SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. Thank you all very much and welcome.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Good morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, on behalf of President Obama, his Administration and the American people, I offer a very warm welcome to President Karzai and the members of the Afghan Government gathered here in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department.
President Karzai, it was a privilege for me to attend your inauguration in Kabul last fall and to see you again in London earlier this year. But it is a special pleasure to host you and your distinguished delegation in Washington for what is truly an historic gathering this week.
Now, before we begin, I might suggest that if we are searching for a model of how to meet tough international challenges with skill, dedication, and teamwork, we need only look to the Afghan National Cricket Team. For those of you who don’t follow cricket, which is most of the Americans, suffice it to say that Afghanistan did not even have a cricket team a decade ago. And last month, the team made it to the World Twenty Championships featuring the best teams in the world.
Well, today, we have our own top teams from the Afghan and U.S. Governments. Representing the Obama Administration are Defense Secretary Gates, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, CIA Director Panetta, FBI Director Miller, Chairman Mullen, Ambassador Holbrooke, USAID Administrator Shah, Ambassador Eikenberry, General McChrystal, Deputy Secretary Lew, as well as other leaders from across our government.
Mr. President, less than two weeks ago, we received another stark reminder of the challenges we face together. The attempted terrorist attack in Times Square offered fresh evidence that violent extremism not only ignores geographic boundaries, but all boundaries of human decency. Addressing this deadly threat is a shared responsibility for us all. And in that spirit, let us turn to what brings us here today, our strategic partnership. This partnership is a long-term commitment by the American people to the Afghan people. Our nations will work together and with the international community to build a stable and prosperous Afghanistan that is a force for peace, progress, and prosperity for its own people and its region, a bulwark against Al-Qaida and other violent extremists rather than a haven for them. And in so doing, we will advance and sustain the security of both our nations. And this commitment, Mr. President, will endure long after U.S. combat troops have left, because we have learned the lessons of the past.
Before September 11th, neither we nor our international partners paid enough attention to the struggles of the Afghan people who sacrificed over 1 million lives during decades of war. The grave situation in Afghanistan had implications for the security of the United States and our allies. While the Afghan people suffered under the Taliban, al-Qaida found safe haven in parts of the country and launched the most deadly attack ever perpetrated on American soil.
President Obama has made it clear that we will not allow that kind of detachment and oversight again. That is why his comprehensive review of our Afghan policy resulted in a substantial increase in our commitment to Afghanistan -- not only military, but civilian as well. We know that the security of the United States and Afghanistan is shared. But more than that, we know that our futures are shared.
The Afghans are a great people who have struggled and suffered immensely. But rather than be broken by tragedy, they are determined to face the future with a new orientation, looking first themselves and their own government and then to the partnership with the international community to build a foundation for long-term stability.
Now, while we have no illusions about the difficult road ahead, we should also remember how far Afghanistan has come. In Afghanistan today, there is an emerging and vibrant civil society, a burgeoning free press which now boasts over 150 FM radio stations. There are also 23 television stations compared to five just a few years ago, a growing telecom industry with more than 10 million mobile phones in a country where there were only 80,000 just seven years ago, a healthcare system that now provides access to basic services to two-thirds of the population, a dramatic increase, and an education system that once had 900,000 students under the Taliban, all male, and now has 6 million, 2 million of whom are girls.
Progress in Afghanistan is real, but it is also fragile. The country remains under constant threat from extremists who use violence to achieve political ends and promote criminal enterprises including narcotics trafficking. Its police have suffered casualties in far greater numbers than the international forces. Its government officials continue to be targets of ruthless assassination campaigns. In Kandahar, motorcycle hit squads prey on government workers, and a few weeks ago, assassinated the deputy mayor. So it will take time and persistence to cement the gains already made and to secure more as we confront the challenges. Our strategic partnership aims to do that through long-term and deep collaboration between our governments and our peoples.
As we work with our Afghan and international partners, Mr. President, your government can begin to assume greater responsibility for security starting next year, but aided by our continued support. A sustained focus on economic, social, and political development as well as continued training of Afghan security forces is essential to help build the effective and durable institutions necessary for long-term stability. So let me be clear. As we look toward a responsible, orderly transition in the international combat mission in Afghanistan, we will not abandon the Afghan people. Our civilian commitment will remain long into the future.
I’d like to speak just briefly about our key priorities -- security, development, governance, and reintegration and reconciliation. Each is integral to achieving and sustaining stability and progress. Improving security is the essential first step. Today, courageous Afghan soldiers are fighting side by side with the brave men and women of the United States and more than 40 other countries. This partnership will help Afghans build capacity so they can assume lead responsibility for security over time as conditions permit. And we will continue to equip, train, and support the Afghan national security forces after our combat role winds down.
We are also working with our Afghan partners to establish an effective and responsible police force. The police are the face of government that people see every day. They are essential to sustaining security after military gains. This is a complicated undertaking and progress comes slowly. But we are reforming training and beginning to see results through programs to rebuild trust and increase professionalism in the ranks.
But we know that security cannot be divorced from development. So when we added troops this year, we also tripled the number of U.S. civilians on the ground. These diplomats and development experts are partnering with our military and their Afghan counterparts, helping to strengthen institutions and expand economic opportunities in areas like agriculture. But we know that long-term stability requires improved government capacity at every level. It requires a common and concerted effort against corruption, implementing the vision and proposals that the President laid out in his inaugural address and at the London conference. And I applaud President Karzai’s steps to fight corruption, including by strengthening the role of the high office of Oversight. And in fact, the head of that office is here with us today.
President Karzai will soon outline a reintegration and reconciliation process for Taliban fighters and other insurgents who renounce al-Qaida, abide by the Afghan constitution, and cease violence against the Afghan state. As President Obama has said, we stand ready to support our Afghan partners in their search for peace and we welcome the upcoming consultative peace jirga which will allow Afghans to express their views and support.
And we look forward, Mr. President, to the inclusion of women in all aspects of your reintegration and reconciliation efforts and in all aspects of Afghan society. We share your perspective that Afghanistan’s women are critical to the country’s reconstruction and stabilization and must be afforded opportunities to contribute fully. And I am delighted that we have two women ministers from Afghanistan with us today. And women’s issues will be considered in all of the discussions as well as in a separate session co-chaired by Ambassador Verveer and Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Afzali.
Today, in the strategic dialogue working groups, senior officials from our two governments will discuss the concrete steps needed to achieve Afghanistan’s security and development goals. These conversations will contribute to the implementation plans the Afghan Government will permit -- will present at the Kabul conference on July 20th and I look forward to leading the U.S. delegation.
Mr. President, as we move forward, we can’t expect the United States and Afghanistan to agree on every issue. We will not. That is a given in a relationship between two sovereign nations. But President Obama and President Karzai both understand that the ability to disagree on issues of importance to our respective countries and peoples is not an obstacle to achieving our shared objectives. Rather, it reflects a level of trust that is essential to any meaningful dialogue and enduring strategic partnership. And today, we express our commitment to that partnership. By deepening that strategic partnership, we will make progress on our shared vision, and we will deepen the bonds between our nations and peoples, and those bonds will endure long after the last combatant has laid down his arms. That is our plan and that is our determination.
Thank you very much. And now, Mr. President, we not only welcome you, but we look forward to hearing from you.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Madam Secretary, ladies and gentlemen, once again, it’s a tremendous honor for me and my delegation to be your guests in Washington. And thank you for the very warm and productive dinner last night with you and Secretary Gates and your other colleagues and mine. Madam Secretary, the United States has been with Afghanistan for the past eight years through a very important part of our history, a part of our history where we began to reconstruct our country and where the United States and our other allies helped us in all walks of life. The consequence of that for us, the Afghan people, has been one of tremendous achievements, the advance for our team in cricket being one of them.
Now, as you rightly described, Madam Secretary, during your remarks, we have made immense progress in the absolutely essential areas of our life, from education, to health, to communication, to roads, to transportation, to the army, to the police, to the economy, to the growth of our national income, to the foreign reserves that we have nearly $4.4 billion today from only 180 million of seven years ago, to the presence of Afghanistan on the international scene, to Afghanistan having once again risen its flag all over the world.
All of those achievements, Madam Secretary, would have not been possible without the sacrifices of your sons and daughters in Afghanistan together with the Afghan people and without your taxpayers’ money spent in Afghanistan together with the Afghan people. For which, Madam Secretary, I thank you and on behalf of the Afghan people, please do convey the gratitude of our people to the people of the United States of America.
Madam Secretary, this is our first meeting of the kind in Washington where we have a complete set of clusters from Afghanistan in the form, the ministries and programs here today in Washington to discuss with you and your colleagues the steps towards the future, to evaluate what you have gained the past eight years, and to study how we further accomplish on the gains that we have made so far. I have with me ministers, colleagues involved in the five clusters.
On the right here, we have the minister of foreign affairs, national security advisor, the minister of interior, Ashraf Ghani in charge of the Kabul conference, and, of course, preparations for the visit this time to Washington, the Minister of Industries, Madam Afzali, the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, Dr. Suraya Dalil, the Minister of Health, the Director General of the IDLG, the local bodies, the Director of the High Office for Anti-Corruption Activity in charge of the peace process, Mr. Stanekzai. Amrullah Saleh are you there? Amrullah Saleh, the counterpart of Mr. Panetta, if I can say. (Laughter.) Our Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad, our minister of education, our minister of agriculture, our minister of finance, and our boss of the defense sources, General Wardak, the minister of defense.
They will be sharing with you, Madam Secretary, and your colleagues today and during the coming days of our visit their aspirations for the fulfillment of Afghanistan’s objectives, helped by the United States in the following five areas, which we call ministerial clusters. The clusters include on human resources and development, agriculture and energy, economic infrastructure development, security and security institutions, governance, justice, and anti-corruption.
With the goal to human resources development, Madam Secretary, I would like to thank you for your concern and contribution to women and children in Afghanistan, to mother and child care, and to the advancements that we have made in these areas.
Also, Madam Secretary, of particular mention is the area of education where the United States is taking serious steps in addressing our needs and in helping us in advancing our cause there. Higher education remains to be another extremely important effort activity for which the United States has helped, for which we hope the United States will further make contributions of the best order.
Madam Secretary, Afghanistan and the United States, as I mentioned earlier, are engaged in a relationship that’s not only involved in economic reconstruction and improvement in the Afghan governance and economy, education, all other aspects of our daily lives, but the United States is also helping us in security and the training of our police and defense forces, and in providing for Afghanistan the tools to provide for the protection of our whole country and in combating terrorism as it occurs to both of us.
Just last week, we had a gruesome example of the threats of terrorism, once again presents itself in New York, which fortunately, did not materialize for the security of all of us. Afghanistan, Madam Secretary, will continue to be a partner with the United States and our other allies in the war on terror.
At the same time, Madam Secretary, Afghanistan will continue to build its institutions to preserve its progress and to walk towards the future with steady, strong steps. You’re very rightly remark, Madam Secretary, that as two mature nations and as two mature governments – by now the Afghan Government is mature, too – we’ll be having disagreements on issues from time to time, but that is the sign of a mature relationship and the sign of a steady relationship. And this steady and mature relationship is definitely going to get us the objectives in pursuit of which we have joined hands to bring security to Afghanistan and, by extension, to the United States and the rest of the world.
As we move forward, Madam Secretary, in this joint venture together, in this partnership together Afghanistan will be seeking respect for its judicial independence, Afghanistan will be seeking protection for its civilian population for which I’m very thankful to General McChrystal for the efforts that he’s putting in for the protection of the Afghan civilians with results. And it’s the first time that when incidents like that occur, that he calls and if it is – if it has occurred, apologizes for it, for which we are grateful. But as we all understand well, we must be working very hard to prevent completely and incompletely to the extent possible for us, these possibilities of casualties and the consequences that it has for us all.
Madam Secretary, we in Afghanistan have a broad strategy for the economic development of Afghanistan and for institution building in Afghanistan from the security to the social, to the economic, to the building up of the Afghan Government institutions, to the rule of law, to the judicial reform, to the advancement that we have already made in the justice sector that we call the Afghanistan National Development Strategy.
I hope, and I’m sure the gentlemen and ladies with me today will present the United States our vision for the future. We expect, Madam Secretary, and hopefully, as you have done before, you will again help us to advance the big cause of Afghanistan’s reconstruction and economic development; in other words, to support Afghanistan’s development strategy as we propose it and as it would give Afghanistan long-term institutional, economic, and security stability so Afghanistan can, in a few years time, not be anymore a burden on your shoulders, so Afghanistan can stand on its own feet, so Afghanistan can defend its country, so Afghanistan can feed its people with its own income, so we can pay for what – for our life from our own pockets.
Till then, we will continue to ask you for help. But once we are on our feet with our own economy, with our mineral resources, with our business, with Afghanistan becoming a hub for transportation in central Asia and South and West Asia, Afghanistan will not be a country that will be economically viable, but Afghanistan will remain a strong and good and economically viable partner with the United States and our other allies.
We are grateful, Madam Secretary, for the contribution that you have made. We will not forget the contribution that you have made. Afghanistan is known around the world for being a country that remembers a friend and for long. And that assurance I can give you on behalf of the Afghan people, Madam Secretary. As we move forward this year, we’ll be having the peace jirga that you referred to and the Kabul conference that – for which Dr. Ghani is preparing – and subsequent to that, parliamentary elections in Afghanistan. And I’m seeking your support, Madam Secretary, and that of the U.S. Government for all these three important undertakings of ours, some of which will be discussed by our ministers today. The others, you and I and President Obama, will have an opportunity to discuss as we continue our meetings today and tomorrow.
For now, I conclude by thanking you and the American people, once again, for the hospitality and for the help given to the Afghan people, thank you, very, very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you so much, Mr. President, and now we’re going to begin hearing from our colleagues who will make short presentations. And we’ll begin with my counterpart, the foreign minister, Minister Rassoul.