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Remarks at Afghan Civil Society Event

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Prince Park Tower Hotel
Tokyo, Japan
July 8, 2012

Let me welcome this wonderful group of men and women from across Afghanistan who are here as part of the Tokyo Conference. We are very pleased that we have the benefit of your experience and your views, and I look forward to our conversation. I want to thank Ambassador Marc Grossman for helping to organize this meeting. Ambassador Grossman is our Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and he has been very focused on making sure that the voices of the people are heard, not just the government. Because we know that any lasting peace, any economic development, the opportunities that we have been discussing here at the Tokyo Conference, are only possible if civil society is there to advocate for them.

I also am pleased that Ambassador Ryan Crocker could join us from Kabul. Thank you, Ambassador Crocker. Also with us is Ambassador Melanne Verveer, our Special Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, and Don Steinberg, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. And I am particularly looking forward to hearing from our two representatives of Afghan civil society, Samira and Hiyatula, in a few minutes.

I want to hear how you believe we can do more to work with you to support open and accountable governance, economic opportunities, and social equality and inclusion. And I want particularly to hear about the challenges that you see ahead. The United States is committed to helping the Afghan people and the civil society groups that you represent, among others, to work toward a secure, independent, and democratic future.

But as we transition to Afghan-led security across your country, we want to make it clear that being strong, sovereign, and independent does not mean being alone. We want to continue to stand with you. The Strategic Partnership Agreement that our President signed in Kabul in early May that is now fully in effect provides a long-term framework for our relationship, sending a clear signal that America’s support will endure. And it outlines the basis for our extensive cooperation over the next decade in fighting violent extremism, strengthening democratic institutions, and protecting human rights.

We have also been very clear – and we just finished a meeting between the Afghan Government and the Pakistani Government – about Afghan-led reconciliation, that it can only happen with groups and individuals who sever ties to al-Qaida, renounce violence, and pledge to abide by the Afghan constitution, including its protections for women and minorities. Reconciliation cannot, must not, come at the expense of the gains you have made in the last 10 years. So we want to be sure your voices are heard. We want to stand up for your rights and we want to condemn extremism and any kind of abuses that affect people and particularly women in Afghanistan.

We also want to support a free press and journalists who hold governments accountable, report the facts about what is happening, and exchange ideas so that better decisions can be made. We also wish to support constitutional and transparent parliamentary and presidential elections. And for us, when we talk about Afghan-led, we don’t mean just the government. We mean the Afghan people.

So with that, let me ask you, please, to translate before we come and hear from our representatives, and then turn it over to all of you.

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Intervention at the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Prince Park Tower Hotel
Tokyo, Japan
July 8, 2012

Thank you, Foreign Minister Gemba. We also thank Prime Minister Noda, Madam Ogata, and the Japanese Government not only for welcoming us here but for the great generosity and leadership Japan continues to show in helping Afghanistan move forward into the transformation decade. We also recognize Secretary General Ban, President Karzai, our Afghan Co-chairs Foreign Minister Rassoul and Finance Minister Zakhilwal, along with representatives of Afghanistan’s civil society who are here, because after all, what we are talking about is the future of the men, women, and children of Afghanistan. And I am delighted they are part of this conference.

I also want to commend all who have produced the three principles of the document, starting with the Afghanistan strategic vision for the transformation decade called Towards Self-Reliance. I really compliment our Afghan friends for an excellent job. And then the Tokyo Declaration and the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework are translating our goals and our commitments into a path that we can follow together and help hold each other accountable.

This conference represents the culmination of nearly two years of intensive work. Beginning in 2010 in Lisbon, continuing in Istanbul last fall, Bonn in December, Chicago in May, and Kabul just a few weeks ago, Afghanistan and the international partners have charted a responsible end to the war and the transfer of full responsibility for security back to Afghanistan.

Together, we have made pledges to meet the needs of the Afghan National Security Forces. Like a number of countries represented here, the United States and Afghanistan signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement that went into effect four days ago. And I was pleased to meet with President Karzai in Kabul yesterday morning, where I announced that Afghanistan is now officially designated a major non-NATO ally of the United States. As President Karzai said, we have to make the security gains and the transition irreversible, and the United States is committed to this enduring partnership.

Now, here in Tokyo we are focused on the economic development and governance advances that we hope to make together. Because we know Afghanistan’s security cannot only be measured by the absence of war; it has to be measured by whether people have jobs and economic opportunity, whether they believe their government is serving their needs, whether political reconciliation proceeds and succeeds.

And Afghanistan has made substantial progress with the help of the international community, as Madame Ogata and others have already outlined. But now we have to ensure the strongest possible collaboration among four groups so that this decade of transformation can produce results: the Afghan Government and people, first and foremost; the international community; Afghanistan’s neighbors; and the private sector. This collaboration depends on mutual accountability, and all sides have work to do and responsibilities to uphold.

As President Obama has said, as Afghanistan stands up, it will not stand alone. Let me speak briefly about each group’s role.

Obviously, the future of Afghanistan belongs to its government and its people. And I welcome the clear vision presented by President Karzai and the Afghan Government today for unlocking Afghanistan’s economic potential by achieving a stable democratic future. That must include fighting corruption, improving governance, strengthening the rule of law, increasing access to economic opportunity for all Afghans, especially for women.

On this point, let me emphasize that the United States believes strongly that no nation can achieve sustainable peace, reconciliation, stability, and economic growth if half the population is not empowered. All citizens need to have the chance to benefit from and contribute to Afghanistan’s progress, and the United States will continue to stand strongly by the women of Afghanistan.

President Karzai has made a strong public commitment to stamping out corruption, implementing key reforms, and building Afghanistan’s institutions. We will support him and the government in that endeavor to enable Afghanistan to move toward self-reliance and away from dependence on donor assistance.

As Afghans do their part, the international community must do ours, by making concrete pledges of economic support to ensure that Afghanistan meets its fiscal needs in the critical post-transition period.

I am very pleased that Prime Minister Noda has confirmed that $16 billion is available from the international community through 2015. This is sustained economic support that will help Afghanistan meet its fiscal needs even as assistance declines. The United States will request from our Congress assistance for Afghanistan at or near the levels of the past decade through the year 2017. And our assistance will create incentives to help the Afghan Government meet mutually agreed reform goals.

In addition to the international community, Afghanistan’s neighbors have an especially key role to play. I’ve spoken before of the vision of a New Silk Road in which Afghanistan is firmly embedded in the economic life of a thriving South and Central Asia. Nothing offers a more credible alternative to insurgency than the jobs and opportunities that come with foreign investment and the expansion of markets. Increasing regional trade will open up new sources of raw materials, energy, and agricultural products—not just for Afghanistan but for all nations in the region. And we are delighted to see this vision coming to light through the Istanbul Process and various regional trade and transit agreements.

The last essential ingredient to a successful economic transition and transformation is the private sector, because that will be key for driving growth, creating jobs, and supporting the kind of reform that needs to be sustainable. We look to the Afghan Government to follow through on their reform commitments, and we look to the international community to do what we can to draw business and investment to Afghanistan. Last month in new Delhi, in anticipation of today’s conference, hundreds of companies attended an investment summit.

So the key pieces are there. The private sector interest is there. The Afghan Government’s commitment to fight corruption and strengthen the rule of law is there. The international community’s support, as evidenced by this conference, is there as well. And the growing partnership between Afghanistan and its neighbors is also growing.

We need to put those commitments together in order to achieve the future that is worthy of the sacrifice of the Afghan people and many nations represented around this table. The future has got to be what the Afghan people have forged for themselves, and we need to make sure that we do everything to make that a reality.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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Meeting with Embassy Staff in Kabul

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy Atrium
Kabul, Afghanistan
July 7, 2012

Well, thank you all. And it is great to see you early in the morning here. I am delighted that I was able to come by and eyeball all of you and thank you, once again, for your service.

I am also very pleased to thank Ambassador Crocker for his service to this mission, his sixth ambassadorship in a distinguished career. And it is certainly to all of our benefit that we persuaded him to come out of retirement and come to Kabul to assume this post. He has deep affection, as you know, for Afghanistan, having hitch-hiked through the country when he was a much younger man. And he was telling me today on the ride from the airport to the embassy that he would hitch-hike around Afghanistan in 1970. And when drivers would pick him up it wouldn’t be just for a ride, it would be for lunch, for dinner, to spend the night, to get to know the people. And so he came back with great affection.

Like me, he is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan. (Laughter.) Yes, I know, I know. And he and I sat through yet another loss at Wrigley Field, along with General Allen. We tried to put a good face on it. But I think if you are masochistic enough to be a Cubs fan, you are drawn to assignments like this, and what I do for everyday, and the like. And I want to thank you, Ryan, for your leadership and your vision. We will miss you when you try to retire again in a few weeks. But we will certainly build on your progress.

And I want to thank Ambassador Cunningham and the entire team here who have done such a great job. And it is wonderful to see General Allen again. General Allen threw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field. I don’t know if you have seen it on YouTube, but it is pretty good. He did a lot of practicing for that, I am told.

I want to thank you all for everything each of you has done. This is a whole-of-government effort. The entire United States Government, in addition to all of our great Afghan team members, have really helped to lay the transition and the progress that we know Afghanistan will make in the decade ahead. We are calling it the Decade of Transformation, because we think we have laid a very strong foundation. The strategic partnership agreement that we signed will guide the enduring partnership between the United States and Afghanistan.

I am going to be announcing formally with President Karzai in just a little bit that President Obama has officially designated Afghanistan as what is called a Major Non-NATO Ally of the United States. There is a very small number of countries that fit into that category. The international community has made concrete commitments to fund the Afghan national security forces. And tomorrow in Tokyo I will be representing the United States at a conference to talk about what we will commit to the civilian side of the equation for Afghanistan’s economic development and further progress in governance.

Today, the responsibility for Afghanistan’s future rests squarely where it belongs, with the Afghan people themselves. They alone can make the hard choices and the reforms needed to foster peace and stability, unity, and progress. But we can help them as they do that. And each of you is here because you are a believer in this country’s future. None of us has any illusions about how hard the road ahead will be. After 2 attacks on the embassy in 12 months, you know the dangers that come with this job. And you know the challenges, as well. But you also know the rewards and the satisfaction that accrue to those who are working hand in hand with the people of Afghanistan.

We like to say that our strategy is fight, talk, build. Well, what does that mean? That means that military professionals, diplomats, development experts, everyone working together in a professional, highly-integrated way. Anything short of that just isn’t good enough. And it is hard to do. It is hard to get everybody on that one team for that one fight. But I think this embassy has succeeded brilliantly. At the start of this Administration we laid out the strategic mission: to surge our military and civilian efforts simultaneously and in a coordinated manner. And you have really executed that. And I know it has been at some sacrifice, leaving behind family and friends, working 14, 18, 20-hour days, living in shipping containers, all because you know how much is at stake for the people of this country and for the American people.

Look, I am aware that there are naysayers and cynics who are quick to criticize what we do here. And, unfortunately, the steady progress that you are making doesn’t grab the headlines. I am kind of an expert on that. (Laughter.) And I want you to know that a lot of people who count know what you do every single day. Anyone who saw Ambassador Crocker’s op ed piece in the Washington Post yesterday knows how valuable you are. And I am proud to share stories of your success everywhere I go.

Look what happened just a few days ago, on July 4th, as we celebrated our own independence. Several tankers exploded at the oil and gas depot here in Kabul. And ISAF forces responded with firefighters and medics. The Afghan Minister of Health reached out to our USAID team to help more than 80 injured people. You responded instantly and expertly. And, because of that, you saved lives and sent yet again a clear message about our commitment to the Afghan people and their futures.

Or look at the women of Helmand who, thanks to you, have learned to organize and advocate on their own behalf. One of our foreign service officers started a dialogue that, over time, grew to include women from throughout the province. They talked about peace-building, reintegration, and how to ensure that their daughters and their sons receive a good education. First they shared their concerns with each other, then with the governor of Helmand Province. They successfully pushed for action for stalled projects. They realized their own power to bring about peaceful change that will benefit them and their families. And those women understand how important your work is.

Ten years ago, Afghanistan did not have a single paved street that wasn’t severely damaged. You have helped build roads all over the country that foster connections to new markets. When problems with insurance policies threaten to stop all international flights in and out of Kabul Airport earlier this year, American experts from the Department of Transportation helped the Afghan Government find a solution to keep those commercial flights going. Every person who was able to fly in and out of Afghanistan knows how important your work is.

Our development experts are working outside the wire to help Afghan farmers replace their poppy fields with high-value crops. One farmer recently showed off new fields of grapes and explained how he had already made a profit, much sooner than he had ever expected. Now he has enough money to build his first home. And that farmer and his family know how important your work is.

In eastern Afghanistan we have trained instructors and begun facilitating a program to teach 200 madrasas high school students, half of them women, basic computer and Internet skills. Those students and every Afghan benefiting from our scholarships, our exchanges, our training programs, knows how important your work is.

And I am well aware that some of you have put your lives on the line. When I was here in 2009 I gave the Department of State Award for Heroism to a foreign service officer named Matt Sherman. Matt was on a mission with military colleagues when the lead convoy vehicle struck an IED and flipped. And Matt didn’t hesitate; he raced out from the safety of his own vehicle to help the wounded U.S. soldiers. That is the kind of everyday heroism that we see among our embassy staff.

I also want, in particular, to recognize all of our Afghan team members. They risk their lives every day to make their country a better place. And let me mention just one person out of all who are here: Taj. Where is Taj? Taj. (Applause.) Taj has worked for the United States Government for more than 23 years. And when the Taliban fell in 2001, he was our first foreign service national to come back and help reopen the embassy. And today he organizes speaker programs for imams to discuss religious tolerance and women’s rights under the Qu’ran, countering extremist voices. He has faced threats, but he has never failed to keep pressing on. And I want to thank you, Taj, for your dedication to your country and your work. (Applause.)

Now, each of you — we could spend all day hearing each of your stories. Some of you bring potable water for drinking to urban neighborhoods or vaccines to rural communities. Some of you help victims of human trafficking find legal aid and counseling. Some of you work to hammer out agreements that are critical to our future relationship. But no matter which of the 18 U.S. Government departments or agencies you represent, whether you are foreign service or civil service or local Afghan staff, you are all part of the success of this mission here.

We ask a lot of you. I think it is fair to say that nowhere in the world do we face tougher problems, or encounter more unforeseen challenges. To walk a mile in your shoes or to sleep a night in your can takes strength and resolve. I have slept in those cans, and I am aware that this mission is filled with people who wake up every day clear-eyed about the task ahead, but asking, “What can I do today to make a difference,” and you have. You have made a difference.

So, on behalf of President Obama and the American people and certainly myself and our entire team in Washington, I want to thank you for all of your work. I am very, very proud to be your colleague and to work alongside you as we help the people of Afghanistan build their own future, and by doing so, help our own country have the kind of future and the kind of world that we want to see happen. It is a great personal honor to serve with you. You make me proud. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

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We see Mme. Secretary greeting the troops on a surprise visit to Kabul prior to her departure for the Afghanistan Donors Conference in Tokyo.  Traveling with her is Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.  Godspeed Mme. Secretary!

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Remarks With Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Presidential Palace
Kabul, Afghanistan
July 7, 2012

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, not pictured, at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, July 7, 2012. Clinton announced that President Barack Obama had designated Afghanistan as a “major non-NATO ally” shortly after arriving in the country for talks with Karzai. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid)


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.

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This was an unannounced stop on this trip, and the story just came across on MSNBC.  She will meet with President Karzai, according to the report. 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, smiles as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker introduces her to staff at the U.S. Embassy Saturday, July 7, 2012 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Clinton arrived Saturday on an unannounced visit to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai ahead of the Tokyo conference on Afghanistan’s reconstruction. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

This explains the gap in the travel itinerary between today in Paris and Tokyo on the eighth.  It was planned but unannounced.  I thought it was odd that she had wrapped up her Parisian duties this afternoon and was not due in Tokyo until July 8. (Also odd – I just noticed the 48-star flag behind them.  Goes back to 1959 I guess – the year we admitted Alaska and Hawaii.  That was the last time the flag changed.)

Hillary Clinton’s Travel Itinerary July 5 – 17 2012

Here is a WaPo story.

Clinton arrives in Afghanistan for talks with Afghan President Karzai

By Associated Press, Updated: Friday, July 6, 9:56 PM

KABUL, Afghanistan — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit to Afghanistan.Clinton will meet Saturday morning with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss U.S.-Afghan civilian and defense ties. They will also speak about stalled Afghan reconciliation efforts.Read more >>>>

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As she flies to Paris on the first leg of yet another marathon journey, Secretary Clinton is being credited with saving NATO nations an estimated $100 million a month as a result of her apologetic phone call to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.  These are not pretty pictures of our Hillary, but rather of the supply bottleneck that our Secretary of State managed to break up with that phone call.

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Remarks at the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council 10th Anniversary Celebration Luncheon

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
March 21, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s a great pleasure to welcome all of you to the State Department, to the Benjamin Franklin Room, for the 10thanniversary of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. I look around this room and I see so many people who have helped to make the council a powerful engine for change both from Afghanistan and the United States. And I welcome warmly each and every one of you and applaud your commitment to supporting the women of Afghanistan as they strive to build better futures for themselves and their country.Now, there are many people here who should be and deserve to be recognized because of your contributions here and in Afghanistan. But I will take the moment to acknowledge a few people in particular, starting first and foremost with Laura Bush. Laura Bush did so much to elevate and strengthen this council. Both in ways public and private, she became a passionate advocate for the rights and roles of women in Afghanistan, and she remains one of the strongest advocates today.

We were just talking at the table about some of the perks of being a first lady. (Laughter.) And one of them I learned from Elaine Chao, the former Secretary of Labor here, is that cabinet secretaries do take first ladies’ calls. (Laughter.) And when those calls are about supporting and finding money for and encouraging the women of Afghanistan, very often they were made by Mrs. Bush.

I want to thank the council’s U.S. co-chairs Melanne Verveer, our nation’s first and outstanding Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues; Jack DeGioia, President of Georgetown University, which has provided a home for the council since 2008 under the direction of Dr. Phyllis Magrab, the Director of the Center for Child and Human Development, who is also here. I wish to thank and acknowledge my counterpart and colleague, Afghan Foreign Minister Rassoul, and also the Afghan ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Hakimi. Thank you all for joining us.

I also wish to recognize Vartan Gregorian, the president of the Carnegie Corporation, whom you will hear from in a few minutes. He is an enthusiastic supporter of the council’s work, and I’m very grateful for his personal support of what the council is doing and so many of the initiatives on behalf of our country and our foreign policy.

And finally, I would like to recognize two other groups. Members of Congress who were here early, and I think are still here, let me ask them to stand so they can be recognized. Congresswomen Sheila Jackson Lee, Niki Tsongas, Carolyn Maloney, Donna Edwards, and Susan Davis. (Applause.)

And finally, I want to recognize the 10 Fulbright scholars from Afghanistan. Let me ask the 10 scholars to please stand. (Applause.)
Thanks to all who have joined us from the across the Obama and Bush Administrations, from Congress, the private sector, not-for-profit organizations, and academia: I think the diversity of backgrounds and experiences represented in this room reflects how committed the people of the United States are to the well-being and continued progress of the women of Afghanistan.

We come to this 10th anniversary from different perspectives and experiences as political leaders or business people, security or development experts, Republicans and Democrats, certainly men and women, but across our differences we wholeheartedly agree that the women of Afghanistan, like the women anywhere, are critical to their nation’s future. They deserve to have their human rights protected regardless of place, religion, culture, or any other circumstance, and they need and deserve our support.

We are meeting at a significant time of year. As you heard from Melanne, yesterday was the Persian New Year and the first day of spring. There is an Afghan proverb: A good year is determined by its spring. I think that is a worthy proverb to keep in mind, and indeed it is a call to action for us to be sure that the spring sets the pace for the kind of good year we hope to see in Afghanistan.

Now, I’m well aware that these past weeks have been especially challenging, so it is all the more important that we come together as partners, friends, and colleagues to celebrate the good things we have accomplished together and to rededicate ourselves to doing more in the months and years ahead.

For just a moment, think about the remarkable gains of this past decade. In 2001, life expectancy for women in Afghanistan was just 44 years of age. Now it is 62 years. Back then, almost no girls went to school. Today, 3 million do. They comprise nearly 40 percent of all primary school enrollments. Nearly 120,000 Afghan girls have graduated from high school, 15,000 are enrolled in universities, and nearly 500 women are on university faculties. Maternal mortality, infant mortality, under-five mortality rates have all declined significantly. More Afghan children are living past their fifth birthday today than at any time in their recent past.

Now, these statistics represent hundreds of thousands of individual success stories and reflect the work of courageous and determined women across the country. Afghan women helped achieve a constitution that enshrines women’s rights. They hold office at the national, provincial, and local levels. They serve on the High Peace Council and in provincial peace councils. They are opening and running businesses of all kinds. They are helping to build an effective and vibrant civil society.

In ways that often go unnoticed and certainly uncelebrated, the women of Afghanistan are hard at work each and every day solving Afghanistan’s problems and serving her people. Now, for many Afghan women, the help they have received from this council has made all the difference. Literacy education, support for women entrepreneurs, basic health services, job training for women judges and diplomats – you could go on and on. This council and the projects it has given risen – it has given rise to have provided concrete and effective support. They’ve translated our feelings and our rhetoric into action.

So this progress is worth cheering, but it’s also worth protecting. Now that we have entered into this period of transition, it’s absolutely critical we protect these gains and expand on them. Not that is not my view or the view of Laura Bush or any of the Americans who are here; that is a view expressed loudly and clearly by Afghan citizens, men and women alike. It is also the view of Afghan leaders, and it is certainly the view of the international community. The women of Afghanistan are a valuable and irreplaceable resource, and their rights must be protected, and their opportunities for them to contribute must be preserved.

Now, of course, that is easy to say and it is much harder to do. I know that many women in Afghanistan and their supporters around the world are closely watching what we and the Afghan Government do to support a potential political reconciliation. Many are worried that in whatever future negotiations that might occur women, their rights, their roles, their concerns will be scarified, and the old days will return. Well, let me say again what I have said before in Kabul, in London, in Bonn, in Munich, in New York, and Washington: The United States cannot and will not let that happen.

Our goal is to get Afghans talking with other Afghans about the future. We’ve said from the start that a reconciliation dialogue must include women as well as ethnic minorities and civil society. One of our redlines is that insurgents who want to reconcile in the end must commit to abide by Afghanistan’s constitution and the rights enshrined in it, most particularly women’s rights.

There are always going to be those, not only in Afghanistan, who want to roll back progress for women and impose second-class citizenship on women, but the Afghan constitution is clear, and the Afghan Government has clearly affirmed it as the law of the land. So we will not waver on this point. Any peace that is attempted to be made by excluding more than half the population is no peace at all. It is a figment that will not last. (Applause.)

So let there be no doubt that even as the U.S. role in Afghanistan changes during the next few years of transition, we will continue to stand with and work closely with Afghan women. And we will be working closely with the international community as well, because we all need to be vigilant and disciplined in our support and in our refusal to accept the erosion of women’s rights and freedoms.

As Mrs. Bush said in her historic radio address in 2001, the fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women. So we must use every available tool to support that commitment. And to that end, I am pleased to announce that the United States will be sponsoring the creation of an International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development to be located at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. (Applause.) And after lunch, you can see the blueprints of the center on display in the Thomas Jefferson Room next door.

Now, let me hasten to add that I am aware change of the kind that we are seeking does not come quickly or easily. In fact, it is the work of a generation or more. Yet even within a smaller time horizon, so much is possible. Just think, if you get discouraged by the headlines, of what this council has done in the past 10 years. Just think of all the women for whom your programs made the critical difference. Just think of all the families that are healthier, more prosperous, and secure because of you.

So for the Afghan people, it is the start of a new year and a new season for many, a time of renewal and recommitment. And I think this lunch, in our spring, represents our pledge to continue our work together for the next 10 years and beyond to support the women of Afghanistan as they do build those better futures for themselves and their families and for their nation.

I am so pleased to be able to introduce someone who is part of very small group. (Laughter.) And it’s a group that has made a great contribution in so many ways during the course of our country’s history. When we were entertaining at the White House this past week Prime Minister Cameron, President Obama jokingly referred to the War of 1812 being recognized for the 200th anniversary. And I reminded my British colleagues that it was Dolly Madison who saved the treasures of the White House on the way out the door. (Laughter.) Well, there are some stories which are well known and other stories which have yet to be told, and I hope some stories that never see the light of day. (Laughter.)

But one thing I know for sure, and that is that during a very difficult time in our nation’s history Laura Bush served with great distinction and honor, and it wasn’t only about what she did here at home. It was also about her recognition of the importance of reaching out beyond our borders, a lesson that is still as relevant today as ever. And thank you so much, Laura, for everything you did to make this council a reality. Please join me in welcoming Laura Bush. (Applause.)

MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much. Thank you, all. Thanks, everybody. Thank you, all. Thank you and thank you very much, Secretary Clinton. Thank you for your support for the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. If we hadn’t – if we didn’t have you right at the very top supporting it, we wouldn’t be celebrating this 10th anniversary, so thank you very, very much. I really appreciate it. (Applause.)

I want to also thank Ambassador Verveer. Thank you for everything you’ve done for this council and for so many other women around the world. And thank you for representing our country so well. I appreciate it a lot. Foreign Minister Rassoul, thank you for joining us today. We’re very happy to see you. And Ambassador and Mrs. Hakimi, thanks so much. It’s great to see you again. And former Ambassador Jawad and Shamim, who were also founding members of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, thank you for joining us. And the members of the United States Congress who have come today as well, thank you for continuing to work in your offices for our relationship with Afghanistan and with the women of Afghanistan. Thank you for all of that.

And then of course to all the members of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council who have joined us today. To Phyllis Magrab and Dr. DeGioia, who have given the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council a home, thank you all for that.

I’m very happy to be here at the State Department for the 10th anniversary of the U.S.–Afghan Women’s Council. After the attacks of September 11th, the spotlight of the world turned on Afghanistan. And I had a really close friend, one of my college friends from Texas, who gave me a phone call and she said that the whole time we’ve been in Washington, she was just thinking thank heaven she wasn’t in my shoes.

But then after that, she was jealous. (Laughter.) She said she was jealous for the first time because I could actually do something. And she wanted so badly to be able to help the people of Afghanistan and especially the women of Afghanistan. What she said was true, and as I learned more about what women in Afghanistan faced, I knew that those of us in the United States needed to reach out to them and to help.

In November 2001, George asked me to give the weekly presidential radio address – I think, actually, a woman advisor of his who’s here suggested it, Karen Hughes – (laughter) – to describe the plight of Afghan women. Many Americans were learning for the very first time about the severe repression and brutality against women that was common in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Girls were forbidden from attending school, women couldn’t leave their homes alone without a male escort, and so they were denied access to doctors when they were sick or the chance to work if they were widows and support their children. And Afghanistan had the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world.

The stark contrast between our lives and the lives of women in Afghanistan horrified many American women, and gave birth to strong friendships between American women and our Afghan sisters. Everywhere I went, women stopped me and said, “What can I do? Is there anything I can do?” One woman told me that she would lie in bed at night and try to figure out ways she could help the women of Afghanistan. American women wanted to help, and their response demonstrates the deep compassion of the American people and the desire to support Afghan women help establish – that helped all of us establish one of the most successful public-private partnerships in our country: the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.

Since its founding in 2002 by Presidents Bush and Karzai, the Council has given Americans, American individual citizens and corporations, a way to partner with Afghan women to help them recover from decades of oppression. Council initiatives have touched nearly every part of Afghan civil society, from education and healthcare to business and government to agriculture.

I joined the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council for my first trip to Afghanistan in 2005, and several of the people who are in the room today were with me on that trip. In Kabul, I met with Afghan women who were just beginning to experience their newfound rights. Their stories encouraged all of us and gave us hope. I returned to Afghanistan two more times, and on each visit I saw progress. On my last trip in 2008, I visited Bamyan Province, the same province where the Taliban had shocked the world by destroying those two towering sixth century Buddhas. And I met with their governor, a woman, Dr. Habiba Sarabi. I visited with a class of women police officers in Bamyan Province, courageous women who were taking the profession that women – of course, they would have never guessed they would have been able to have.

Since then, since returning to Dallas, George and I have hosted Afghan educators and entrepreneurs at the Bush Institute for two conferences on empowering the women and girls of Afghanistan. These women’s – now, Afghanistan is home to more than 200 women-owned businesses, and women constitute 35 percent of the work force. These women’s enterprises range from traditional handicraft and artisan production, to engineering and construction, to financial services and consulting. While the challenges to their success are considerable, a growing number of women are starting their own businesses, supporting their families, and creating jobs for their neighbors. Studies indicate that women reinvest their earnings in their children’s education, in healthcare for their families, and in necessities like food and clothing.

While these signs of progress are encouraging, serious challenges remain. Women’s involvement in Afghanistan’s peace process has been limited. Recent statements made by the Mullahs would severely limit women’s ability to work outside the home. And there are some who still seek to silence women through intimidation and violence. The failure to protect women’s rights and to ensure their security could undermine the significant gains Afghan women have achieved. No one wants to see Afghanistan’s progress reversed or its people returned to the perilous circumstances that marked the Taliban’s rule.

Promoting women’s freedoms is crucial to Afghanistan’s future. To the extent that women are empowered to fully participate in their country, they’ll contribute to the stability and the prosperity of their nation. And that’s why the work of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council is so important today and in the years ahead.

I want to thank all of the council members and all of our partners for all you’ve done over the last 10 years to empower Afghan women and to help them build better lives for themselves and their families, and thereby build a better and prosperous and stable Afghanistan. We want to see that country’s hard work and their progress sustained. And we want to ensure that women are empowered so Afghanistan can succeed.

So thanks to each and every one of you here today as we mark 10 years of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. Congratulations and thanks to everybody who’s done so much over the last 10 years, and best wishes for the next 10. I’ll be right there with you. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so very much. Now it is my pleasure to introduce my colleague, Afghan Foreign Minister Rassoul, who has been a very strong voice and supporter of the rights of women and the roles that they can and should play in the future of Afghanistan. He traveled here from Kabul to represent the Afghan Government at this celebration.

Foreign Minister. (Applause.)

FOREIGN MINISTER RASSOUL: Honorable Madam Secretary Clinton, Honorable Mrs. Laura Bush, Ambassador Verveer, distinguished member of the U.S.-Afghan Women Council, ladies and gentlemen: Madam Secretary, thank you so much for those gracious words. I am truly delighted to be here once again among good friends, especially from the U.S.-Afghan Women Council. Please allow me to express my gratitude to you, Honorable Madam Secretary and the council, for inviting me to be part of today’s event. I would like also to especially acknowledge you, Honorable Mrs. Bush, for your commitment to the cause of Afghan women and their rights. I am honored to be with all of you as we celebrate the council 10th anniversary.

As always, I am grateful for the continued effort made by U.S.-Afghan Women Council in developing and implementing projects in the field of health, education, illiteracy, entrepreneurship, and political leadership with the aim of improving the lives of Afghan women and children. What you do makes a real difference, and I want to convey the heartfelt appreciation and gratitude of the Afghan people and government who have directly benefited from your assistance and support.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to make three quick points in my brief remarks today. First, I want to touch upon some example of the historic – I repeat historic – achievement you have made in Afghanistan in helping Afghan women realize their God-given rights and access opportunities in all walk of lives. As, Madam Secretary, you mentioned, Afghan women make up 28 percent of legislator in Afghan parliament. They occupy one-fourth of the government jobs, including 9 percent of decision-making level ministers, deputy ministers, directors, one governor, a mayor, an ambassador, and other senior diplomats.

Girls make about 40 percent of the nearly 8 million children going to school in Afghanistan today – a figure that was fewer – that was 10 fewer than 1 million in 2,000 girl, no girls at that time. Thirty percent of schoolteachers and 15 percent of university teachers are women.

Afghan women and girls today make 24 percent of doctors and medical workers across the country. Women made up 40 percent of voters in our last presidential elections. We have female pilots, army and police officers, and professional martial artists. Afghan women are at the least 50 percent force behind Afghanistan’s vibrant independent media and active civil society groups, both of which are among the most visible and concrete achievements of the past decade. In fact, there are millions of other Afghan girls and women throughout Afghanistan today who are no longer the oppressed, isolated, hopeless existence they were subjected to during the war and even more brutally under the Taliban regime throughout the 1990s.

Women’s right today are enriched in to democratically adopted constitution of the country and codified into various laws enacted by the Afghan Government in accordance with our constitution and our international obligations.

I am making this last point to underline President Karzai and the Afghanistan commitment, government commitment to the rights of Afghan women under the Afghan Constitutions and Afghanistan’s relevant international obligations.

Where not specified, these numbers and percent that I just referenced by the example were all a big zero in 2001 and there were no legal guarantees for women rights in Afghanistan. So ladies and gentlemen, these gains and the collective change they represent are historic and source of real and genuine pride for all Afghans.
A key question here is what – and more importantly who – made this possible. That’s my second brief point. There is no doubt that we have had these achievement chiefly because the Afghan people want it, support them, and because courageous Afghan women have fought for them.

Honorable Madam Secretary, I want to thank you for most recently acknowledging one of the model of exemplary character and steely courage in the person of Maryam Durani, an elected member of the Kandahar Provincial Council.

But these achievement were also made possible – were also made possible – they were helped and facilitated by the principled and generous support of the international community, people such as you. The leaders in this panel, the countless activists working on the ground in Afghanistan, in your governments of the cause of human rights in Afghanistan. So I want to take this opportunity once again as there are Afghan committed to the rights of Afghan women and their full participation in the social, political, and economic life of my country to say to you, thank you very much for standing with Afghanistan and for standing with the women of Afghanistan.

Ladies and gentlemen, the support and commitment from the world community, especially emanating from the Long-Term Strategic Partnership Dialogue between Afghanistan and the United States, has given new hope to the Afghan women. Our country has made significant progress, and Afghan women now realize that they are achieving a deserving place in society – in society, but our shared job in helping the women of Afghanistan realize their rights is not yet done.

This is my third brief point. Afghan women continue to suffer terrible violence, something our First Lady has forcefully spoken against. There are still far too many Afghan girls who never got the chance to go to school. Maternity mortality is still unacceptable – unacceptably high. Afghan women and Afghan children continue to be among the innocent victim on the ongoing war, something we all need to put an end to.

And of course, there are other challenges that both men and women face in today’s Afghanistan, chief among them the lack of confidence inspiring security. So our gains are fragile and depend upon a smooth and successful transition up to and well beyond 2014. Let me assure you that we will forge ahead with our struggle for peace, security, development, and justice for our citizen, especially our mother and sisters. So as we move forward in our remarkable commitment to protect and further promote the right of Afghan women now and beyond 2014, we will continue to require and count on your tangible, long-term moral and practical support and assistance. Thank you very much for the kind attention. (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Rassoul. And now we come to a part of the program that we’ve tried to keep a secret from Mrs. Bush and Secretary Clinton. And that is not easy. (Laughter.) But hopefully they don’t know about this. So Mrs. Bush, if I could ask you to join us up here in the middle.

Many of us can still recall your historic radio address in 2001 in which you called on all Americans to ensure that dignity and opportunity will be secured for all the women and children of Afghanistan. And you have led by example. You helped inspire the formation of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, you’ve worked to mobilize resources to ensure that Afghan women and girls gain skills, opportunities, and particularly the education that they were denied under the years of Taliban repression.

I know a little bit about this firsthand, because back in early 2002 when I was involved with Vital Voices, it was Mrs. Bush who helped support a program that involved providing jobs to Afghan widows to make uniforms for the girls to go back to school. Your commitment took you to Afghanistan several times, occasions in which you launched were the programs and supported America’s continuing engagement. And now, as former First Lady, you continue to write op-eds, sponsor programs through the Bush Institute, and support the initiatives of this council. Your commitment has not waned.

And so for your leadership, dedication, and generosity on behalf of the women and girls of Afghanistan, for continuing to be a driving force for the work of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, and for showing us the value of collaboration, the council presents you with this award of appreciation. (Applause.)

MR. DEGIOIA: Well, it’s been an honor to be here today as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and the enduring contribution of two extraordinary leaders, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and honorary advisor of the council Mrs. Laura Bush. We are inspired by the depth of your commitment to the empowerment and success of women and children in Afghanistan and around the world. We’re grateful for the actions you have taken, both during your time in the White House as our First Ladies and in your current work to ensure significant progress and ever-expanding impact.

And I also wish to thank our partners at the United States State Department for their continued commitment and collaboration, as well as Abbott Laboratories and Goldman Sachs for their dedicated efforts to enable our work. Georgetown University has been deeply engaged in the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council from the time of its founding, participating in the critical work of partnering with the U.S. and Afghan Governments, the private sector, and NGOs to develop and implement initiatives in support of Afghan women and children.

Since 2008, we’ve had the privilege of giving the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council a home at Georgetown University’s Center for Child and Human Development under the leadership of Dr. Phyllis Magrab. As we mark the 10th year anniversary of the council, we will continue to expand on this decade of dedicated work, deepening our commitment to creating broader opportunities for Afghan women and children. And the council will have a special role to play in the areas of humanitarian support and local capacity building, especially during this period of transition.

At Georgetown, we look forward to drawing on the diverse resources of our community to ensure the continued growth and success of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, especially in these critical areas.

We also had the opportunity in December to host Secretary Clinton as she announced the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security at Georgetown and to discuss our efforts to establish an initiative for Women, Peace, Security, and Development within our School of Foreign Service under the direction of our dean, Carol Lancaster. Now it’s a pleasure for me at this moment to now be a part of presenting another award, and that is to invite Phyllis Magrab, our vice chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and director of the Center for Child and Human Development to join me in presenting the Caring for Children Lifetime Achievement Award.

Now, the Caring for Children Award is given by Georgetown University through its Center for Child and Human Development to honor an individual who’s made a distinguished contribution to improving the quality of life for vulnerable children and their families. And today it is our pleasure to honor Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton for her deep and enduring commitment to this end.

Secretary Clinton has been making significant contributions through her work for decades, beginning with her important scholarly article in the 1973 edition of the Harvard Education Review on Children and the Law. Since that time, she has been dedicated to creating policies and programs to benefit the most vulnerable children and their families. Her accomplishments have been wide-ranging, but for a special reason I wish to highlight the Arkansas home instruction program for preschool youth that she championed when she was First Lady of Arkansas.

This program sent teachers into the homes of underserved families to train parents in school-preparedness and literacy. And through the program, parents learned the importance of talking to and reading to their children. In highlighting this work and recognizing Secretary Clinton’s commitment to the mothers and children of Afghanistan, the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council has just launched the Mothers As First Teachers initiative, originated and led by council member Jill Iscol and supported by a group of generous donors and implemented by the early learning team at Georgetown’s Center for Child and Human Development. The initiative will develop materials to support mothers as the first teachers of their children, which will be used in the women’s resource centers and the women’s gardens of Afghanistan. It’s in this context, that with great pleasure, we offer this award to an ever more dedicated friend of women and children across the globe, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is so wonderful and surprising – (laughter) – to thank you all for that very meaningful award, but more than that, for launching this program, Mothers As First Teachers, in Afghanistan. And I thank Jill Iscol and all who have made this possible. It’s an absolutely fabulous initiative, and I’ll look forward to hearing how the implementation goes.

Let me now introduce someone who’s been a great leader for so many years in the world of academia and philanthropy, someone who has really seen over the horizon and understands the long-term challenges that we all face in trying to make change in the world that is sustainable. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Vartan Gregorian. (Applause.)

DR. GREGORIAN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mrs. Laura Bush, your Excellency Zalmai Rassoul – foreign minister of Afghanistan, distinguished diplomats, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, members of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, esteemed guests, ladies and gentlemen, today is first day of spring, hence first day of new year, Nowruz, New Year’s Day in Afghanistan, Iran, and Tajikistan. I wish all of you happy new year. (In Farsi.)

From my childhood days in Iran, I still remember the poetic expression, (in Farsi). May every day of yours be a nowruz, and your nowruz be a glorious one. I am always honored to be in the presence of two great friends, former First Ladies, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, a fellow librarian and educator. (Laughter.)

I am great admirer of theirs. With vigor and passion, tenacity and conviction, they have done so much for so long to advance the cause of education, of women’s rights and opportunities. They are invested in hope. They have invested in human potential to expand human opportunities without racial, ethnic, and political borders, boundaries.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to work tirelessly to advance peace and human rights in general, and women rights in particular, not only here but throughout the world. In their fight on behalf of women, Hillary Clinton has a formidable secret weapon: Ambassador Melanne Verveer. (Laughter.) She is an amazing force, free spirit, free nature, master tactician, manager, and naturally tireless on behalf of women. I’m delighted to be here. (Applause.)

As an historian who is very familiar with Afghanistan, I’m well acquainted with the efforts of the Afghans to modernize their country while maintaining its independence and sovereignty. I’m also aware of the quest of Afghan women to receive education, secure opportunities, become equal citizens, and thus contribute to their country’s advancement. Mr. Towdy, a noted expert on Islam, in his comments here on the Qu’ran, has reminded us – he is Tunisian great scholar – that God created a couple, did not create men first, women second. He created a couple at the same time. So there’s no way half of the couple can be inferior to the other entire couple. (Laughter.) (Applause.)

I’m also here in my capacity as president of Carnegie Corporation to tell you that we have supported the cause of secure, peaceful, and economically vibrant Afghanistan where the talent of its people and its rich multiethnic society can prosper. Beginning with a grant in 2003 to the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan for support for the Kabul Public Library and the repatriation of Afghan memory in the form of books and archival materials from libraries and universities abroad, we have invested in a wide range of projects in Afghanistan.

From the work of organizations such as the Center for International Cooperation at New York University to help the UN build sustainable peace, to the Institute of State Effectiveness on the ground effort to complement the achievements of National Solidarity Program, to Lichtenstein Institute for Self Determination at Princeton University track two dialogue that have engaged the leaders of experts to Afghanistan and the region, to the work of West Virginia-based Future Generations to link grassroots development with national and international assistance efforts, our grantees have been committed to advancing solutions by, for, and with Afghans and for Afghanistan.

Most recently, we support the International Task Force of Afghanistan organized by Century Foundation and chaired by former Under Secretary of State of Political Affairs, a Carnegie Corporation trustee, Tom Pickering, and former UN Special Representative for Afghanistan and Foreign Minister of Algeria Lakhdar Brahimi to map out with Afghan leaders and others the requirements for a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan that also engages its neighbors.

Building of this legacy, and not to belabor more – Kumalaya, remind me, that time is now of the essence – (laughter) – I’d like to announce today the Carnegie Corporation has decided in honor of our first two ladies but also especially in honor of work that council is doing, to grant $1 million scholarship for Afghan women who study in Afghan universities. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Furthermore, I am delighted to tell you that my colleague and friend, Allan Goodman, head of Institute of International Education – again, founded by Carnegie Corporation 1919 – has decided that they will administer the grant in order not to impose any difficulties in expediting this matter.

So thank you very much for having me here. Delighted. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Micah, that’s great. That is so great.

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Remarks With Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Zalmai Rassoul After Their Meeting

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
March 21, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON:

Good morning, everyone. I am very pleased to welcome back to the State Department Foreign Minister Rassoul. He and I have worked closely together for several years. We have developed a very constructive, productive relationship, which I greatly appreciate.Before I discuss the serious and important business that the minister and I are doing together, I want to commend the United Nations Security Council for its strong statement on Syria this morning in support of the six-point plan put forward by the UN and Arab League Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan. This is a positive step. The Council has now spoken with one voice. It has demanded a UN-supervised cessation of violence in all its forms, beginning with a pullback from population centers by the Syrian Government forces, humanitarian access to all areas in need, and the beginning of a Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people that will lead to a democratic transition.

We call on all Syrians who love their country and respect its history and understand the tremendous potential that working together provides for the kind of peaceful and prosperous future in freedom and democracy that Syrians deserve to call for and work for the immediate implementation of the Annan plan. And to President Assad and his regime, we say, along with the international community: Take this path, commit to it, or face increasing pressure and isolation.

And now with respect to Afghanistan, I know this has been a difficult period. And as I have publicly stated, as President Obama has also, we deeply regretted the unfortunate incidents regarding the Qu’ran and the recent killings of innocent Afghan men, women, and children. This has been very personally painful to me and to the President. It does not represent who the United States is, who the American people are, and we appreciate the understanding and response of the Afghan Government and the Afghan people.

Foreign Minister Rassoul has come to Washington today to participate in the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. I will be joining Laura Bush and others for this anniversary commemoration, and I want to thank the minister for being with us.

In the past decade, the women of Afghanistan have made strong progress by many measures. Life expectancy has increased dramatically. Fewer women are dying in childbirth. More children are surviving. The numbers of girls in school and women in universities has increased significantly. Maternal, infant, and under-five mortality for children have dropped. And on the political front, the 2004 constitution enshrines equal rights for all Afghan women, who are serving in the government, in the parliament, important positions in business, academia, and so much else. And as I will emphasize at the anniversary celebration, our goal must be to secure and build upon this progress, not only for the women of Afghanistan but for the men and children, who represent the future.

We’ve entered a critical period of transition. There is no question we have a lot of work to do. But over the past decade, our two countries have built a relationship that is both tough and resilient. We cooperate every single day in so many ways to work toward a future of security, peace, and prosperity for the people of Afghanistan.

These fundamentals are what guides us. We’ve invested a great deal in the relationship, and the United States is committed to a strong, stable, secure Afghanistan and committed to working through together the very difficult issues we face together in a way that reinforces Afghan sovereignty. We’re working toward turning over full responsibility for security nationwide to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, in accordance with the commitment we made, along with our allies and partners, at the Lisbon summit. As the Afghans take the lead on security, we will be moving into a supporting role, and we will be discussing this in more detail at the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago and then at follow-on meetings in Kabul and in Tokyo.

At the same time, we are committed to supporting Afghan reconciliation. Our only goal is to open the door for Afghans to sit down with other Afghans and to work out the future for their country. Our position has been consistent; we have been clear about the necessary outcomes. Any negotiation must require the Taliban to break ties with al-Qaida, to renounce violence, and to abide by Afghanistan’s constitution, including the protections of women’s and minority rights. We’ve also made clear that the steps the Taliban must now take to advance the process. They must make unambiguous statements distancing themselves from international terrorism and committing to a process that includes all Afghans.

So the Taliban have their own choice to make, but let there be no doubt that the United States is prepared to work with all Afghans who are committed to an inclusive reconciliation process that leads toward lasting security. And we will continue to support economic and educational opportunities so all the Afghan people have the chance to build better futures for themselves and their nation. And of course, we will continue to defend the rights of Afghan women.

We are committed to a long-term, productive, and mutually beneficial partnership with the government and people of Afghanistan. And again, I thank my colleague and friend, the foreign minister, for the many contributions he has made and is making to the future of your country.

FOREIGN MINISTER RASSOUL: Thank you very much, Honorable Madam Clinton, for those kind words, and thank you for the warm welcome and generous hospitality that you have extended to myself and my delegation during this important visit. It’s always a pleasure to be in D.C., especially during this year, cherry blossom season.

And it’s an honor also to be here with you, Honorable Madam Secretary, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. Thank you for inviting me to participate in this important event. Let me just underline once again that our commitment to the right of the Afghan women is solid and will continue in accordance with our constitution and Afghanistan international obligations.

Thank you also for being outstanding friend of Afghanistan. As Madam Secretary pointed out, we spoke about a number of important topics. And as you mentioned, we spoke about the recent tragic event in Afghanistan of the – from the burning of the Holy Qu’ran to the killing of Afghan civilian in Kandahar. We appreciate very much the statement that President Obama and you, Madam Secretary, and other government congressional leaders in this town have made and condemned this event. We know we are awaiting for the swift and transparent investigation of this case and the punishment of anyone involved. That will greatly reinforce the Afghan people’s confidence and the existence of strong friendship and partnership with the United States.

Indeed, the great shared sacrifices in blood and treasure to the American and Afghan people have given in Afghanistan in the past decade in the fight against terrorism and for the country’s peace development and young democracy have created solid foundation for a close, long-term friendship and partnership between our two governments, our two nations. I have no doubt about that.

We have also discussed about the transition issues. We know that we are starting the third phase of transition and we’ll continue to commit to that. We have discussed the issue of Strategic Partnership. We have made lot of progress recently on two issues of detainees and special forces action, and we are very hopeful that we’ll be able to sign the Strategic Partnership as soon as possible, hopefully before the Chicago conference.

We have discussed, as Madam Secretary mentioned, the peace process, and we are happy to see that you fully support an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process and we are going to continue despite the difficulties in this path.

We have also discussed the regional issues, the economy, political and security, our relation with our neighbors in the region, upcoming conferences in the month to come on the RECCA conference in Dushanbe and the conference of Kabul conference, Chicago conference, and Tokyo conference.

Thank you very much again, Madam Secretary, for your friendship

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.

MS. NULAND: We’ll take one question from each side today. We’ll start with Jill Dougherty of CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, I just wanted to follow up quickly on your Syria statement. You did call it strong and positive. But is it really workable? Who will enforce that, especially pulling back and the humanitarian two-hour break?

And then on Afghanistan, you mentioned reconciliation. The Taliban are saying that they don’t want to talk essentially, so where do you go from there? Is there any prospect of that reconciliation continuing?

And Foreign Minister Rassoul, just wanted to ask you – President Karzai says that the U.S. is not cooperating on this investigation of the shooting. Is that still – is that – do you share that opinion? Is that the official opinion still of the Afghan Government, that the U.S. is not cooperating?

And if I could just – you mentioned the security agreement. Night raids are a big issue right now. It looks like there might be some progress on having a warrant system for the night raids. Are you – is that – is there some progress? Are you – is that hurdle over?
Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, those are, I think, four questions. (Laughter.)

Let me start with Syria. The Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s team is in Damascus discussing implementation of his plan which has now been endorsed by the Security Council. He will be, obviously, meeting with the government – or his team will be meeting with the government but also with community and opposition leaders as well. The unanimous support by the Security Council for this plan will add quite significant import to the discussions.

In the meantime, we are coordinating with the United Nations on the delivery of humanitarian aid. We’re working with the Syrian opposition to strengthen its preparation to participate in the Syrian-led transition process that the council has endorsed. Obviously, we’re doing a lot of work in preparation for the upcoming meeting of the Friends of Syria in Istanbul, and we are also calling on the Syrian military to refuse orders to fire on their fellow citizens. And we’re also calling on members of the business community who still support the regime to work on behalf of implementing the Security Council statement and Kofi Annan’s mission. So we are moving on multiple fronts, but we think it is quite significant that we are now all united behind Kofi Annan’s mission, and I will continue to be in close touch with my colleagues from the Security Council and the United Nations as we go forward.

I think with respect to reconciliation, this is going to be a very long-term process. There’s nothing quick or easy about it. And I think both the minister and I know that you are going to have bumps in the road, but as I said at the outset, our role is to support the Afghans. It’s Afghan-led, it’s Afghan-owned. And so after consultations with President Karzai, we articulated several steps that the Taliban must take in order to advance such an Afghan peace process, including opening a political office in Qatar, where everyone could test their presence and commitment. They have to make clear statements distancing themselves from international terrorism. That’s not just an Afghan request. It is a request of the international community. And they have to support a political process.

Now, what the Taliban do is up to them. We have been clear we are prepared to continue discussions, and our goal is to open the door so that Afghans can be negotiating among and between themselves. And as I’ve said from the very beginning, if there are Taliban insurgents who have no interest in reconciliation, they will continue to face military pressure. We are not stopping our efforts to support the security of Afghanistan while we try to see whether there is an opportunity for negotiations. So, really, at this point, Jill, the choice is up to them.

FOREIGN MINISTER RASSOUL: On your first question, I believe in the first stage of the incident, it was not clear if there is a full cooperation or not. As I mentioned to you, the Afghan Government and the Afghan people expect to see an investigation which is credible and be informed. So the real investigation is starting now, and we hope that we’ll be informed on the fallout of this investigation.

On your second question, we have made progress on the framework of a special operation at night. The next meeting will happen tomorrow in Kabul, and I’m confident that we’ll reach soon a conclusion, but it’s premature to give you details of the content of that agreement.

MS. NULAND: Last question, Lalit Jha, Pajhwok Afghan News Agency.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mister Minister. Thank you, Madam Secretary. As you mentioned about the recent tragic events in Afghanistan, burning of Qu’ran and killing of 16 civilians there, can you give us a sense of where do we stand on the progress on the strategic partnership document? And what should the people of Afghanistan expect out of it? Do you expect this to be signed before the Chicago summit?

And secondly, on Pakistan, there are a few conditions that Pakistan is asking U.S. to fulfill after this November 26th incident. Is U.S. willing to accept those conditions? And Mister Minister, what kind of impact Afghanistan is having on because of the strained relations between the U.S. and of Pakistan?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first with respect to the strategic partnership agreement, I agree with Minister Rassoul that we are making progress. The United States is committed to a long-term relationship with the Government and people of Afghanistan. We’re continuing our discussions to negotiate an agreement that is in the best interests of our countries and reflects the commitment we have to an enduring relationship. We’ve made good progress the last few weeks resolving some of the few outstanding issues. The recent memorandum of understanding on detention operations was signed.

As you heard the Minister, we are looking forward to finalizing the so-called night raids agreement. These are complicated issues, but we are resolving them. We’re clearing the way toward a strategic partnership agreement. We would very much like to be in a position to sign such an agreement at – either before or at the Chicago summit, and I think we are on track to do so.

With regard to your question concerning Pakistan, we have made it clear we respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan. We also respect the democratic process that Pakistan is engaged in. We think it is actually quite significant that the democratically elected government, the democratically elected parliament, is engaging in these matters. We want an honest, constructive, mutually beneficial relationship with Pakistan. We remain committed, through the recent ups and downs. We’ve been working through these difficulties and challenges. We believe we have shared interests. We believe we have the same enemies. We believe that it’s important to support counterterrorism against the insurgents who kill and maim tens of thousands of Pakistani people, who send teams across the border to kill and maim people in Afghanistan and to kill and main our soldiers and others.

So we actually think we have a very strong security interest and mutually shared objectives with Pakistan, but we also think supporting democracy and prosperity in Pakistan and stability in the region is good for Pakistan, it’s good for Afghanistan, and it’s good for the United States. So we’re waiting to see the results of the parliament’s debate, their recommendations to the government. Since it is ongoing, I think it would be not appropriate for me to comment at this time. They should be able to engage in their debate. But we stand ready to continue our work with the government and people of Pakistan.

FOREIGN MINISTER RASSOUL: I think Madam Secretary responded to your question from my side too. United States is a friend and allies of Afghanistan, and Pakistan is a neighbor of Afghanistan and a brotherly neighbor. So as Madam Secretary mentioned, at the end of the day, you have the same interest. A peaceful, stable, democratic Afghanistan is definitely the interest of Pakistan. And a destabilized Pakistan is not the interest of Afghanistan, neither United States. So we need to work together to come out with a full understanding that we have a common enemy, and we are linked to each other, and the stability and prosperity of one is the interest of other.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.

 

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Remarks at Afghanistan Conference First Working Session

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Bonn Conference Center
Bonn, Germany
December 5, 2011

We’ve had an excellent series of presentations already this morning, so I will not, in the interests of time, go over the points that were made by Your Excellency. But I think it is important to recognize the critical nature of the next two periods: first between now and the end of 2014, the transition; and then the decade of transformation that follows.

As the World Bank has recently projected, Afghanistan will face continuing budget deficits and economic hardships that will require new sources of growth and revenue to overcome. And yet, at the same time, many countries represented here in this hall understand that the international community also faces fiscal constraints.

So it is essential that we put together a comprehensive and effective strategy that maximizes the resources and their use. And that is why we are here in Bonn, because each of us has responsibilities we must meet if we are going to be successful.

I very much appreciate the call by the Afghan Government for mutual accountability between Afghanistan and the international community. We very much agree, President Karzai, those must be our watchwords. And the United States is prepared to stand with the Afghan people for the long haul to support this transition to sustainable stability and growth, and we recognize that the Afghans themselves, as the president has said, have commitments that they must meet, taking difficult decisions to embrace reform, lead in their own defense, and strengthen an inclusive democracy rooted in the rule of law. So mutual accountability will be at the heart of the commitments that we make to one another.

First, on security, that transition is already underway, and Afghan forces will soon be responsible for protecting fully half the population. For our part, as coalition combat forces draw down, the United States and our international partners must remain committed to training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces, even as together we continue to go after those who are unwilling to end the conflict or who are engaging in acts of terrorism. So let there be no doubt that the transition signals the beginning of a new phase of international support.

Second, with respect to the economy, the reforms that the president has outlined are heartening, as was the IMF’s approval of a new three-year program for Afghanistan in November.

Third, on the political track, we commend President Karzai for his commitment to proceed with inclusive and fair presidential elections in 2014. And I think the international community must continue to provide robust support to strengthen democratic institutions, including a free press and a strong electoral process.

The United States is pleased to announce we will be joining other partners in resuming financial disbursements to the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund so that those resources can be put to work.

And finally, this process that we are engaged in, which builds on 10 years of efforts, requires not only all in the region, all of the neighbors, but the rest of the international community that has been committed. The entire region has a stake in Afghanistan’s future and much to lose if the country again becomes a source of terrorism and instability. And that is why we would, of course, have benefited from Pakistan’s contribution to this conference. And to that end, nobody in this hall is more concerned than the United States is about getting an accurate picture of what occurred in the recent border incident.

And it’s imperative that we all support an Afghan-led reconciliation process. It was encouraging that after the assassination of President Rabbani, the Loya Jirga in Kabul reaffirmed Afghanistan’s commitment to this.

So the agenda is ambitious but essential, but we are clearly committed. The United States intends to stay the course with our friends in Afghanistan. We will be there with you as you make the hard decisions that are necessary for your future.

And so, Mr. President, thank you for convening this conference. It gives us all a chance to take stock of where we are and determine how we can best go forward in order to support the peace, prosperity, and democracy of a secure and stable Afghanistan. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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