Interview With Abdul Merzee of Ariana Television

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Kabul, Afghanistan
October 20, 2011

QUESTION: For my first question, as you know, the role of the U.S. in Afghanistan is very important. The people of Afghanistan worry about their future. Would you please describe the United States military exit strategy in 2014? What is your message to the Afghan people?

SECRETARY CLINTON: My first message is that the United States stands firmly on behalf of the people of Afghanistan to build a future of peace and prosperity. We have invested a great deal over the last 10 years. We intend to be part of Afghanistan’s future as well.

But we know that there has to be a transition from a military role that is the dominant relationship to a political assistance supportive role. So there will be a transition, something that the Afghan Government asked for and something which the international community agreed to. But the transition as we move from international military control to Afghan military control, and the security presence throughout Afghanistan led by Afghans themselves, will be accompanied by a commitment embodied in a strategic partnership document that will outline the enduring presence of the United States, because we want to be part of helping Afghanistan for many years to come.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you support President Karzai’s initiative to talk Pakistani state, not to militants? What is the role of the United States as an important party in the region in peace talk with Pakistan?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think there are three things we have to do all at the same time. We do have to fight, because there are a lot of Taliban and their sympathizers who do not want to see a new Afghanistan. They want to turn the clock back on the people here. We have to talk because we know there is no military solution; there has to be a negotiated political solution eventually. And we have to build. We have to continue to build the institutions of democracy. We have to continue to provide services to the people of Afghanistan, education for the young, healthcare for people. So I think fight, talk, build is our motto. We need to do all three at once.

And we do have to go after the sanctuaries, whether they are in Afghanistan or in Pakistan. And to do that, we have to enlist the support of the Pakistanis, who must recognize that the extremists on their soil are a threat to them as much as they are to Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Okay, the third question. The strategy (inaudible) the United States one of many element of debates in the Afghan society. How confident you are that the Afghan state become a strategic partner that United States (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m very confident, because I think both of us want to continue our strong relationship. And we know that it will change. As we draw down our military forces, which has been part of the agreement between the United States and Afghanistan, we will transition to Afghan security but we will not be abandoning Afghanistan. We want a strategic partnership that looks at all the ways that the United States will support the people and a new future for them.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) my last very short question. Afghanistan has election on June 2014. As I said, international forces, including United States military, exits on July 2014. Now the Afghanistan people can be confident to have free and fair election?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think there will be a great commitment on the part of the international community to help Afghanistan have free and fair elections. We’ve learned a lot about how to conduct elections in conflict zones, in very difficult geographic areas.

And I want the people of Afghanistan to just take a moment to reflect on how much progress has been made. It is not easy to hold elections for the first time, especially when people are shooting at you as you try to cast your vote. I think it’s only fair to say that a lot of the progress which has been made should be recognized. And yes, much more needs to be made. We all know that. But we intend to do everything we can to ensure that the next elections and the elections after that will reflect the will of the people of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. My pleasure.

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PRN: 2011/T54-13