those aspects of Afghans’ effort are backed and assisted now for eight years by the United States Government.
In addition to that, ma’am, the United States has given Afghanistan all that we have achieved together in the taxpayer money, and much more important than that, in the sacrifice of its sons and daughters. As you recalled, I visited Walter Reed this morning, where I met with soldiers and young ones who had lost legs and arms. Some were blinded. Nine hundred of such young soldiers have gone through the Walter Reed Hospital. I had done the same some time back in our hospitals in Kabul. That was a moment of immense thinking for me as a person, and I did not know that moment how to describe my feeling in the appropriate words of gratitude, of recognition, and of appreciation, and indeed, of what it takes to succeed against an enemy that is not only the enemy of soldiers, but of our children, of our teachers, of the society as a whole.
Madam Secretary, you have moved a journey together. Much needs to be done. But as you rightly described what you have gained in the past few years is not fully known to our publics, even in Afghanistan. And perhaps we should do a better job of talking to the media or, if I can say it, of managing the media, better.
Madam Secretary, you have been kind, the American people have been kind, and we had very fruitful meetings today and last night. Afghanistan, as I mentioned in my remarks this morning, will not forget a friend. You have been personally a friend, the American people have been friends. We have had a journey together, at times a bit difficult and quarrelsome, but a sturdy one and a strong one. And we will continue so into the future. And I am so happy to see a lot of businesses from Afghanistan and the United States together and the representatives of countries, and I am glad to see the American Chamber of Commerce. Is that right?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, yes, American Chamber.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: The American – the Afghanistan-American Chamber of Commerce establishing itself in Afghanistan, I hope, very soon. And with that will bring investment to Afghanistan. The opportunities there are plenty. I need not describe it now, Madam Secretary. Thank you very, very much once again. It’s been an honor and a pleasure of your acquaintance personally and that of the United States of America and its people. Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. Thank you, Mr. President.
President Karzai has another engagement that he must get to, but I wanted just to ask everyone who’s with the president’s delegation, either as a member of the government or as a representative of a business or other organization in Afghanistan, to raise your hand so that maybe you could be meeting some of the people who are here with you and they will know that we have such distinguished members of the government, of the private sector, of other organizations, because we hope that this reception will inspire even more ideas about how to work with the people of Afghanistan, how to invest in Afghanistan, how to come up with new and innovate ways to help the Government of Afghanistan deliver services to the people.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)