Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton With Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Oct. 20, 2011

Kabul, Afghanistan–(ENEWSPF)–October 20, 2011.  

PRESIDENT KARZAI: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) and she has very good intentions towards Afghanistan and towards (inaudible). She has been working for the security and stability in Afghanistan, and we are pleased to see her here in the capital, Kabul.

Madam Clinton, the United States Secretary of State, we both enjoy a very long friendship, and we both enjoy personal relationships (inaudible). And we remain grateful for her work in – on everything for security and stability and the rebuilding of Afghanistan. (Inaudible) once again (inaudible).

Madam Clinton and I spoke on a wide range of issues, including the situation in Afghanistan and in the region. (Inaudible) where the U.S. reaffirmed its support (inaudible) and we also spoke and discussed the strategic partnership agreement which is still underway. And we also spoke on the security situation in the region.

The other subject of our discussion was the coming conferences on Afghanistan and the Bonn conference on Afghanistan and the Istanbul conference which is expected to be held soon, and on the items of agenda for the conference, including the enhancement of the regional cooperation in the countries.

We also discussed a number of other issues of importance for the region, including the extremism issue in Pakistan and in Afghanistan – a phenomenon, a scourge that threatens the youth in both the countries, the people in both the countries and the measures that are necessary to fight this scourge and that has continued to harm our people and has wounded and killed a lot of people.

We also talked on the assassination of Professor Rabbani and on all related issues to the assassination. We also discussed a number of other issues that would help the country and the region and issues that could help in the stability of the region. And we hope that we, and with Pakistan, could enter into discussions where we could clearly express our views on the common threats that we all have faced and are facing.

And I once again welcome Madam Secretary to Kabul and Afghanistan, and I once again express the gratitude of the people of Afghanistan for everything they have (inaudible) to Afghanistan, for all the contributions and assistance to the improvement of lives in our country. And I wish you all the best, and most welcome, Madam Secretary.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, President Karzai, for welcoming me back to Afghanistan on such a beautiful day here in Kabul. I have very much appreciated our long and friendly relationship and the opportunity to work with you first as a senator and now as Secretary of State on behalf of a future of peace, prosperity, and stability for the people of Afghanistan. No people in the world deserve it more, and our efforts will continue. And I thank you for your leadership.

Today, President Karzai and I discussed the challenges that we face, but also the opportunities that we have in the partnership between the United States and Afghanistan. Let me emphasize four points.

First, we are focused on the shared goal of a stable, sovereign, independent, and prosperous Afghanistan and a region free of al-Qaida and extremists who would try to undermine the progress that the people of Afghanistan have made.

Together, we are increasing the pressure on the Taliban to sharpen the choices that they face. They can either be part of Afghanistan’s peaceful future and end 30 years of war, or face continuing assault.

The despicable murder of Professor Rabbani was another reminder of the suffering that so many Afghan families have endured. They deserve a different future.

And this brings me to the second point. The United States remains committed to an inclusive Afghan peace process that ends the conflict, protects the gains the Afghan people have achieved in the last 10 years, and helps bring greater stability and prosperity to the wider region.

President Karzai and I have been clear about the outcomes of any negotiation. Insurgents must renounce violence, abandon al-Qaida, and abide by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan, including its protections for women and minorities. The hard-won rights of Afghans, including women and minorities, must not be rolled back, and the growth of civil society must not be quashed, and the rule of law must not be threatened.

Reconciliation is possible. Indeed, it represents the best hope for Afghanistan and the region. But success will take an inclusive national dialogue and sustained political effort not only from Afghans but from Afghanistan’s neighbors.

And that is the third point. Afghanistan’s future is tied to the future of the entire region both politically and economically. That is why the United States is working with Afghanistan to secure commitments from all of its neighbors to respect Afghan sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to support peace in Afghanistan.

And it is why we have embraced the vision of Afghanistan at the heart of a New Silk Road, which will increase cross-border trade, investment that creates jobs and opportunities, and leads to broad-based prosperity.

So let me say a word about Pakistan. We agree with President Karzai that Pakistan’s cooperation is critical. Violent extremism has also taken the lives of thousands of Pakistanis as well as Afghans. And if you look beyond the history of distrust, it is clear that all countries in the region will have to work together for all the people in the region.

So I urge the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan to resume their dialogue. We must focus on concrete measures to support peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, and to deny extremists safe havens in Pakistan.

And the final point is that all of this work advances the plan for transition that Afghanistan and NATO agreed on at the summit in Lisbon. The transition to Afghan-led security has already begun, and we are identifying the next group of districts that will be ready to be handed over to the Afghans. This process will conclude by 2014, when Afghans will have full responsibility.

But I want to be clear: The United States is making an enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan that will not end in 2014. We will not abandon Afghanistan. We continue to make progress toward a new Strategic Partnership Declaration that will provide a framework for long-term cooperation between the United States and Afghanistan. We hope that this agreement and the clarity it brings will bolster Afghan and regional confidence that this country will not again become a safe haven for terrorists or an area for competing regional interests. Our work depends on an ethic of shared responsibility. The United States will do our part.

Now, over the years ahead, our role and our military presence will change significantly, but we will remain committed and engaged. And we will look to work with our Afghan partners. We know that ultimately all of this depends upon the people and leadership of Afghanistan. And so let me just end by saying a word directly to the people of Afghanistan – men and women from every ethnic group, every geographic area, every part of the political spectrum: The time has come for you to choose what kind of country you want. America cannot make that choice for you. Even your president cannot make that choice for you. It must be a choice by the people of Afghanistan with the leadership of Afghanistan working to make it a reality.

I am confident, given the strength and resilience of the Afghan people, that you will make a choice for a future of peace, prosperity, and stability, where every Afghan boy and girl has a chance to live up to his or her own God-given potential.

Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT KARZAI: Thank you very much. Thank you. Would you like to –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Let me call on Indira from Bloomberg. Indira.

QUESTION: (Off mic.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, here comes the microphone, Indira.

QUESTION: Thank you. First, President Karzai, in the days after former President Rabbani’s assassination, you said you had given up hope in reconciliation talks with the Taliban and that you should have peace talks with Pakistan instead, implying that Pakistan controlled or at least gave safe haven to militants who attack Afghanistan. Has Secretary Clinton said anything to you today that changes your mind and restores your faith in peace talks?

And for you, Secretary Clinton, in light of Rabbani’s killing and the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and the U.S. post in Wardak that authorities have blamed on insurgents linked to Pakistan, what gives you any hope that Pakistan will cooperate with the U.S. and Afghanistan to crack down on terrorist safe havens and attacks?

PRESIDENT KARZAI: Ma’am, Afghanistan engaged in a very sincere, a very direct, very (inaudible) peace efforts with our brothers in Pakistan and also with the Taliban. Since the creation of Pakistan over 60 years ago, no Afghan government has had such a dedicated effort with Pakistan. The number of visits that I’ve had personally, the number of exchanges, and the proposals that we have had, from the meeting that President Musharraf and myself and President Bush had in 2006, from which the proposal of the Afghanistan-Pakistan peace (inaudible) came, to the creation of the peace council in – led by President Rabbani, to the sad assassination of President Rabbani by someone who came in the name of a messenger for peace, Afghanistan has been engaged both with Pakistan and with the Taliban, as we consider them Afghans.

Unfortunately, the assassination of President Rabbani brought us to the point where we felt that those who come to talk to us on behalf of the Taliban actually represent assassinations and killings and not a peace process. And therefore, the focus of the peace process, we felt, would serve a better purpose taken to Pakistan. We believe that the Taliban, to a very, very great extent, to a very, very great extent, are controlled by establishments in Pakistan, stay in Pakistan, have their headquarters in Pakistan, launch operations from Pakistan.

Therefore, it is not in the manner of pointing a finger or in manner of reprimand that we seek to talk to Pakistan, but a manner of trying to find the proper venue for talks and the proper authority for talks. And the proper authority, we firmly believe, is Pakistan and the venue therefore should also be Pakistan.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me underscore what President Karzai just said. He has been engaged in a sincere effort on behalf of peace and reconciliation. The creation of the High Peace Council, many efforts at outreach, were tragically and despicably answered with the assassination of Professor Rabbani.

We discussed at some length how we can pursue three mutually reinforcing objectives: We’re going to continue fighting, we’re going to be talking, and we’re going to continue building.

Now, some might say, “How do you do all three of those at the same time?” And my answer is, under the circumstances we must do all three at the same time. So we want a very clear message to the insurgents on both sides of the border that we are going to fight you and we are going to seek you in your safe havens, whether you’re on the Afghan side or the Pakistani side. They must be dealt with.

At the same time, we know that on this side of the border Afghan operations, in partnership with the United States and ISAF, have been making significant progress, most recently against operatives of the Haqqani Network who had crossed from their safe haven into Afghanistan.

And we will be in Pakistan this evening to begin discussions with the Pakistani Government about how we intend to cooperate to increase pressure on the safe havens there. We’re already working with the Pakistanis to target those who are behind a lot of the attacks that have killed Afghans, Americans, and others.

At the same time, we’re going to be expecting the Pakistanis to support the efforts at talking. We believe they can play either a constructive or a destructive role in helping to bring into talks those with whom the Afghans themselves must sit across the table and hammer out a negotiated settlement to end the years of fighting.

We will be looking to the Pakistanis to take the lead, because the terrorists operating outside of Pakistan pose a threat to Pakistanis, as well as to Afghans and others. And we will have ideas to share with the Pakistanis. We will certainly listen carefully to the ideas that they have. But our message is very clear: We’re going to be fighting, we’re going to talking, and we’re going to be building. And they can either be helping or hindering, but we are not going to stop our efforts to create a strong foundation for an Afghanistan that is free from interference, violence, conflict, and has a chance to chart its own future.

So this is a time for clarity. It is a time for people to declare themselves as to how we intend to work together to reach goals that we happen to believe are in the mutual interests of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Madam Secretary. Thank you for the very promising message with regard to Afghanistan. Are you also hearing the voices of the mothers in Afghanistan who lose their sons in the country? Unfortunately, the identity of Afghanistan seems like everything is here (inaudible) we have evidence, the government and the people of Afghanistan have got evidence that behind every violence, it is (inaudible) Pakistan, Pakistan’s intelligence authority. So if this (inaudible) is pursued in a way (inaudible) president of Afghanistan (inaudible) for the first 10 years and (inaudible), how assured are you that Pakistan this time comes and acts on all these (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: First let me thank you for mentioning the mothers of Afghanistan, because I think your question implies the fact there has been so much suffering and so much loss for so long – an entire generation. And I think it is time for all of us to accelerate and strengthen our efforts to reach a settlement, because one thing we have learned is that there is no military solution; there must be an agreed-upon path forward.

And what I hope is that Afghans who have differences with their own country will be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If they are living in Pakistan, it is time for them to pay more attention to what the future in Afghanistan holds than what the present in Pakistan offers. And so we will be delivering a very clear message to the Government of Pakistan and to the people of Pakistan, because they, too, have suffered. They have suffered at the hands of the same kind of terrorists, so there should be no support and no safe haven anywhere for people who kill innocent men, women, and children.

So my message will be as it just was to you: We have to deal with the safe havens on both sides of the border. It is not enough to point fingers across the border; we must work together to end the safe havens. We must send a clear, unequivocal message to the government and the people of Pakistan that they must be part of the solution, and that means ridding their own country of terrorists who kill their own people and who cross the border to kill in Afghanistan.

I think that how we increase that pressure, how we make that commitment, is the subject of the conversations that President Karzai and I have had, and that I will have in Pakistan. But we’re looking to the Pakistanis to lead on this, because there’s no place to go any longer. The terrorists are on both sides. They are killing both people. No one should be in any way mistaken about allowing this to continue without paying a very big price. So I will deliver the message on behalf of the mothers of Afghanistan and on behalf of my own country.

Yes. Next, (inaudible) Johnson. And here comes the microphone.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary, Mr. President. Madam Secretary, you talked about fight, talk, build. This appears to be just a different formulation of what you’ve been trying to do for the last 10 years, unsuccessfully. My question to the both of you is: What’s new? What’s changed that makes you think that this time around it can be effective? And is there enough time, considering the deadline, to transfer security responsibility to the Afghans in 2014?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’ll start, and then certainly the final word on this should be President Karzai’s.

I think you’ve got to put this in a broader historic context. And I can only speak for the Obama Administration, but when President Obama came into office, the momentum was on the side of the Taliban. And it took an enormous amount of effort, the additional troops that President Obama ordered, the ramping up of the Afghan security forces, which are becoming more effective by the day, in order to stop and then reverse that momentum.

You cannot expect to have the kinds of resolution that we are seeking until you can point to that having been accomplished. So I actually think the timing is right. We are now at the point where we are transferring responsibility for security to an increasingly able Afghan security forces. We are now very clear that there is a timeline on which this is occurring, which I believe helps to focus people’s minds, and gives us the opportunity to have the in-depth negotiations that President Karzai has been seeking. I think the Afghan people have made progress in a number of critical areas, and they are willing to stand up for that progress. They know what they are fighting for. They’re fighting for the kind of future that they have seen, because of the changes that have occurred over the last 10 years.

So, now is the time for us to bring all of the pressure and forces to bear. And I am not sure it could have been done before this time. So, yes. Have we been at this a long time? Is this very complicated? Have we and the international community paid a lot in blood and treasure? Have the Afghans paid far more? Absolutely true. But now, I think, this is the moment when we must bring our best efforts to bear in making sure that we push as hard as we can to achieve the kind of resolution that President Karzai has sought.

PRESIDENT KARZAI: All the 10 years and our efforts and the consequences of those efforts were for stability and peace in the region and the defeat of terrorism. The reason that we continue to face difficulty and the loss of Afghans and sons and children of the international community in Afghanistan is because we did not pay attention in time to the sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan. The peace effort that we launched and the sacrifice of the Afghan people made in that effort and the consequences of Afghanistan, resulting in the assassination of the Afghan leaders and the Afghan Government functionaries, state functionaries, and the assassination of President Rabbani, brings us to a conclusion that Afghanistan had 10 years ago, that unless we pay attention to sanctuaries, and unless we go to the proper authority that leads and controls all of that, we will not be able to either have a successful peace process or a successful campaign against terrorism.

Therefore, Afghanistan, out of a recognition, in a very hard, unfortunate way, is now focusing attention and talking to our brothers in Pakistan. And we will do that until we know that there is an address for the Taliban militia, a place that we can go to, a door that we can knock on, a telephone number that we can call, and where we can find the Taliban representative that can talk to us, Afghan to Afghan, that we are sure is representing the Taliban and have the freedom and independence to talk as an Afghan. This doesn’t mean that we have given up on the peace process. No. It means we are shifting the focus of the peace process where we feel we will have results.

On transition and on all that has been done over the past 10 years? So there has been immense progress in Afghanistan with all other aspects of life, other than security and the defeat of terrorism. Education, health, roads, civil society, the media, the economy, the very growth of the country as it has been happening the past 10 years – again, with the generous assistance of the international community – that is to be remembered.

That’s all?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s all for me.

PRESIDENT KARZAI: That’s all? One more question, okay. You are friendly to both of us. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Madam Secretary, every time when I come to a press conference with foreign visitor, I doubt my own understanding of current situation in Afghanistan, because they always say everything is better, the momentum is now, not anymore with Taliban. But the reality is something different.

My question will be specific on Haqqani. Why Haqqani should talk with Afghan Government? Because in the past, someone else, Mullah (inaudible), a very senior Taliban leader, talked with the, there were (inaudible) negotiation with Afghan Government, and then he got captured by Pakistani Government, and he’s still serving his time in jail. So, if Haqqani come, what is the guarantee that he’s going to be safe and (inaudible) arrested him?

And why American are keeping quiet? Even the attack to their own embassy (inaudible) give them a lesson that we have to put a serious pressure – not only a pressure, a serious pressure – on Pakistan to do something about Haqqani.

Mr. President, my question will be about that long-term strategy, because Afghanistan is carrying the suffering from neighbor countries. Pakistan, Iran, and China, India, they are all involved, a long-term strategy. Have you talked with them? Have you shared what you’re going to do with America in this region? Because there is no guarantee that this long-term strategy will not commit another problem for Afghanistan, another war.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I believe that there are so many indicators of progress from 10 years ago that I regret that you either do not see them, or don’t believe them. But I think your job makes you focus on what is wrong. I mean that’s what the media does. The media has to focus on where the conflict is, the media has to focus on where the problems are. That’s your job.

But I have met with many Afghans over the course of more than a decade, and I just don’t see how you can conclude what you concluded. You are welcome to your opinion, but I think the international community, whether it’s a significant drop in infant mortality and a very large increase in women’s education, or economic activity, or whatever the indicator might be, is pointing in the right direction. Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still major problems. And the security issues, the efforts to assassinate leaders, is a huge problem. It would be a huge problem in any country. So, clearly, we are in no way denying that there are problems, but it’s a more complex reality than just either all good or all bad would suggest.

Secondly, with respect to the Haqqanis, we are taking action against the Haqqanis. There was a major military operation inside Afghanistan in recent days that has been rounding up and eliminating Haqqani operatives on this side of the border. We are taking action to target Haqqani leadership on both sides of the border. We are moving toward a very international effort to squeeze the Haqqanis with the funding and other aspects of the operations. So, I think there is a lot going on that will be more apparent in days and weeks ahead.

But it is a fact that we know they operate out of a safe haven in Pakistan. And I think that it took – I would put this slightly differently – that it took time to get us in a position where we could turn with real intensity toward the safe havens in Pakistan. And now it’s a question as to how much cooperation Pakistan will provide in going after those safe havens. But it took some time to get to this point. We are here now, and we intend to push the Pakistanis very hard as to what they are willing and able to do with us in the international community to remove the safe havens and the continuing threats across the border to Afghanistan.

PRESIDENT KARZAI: On strategic partnership, there’s negotiations going on between us and the United States. Afghanistan has some conditions. These are internal to Afghanistan, with regard to Afghan sovereignty, prisons, and issues like that. But as far as the strategic partnership itself, and the importance of it for Afghanistan is concerned, this is something that the Afghan people realize, in terms of its importance, very significantly.

It will bring to Afghanistan much-needed resources, the continued support of the United States for military and the civilian efforts, the buildup of our economy, the buildup of our security forces, and it will in no way be – we have discussed that, it will in no way be directed against any of our neighbors. It will rather be a guarantor of our continued effort against radicalization and radicalism in this region, which, unfortunately, is aplenty and continuing. So the partnership that Afghanistan and the United States will have, one that will be approved by the Afghan people (inaudible), will be between the two countries for the stability of Afghanistan, for the well-being of Afghanistan, for the continued buildup of the Afghan state institutions, and for strengthening relations between Afghanistan and the United States, and will contribute to the region by we are providing better security and better economic activity, where Afghanistan will serve as an important element in connecting the region together.

Thank you.