Clinton Discusses Way Forward in Afghanistan, Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2011 — The Unit­ed States has made tremen­dous progress in Afghanistan, but the work that remains to be done requires coop­er­a­tion from both Afghanistan and Pak­istan, Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton told the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee today.

Osama bin Laden and many top al-Qai­da ter­ror­ists are dead, Clin­ton said. The ter­ror group has been dev­as­tat­ed, she added, and its abil­i­ty to con­duct oper­a­tions is great­ly dimin­ished.

“Many of our suc­cess­es against al-Qai­da would not have been pos­si­ble with­out our pres­ence in Afghanistan and close coop­er­a­tion with Pak­istan,” she said.

Clin­ton just returned from vis­its to Afghanistan and Pak­istan. Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and CIA Direc­tor David H. Petraeus accom­pa­nied her.

The coali­tion in Afghanistan still faces a dif­fi­cult fight, the sec­re­tary said, but the surge in coali­tion troops and the plus-up in Afghan secu­ri­ty forces has wrest­ed momen­tum away from the Tal­iban.

Afghan forces are assum­ing more respon­si­bil­i­ty each day, Clin­ton said, not­ing that Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai soon will announce the next group of areas in the coun­try where Afghan forces will assume secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty.

The Afghans undoubt­ed­ly have made progress, Clin­ton said.

“Ten years ago, few­er than a mil­lion stu­dents enrolled in Afghan schools — all of them boys,” she said. “Now, more than 7 mil­lion [attend school]. Near­ly 40 per­cent of them are girls. Afghans are bet­ter posi­tioned to chart their own future.”

The Unit­ed States can­not let up in the region, Clin­ton said. “We should build on our momen­tum, not under­cut our progress,” she told the House pan­el.

Work­ing with Afghan and Pak­istani part­ners is not always easy, Clin­ton acknowl­edged. “But these rela­tion­ships are advanc­ing America’s nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests,” she added, “and walk­ing away from them would under­mine those inter­ests.”

Dur­ing her talks with Afghan and Pak­istani lead­ers, Clin­ton said, she empha­sized America’s three-track strat­e­gy of “fight, talk and build.”

“The chance of suc­cess for all three [is] great­ly increased by strong coop­er­a­tion from the Afghan and Pak­istani gov­ern­ments,” she said.

Coali­tion and Afghan forces have increased pres­sure on the Tal­iban, the Haqqani net­work and oth­er insur­gents, Clin­ton said.

“But our com­man­ders on the ground are increas­ing­ly con­cerned … that we have to go after the safe havens across the bor­der in Pak­istan,” she said. “So in Islam­abad last week, Gen­er­al Dempsey, Direc­tor Petraeus and I deliv­ered a sin­gle, uni­fied mes­sage: Pakistan’s civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship must join us in squeez­ing the Haqqani net­work from both sides of the bor­der and in clos­ing safe havens.”

The three under­scored to the Pak­ista­nis how urgent this is, and “we had detailed and frank con­ver­sa­tions about the con­crete steps both sides need to take,” Clin­ton said.

In the sec­ond track, the Unit­ed States is encour­ag­ing an Afghan-led peace process, Clin­ton said. She reit­er­at­ed that insur­gents must renounce vio­lence, aban­don al-Qai­da and abide by the laws and con­sti­tu­tion of Afghanistan to be accept­ed back into Afghan soci­ety.

“If insur­gents can­not or will not meet those red­lines, they will face con­tin­ued and unre­lent­ing assault,” she said. “And I want to stress, as I did in Kab­ul, that the hard-won rights of women and all Afghans can­not be rolled back, and the growth of civ­il soci­ety must be not be quashed.”

Pak­istan has a big stake in rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in Afghanistan, Clin­ton said, and the Unit­ed States expects Pak­istan to encour­age the Tal­iban and oth­er insur­gents to par­tic­i­pate in an Afghan peace process in good faith through unequiv­o­cal pub­lic state­ments and by clos­ing off the safe havens.

The third track, Clin­ton said, is build­ing capac­i­ty and oppor­tu­ni­ty in Afghanistan, Pak­istan and across the region.

“Now, this is part of a clear-eyed strat­e­gy root­ed in a les­son we have learned over and over again around the world — last­ing sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty go hand in hand with greater eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty,” she said.

The eco­nom­ic aspects of this track, Clin­ton said, are cru­cial for con­tin­ued progress in secu­ri­ty and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

“Now, as the tran­si­tion pro­ceeds and coali­tion com­bat forces leave Afghanistan, there need to be real­is­tic hopes for devel­op­ment,” she said. “We are work­ing to achieve greater agri­cul­tur­al pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, greater exploita­tion in a way that ben­e­fits the Afghanistan peo­ple of nat­ur­al resources, increas­ing exports and strength­en­ing the finan­cial sec­tor.”

Amer­i­ca wants to move from “aid to trade,” the sec­re­tary of state said. There­fore, she added, U.S. law­mak­ers are being asked to pass leg­is­la­tion that will low­er tar­iffs on Pak­istani and Afghan prod­ucts, and the Enter­prise Fund, which will not require tax­pay­er dol­lars.

Clin­ton dis­cussed the region­al efforts called the New Silk Road.

“It’s not just an eco­nom­ic plan,” she said. “It talks about how we can get these coun­tries that have so many prob­lems with each oth­er to begin coop­er­at­ing.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)