Kabul, Afghanistan–(ENEWSPF)–July 7, 2012.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (In progress) – much, Mr. President. It’s wonderful being back in Afghanistan and to hear the birds, who are singing about the beautiful day here in Kabul. And I thank you so much for hosting me today and for your leadership and your vision for the future of your country and your people. It is certainly worth thinking for a moment about all of the positive changes that have been made and what we are doing to set the foundation for the future.
The security situation is more stable. The Afghan National Security Forces are improving their capacity to protect the Afghan people. They are in the process of taking the lead in more than 75 percent of the population’s living areas in order to provide security. And at the NATO Summit in Chicago, the international community made pledges to assist the continuing growth and development of the security forces.
But meanwhile, the Government of Afghanistan has signed partnership agreements with many countries, and we are very pleased that the United States is among those. We have worked together to set forth a long-term political, diplomatic, and security partnership, and it entered into force just a few days ago.
And I am pleased to announce today that President Obama has officially designated Afghanistan as a major non-NATO ally of the United States. We see this as a powerful symbol of our commitment to Afghanistan’s future. And later this year, I’m looking forward to convening, along with Foreign Minister Rassoul, the new U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral commission to intensify our cooperation.
Our Strategic Partnership Agreement is not aimed at any other country. Our goal is to work with the region and the international community to strengthen Afghanistan’s institutions so that the transition is successful and the Afghan people themselves can take responsibility. And the future of Afghanistan will be safer and more secure so that little boys and little girls can grow up in peace and stability and enjoy a better opportunity. And we will also make sure together that it is no longer a safe haven for al-Qaida or any other international terrorists who threaten Afghanistan, the region, the United States, in fact, the world.
When I think about the progress that’s been made, the new schools that have been built, the improvements in healthcare, the legal protections for Afghan citizens, I think there is much for the Afghan people to be very pleased about because it is your efforts that have brought about these changes. And we want to continue to invest in doing what you believe you need. That’s why it’ll be important to go to Tokyo together to discuss the next stages for investment in what’s being called the transformation decade. We will continue, of course, to protect Afghanistan from any efforts by insurgents and outsiders to destabilize Afghanistan. And we were struck by the recent call from Pakistan’s parliament that Pakistani territory shall not be used for any kind of attacks on other countries. And all foreign fighters, if found, shall be expelled from Pakistani soil. So we want to deepen our security cooperation with Pakistan.
And we also remain committed to Afghan reconciliation. I have supported President Karzai in his effort to have an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process. We see positive signs. To quote High Peace Council head Dr. Rabbani, “a positive shift.” And I’m pleased that in Tokyo, we will have a core meeting of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States at the ministerial level.
So there is much to do to continue working and building together. Obviously, we know Afghanistan has an agenda ahead of itself to make key economic reforms, to fight corruption, to strengthen the rule of law, to attract more trade and investment. And I want to commend President Karzai for his strong public pledges to stamp out corruption and build institutions that will be critical for Afghanistan’s future. And Mr. President, you will always have our support in your efforts. So we’re very excited about what is possible, and we are certainly aware of all of the difficulties that lie ahead. But we want to see Afghanistan be the center of a region of greater communication between countries and people, more trade and investment, a kind of New Silk Road that will bring more economic opportunity not only to Afghanistan, but to the entire region.
So my message today is very simple: The transition is on track, Afghanistan is standing up for itself, of course it will need support, and we are pledged to continue our support and to work with you to get more international support, and I’m quite excited about what lies ahead in Tokyo. But please know that the United States will be your friend and your partner. We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan; quite the opposite. We are building a partnership with Afghanistan that will endure far into the future.
Thank you so much, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Welcome. Should we take (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, sure. All right. I think that’s good.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Ma’am?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh. Arshad.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, unfortunately Afghanistan, by many independent metrics, remains one of the more – one of the countries most afflicted by corruption in the world. What assurances do you have that the new aid that will be pledged in Tokyo will not simply be eaten away by fraud or mismanagement? And what, in practical terms – can you explain to us in simple, practical terms what Afghanistan being designated to us as a major non-NATO ally means?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well first, we know that corruption is a major challenge in many countries around the world, and it’s something that governments and people have to continue to fight because it undermines progress. And we’re working hard with our Afghan partners to address this problem here in Afghanistan, knowing that it’s much broader than Afghanistan by promoting greater transparency, the rule of law, good governance, working hard to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse. We’re working with the Afghanistan ministries, governors, local leaders who are committed to delivering services to their people, improving their lives. We take seriously any allegations of corruption that involve U.S. funds. And we are working with the United Nations to support the steps that they have said they would take to address the concerns raised by donors about allegations of mismanagement of the Law and Order Trust Fund.
And in the meeting in Tokyo, we’re going to discuss the kind of mutual accountability that I think the President addressed in his speech just a short while ago. President Karzai has expressed Afghanistan’s intention to take further steps to be effective in the fight against corruption, to further reform government institutions, increase efficiency, transportation, accountability, and we fully support these efforts, which is why we included as part of our Strategic Partnership Agreement cooperation on anticorruption initiatives. So we’re well aware of it, but this is an issue that the government and the people of Afghanistan want action on, and we want to help them be successful. And we intend to be working with them as they move on reforms as well.
Regarding the major non-NATO ally, there are a number of benefits that accrue to countries that have this designation. They’re able to have access to excess defense supplies, for example. They can be part of certain kinds of training and capacity building. I will leave it to our military colleagues to explain in greater length to anyone who’s interested. But this is the kind of relationship that we think will be especially beneficial as we do the transition and as we plan for the post-2014 presence, because it will open the door to Afghanistan’s military to have a greater capacity and a broader kind of relationship with the United States, and particularly the United States military.
QUESTION: (In Arabic.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are joining with the international community under the leadership of the Government of Japan to make a pledge that altogether will meet the needs that Afghanistan has laid out, and that the World Bank has also analyzed. I don’t want to jump the gun on the Tokyo conference because it’s really up to the Japanese who have put all the work into this conference to make any formal announcements, but I’m encouraged by what I’m hearing, because of course, the United States will be making a substantial commitment in line with what we have been providing in the past. We want to continue at that – at or near that level. And then other countries are coming in at the same or near levels, and some countries are coming in with new pledges. But I think we have to wait till we get to Tokyo because I think it’s only appropriate that Japan gets to make the announcements.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Can we take one more question from (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think we’re —
PRESIDENT KARZAI: About to leave? I guess we have to leave.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, we have to go to Tokyo. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Thank you, especially, for —
SECRETARY CLINTON: I wish we didn’t have to leave, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Well —
SECRETARY CLINTON: So magnificent.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: There’s a saying in Farsi, (inaudible) – when a friend is around, we’ll be here again.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, thank you. Thank you.