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Secretary Clinton Hosts the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Commission

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
October 3, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON:Good morning, and let me welcome all of you to the State Department, to the Benjamin Franklin Room, for the launch of the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Commission.I want to thank my colleague and friend, Foreign Minister Rassoul, and all of our guests from Afghanistan and this distinguished delegation for joining us today. And I want to thank the American delegation, which represents our entire government, for committing to this bilateral commission meeting. We have leaders and experts here from across both the Afghan and American governments. That is a reflection of the breadth and depth of our enduring partnership.

For more than a decade, Americans and Afghans have worked side-by-side to help the Afghan people build a more stable and secure future. We have also fought side-by-side to improve security throughout the country, to strengthen Afghanistan’s democratic institutions, to support its civil society, and to sow the seeds of economic opportunity for the Afghan people.

This has been a tremendous shared effort. It’s also been very challenging. These past few months in particular have presented obstacles and some potential setbacks, and we know that difficult days lie ahead. But despite the challenges, the United States is committed to the people of Afghanistan. And we have made progress together that too often is overlooked in the face of the headlines that talk about some unfortunate incident.

We have worked together to develop the health and education systems of Afghanistan, and we’re now seeing gains in both education and health among the people. We have worked to advance women’s rights that enables women, who have suffered so much over the last 30 years, to contribute to their family, their community, and their country’s future. We have seen a vibrant media develop. We have seen access to electricity brought to parts of Afghanistan that had never experienced that before, and I could go on and on.

And I hope one of the results of this bilateral commission meeting will be to help publicize the positive gains that the Afghan people have experienced over the last decade thanks to their hard work and determination.

Now, as partners, we look to the future. The transition is on track. Every day, Afghans forces are increasingly capable and taking more responsibility for their nation’s security. On the political side, President Karzai has put forward an ambitious reform agenda leading up to elections in 2014. And to prepare for an economic transition as the war winds down, we and our partners in the international community laid the groundwork for unlocking Afghanistan’s economic potential at the Tokyo Conference this summer, where each country represented made commitments in the spirit of mutual accountability.

This Bilateral Commission is beginning its work shortly after the Strategic Partnership Agreement was signed by President Karzai and President Obama in Kabul in May. The Strategic Partnership Agreement and this bilateral commission will help to guide the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States as we move to the next phase of our relationship. It reflects a shared vision and a shared commitment to mutual responsibility and accountability. And it focuses on areas that will be critical to Afghanistan’s future, including in the areas of security, human rights and democracy, institutions and governance, economic development, and regional security and cooperation.

We know it will take time to deliver the results that the people of Afghanistan are working toward, but as President Obama and I have said many times before, the United States has made an enduring commitment to Afghanistan that was forged in sacrifice. Just a short time ago, we reached a grim milestone: 2,000 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan. The American people have invested a great deal in Afghanistan’s future. And even though our role in Afghanistan is changing, this partnership will continue.

So here today, we will discuss specific steps that we can take together to implement the Strategic Partnership Agreement. I am eager to hear the ideas and specific recommendations for how we can make swift, concrete, and measurable progress. One of the things we will talk about today is our plan to begin negotiating the next piece of our bilateral partnership: the Bilateral Security Agreement, which will establish the framework of our future security relationship based on our shared vision of a secure and stable Afghanistan. I am pleased to announce that Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador James Warlick will lead the negotiations for the United States.

As we look ahead, we will certainly be aware of the many challenges that remain, but I also want to be aware of the opportunities that we can seize together. And I urge that all of us do our part and to remember the millions of people across Afghanistan and the United States who expect us to accomplish good things together. Let’s deliver strong results for them.

So thank you again for joining us. Thank you for the hard work that we are beginning today. Now, let me turn to the Foreign Minister for his opening remarks.

FOREIGN MINISTER RASSOUL: Your Excellency, Secretary Clinton, dear friends and colleagues, thank you so much for hosting this inaugural meeting of the Afghanistan-United States Bilateral Commission, and thank you for your gracious hospitality.

We meet today against the sad and tragic backdrop of Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues lost in Libya just last month. Let me extend, once again, our deepest and sincerest sympathies to you, Madam Secretary; to your colleagues at the State Department; and to you, to the family and friends of Ambassador Stevens and his three colleagues. Indeed, it’s because of similar enormous sacrifices by the soldier, diplomats, aid workers, and publics of our two nations that have allowed our two countries to lay down the foundation of a strong friendship and a solid partnership, and to continue our best efforts to build a future of common security and peace, dignity, and opportunity for our people.

Today’s meeting is both unique and historic, and I’m honored to be part of it. Founded on shared value, shared interests and mutual respects, and the promise of a future of peace and prosperity, the Strategic Partnership Agreement between Afghanistan and the United States has opened a new chapter in the relationship between our countries.

We approach this partnership from the fundamental premises that serve our national interest, and is potentially linchpin of security and stability in the region. We will continue to make progress in pursuit of our common strategic objectives, and ensuring the safety, security, and prosperity of the Afghan people.
Madam Secretary, 10 years ago, we had just begun emerging from long dark era of war, violence, and destruction. The challenges of restoring security to the lives of the Afghan people and rebuilding Afghanistan into stable and a democratic country seemed overwhelming. Today, nevertheless, we are a proud member of the community of the nations and moving steadily toward a peaceful and self-reliant future. Our partnership has responded to the threats to international peace and security, and has placed Afghanistan on the path towards a secure, democratic, and prosperous future.

I believe this Bilateral Commission will grow into the most key forum for our relation and partnership, and to convene in point for many committed actors in both our government and to expansive dialogue to define and implement coordinated collaborative action in realizing our common interest and shared goals.

As the Joint Steering Committee and Working Group continue to advance cooperation and monitor progress toward various aspect of our partnership accepted for the Strategic Partnership Agreement, let me assure you, Madam Secretary, that Afghanistan is fully committed to building on our shared success of the last decade, delivering results, and taking on the challenges ahead.

There are important priorities before us, all of which are crucial for the long-term security, stability, and prosperity of Afghanistan. We are encouraged by the continued progress of the transition process and the long-term commitment we have from our allies in – to support the Afghan security forces. In this regard, negotiating a comprehensive bilateral security agreement between our countries to the satisfaction of both sides is of paramount importance.

I am pleased to know that the United States has assigned an outstanding diplomat, Ambassador Warlick, to lead the negotiation on the agreement on the behalf of the United States. Ambassador Hakimi, also one of our finest diplomats, will lead the process on our behalf. I wish them both and their teams all the best in this important endeavor.

Moreover, Madam Secretary, we will continue to pursue the peace process vigorously. This is the just and deserving right of the Afghan people and the surest path to ending the cycle of violence in Afghanistan. We recognize the significance of the upcoming election for the future stability of Afghanistan. He will assure – we will ensure that the necessary conditions are in place for building – for holding free, fair, and transparent elections.

As we continue to advance human rights, enhance regional cooperation for peace and prosperity; develop our human and national resources; combat corruption; improve governance; build infrastructure, public health and education; and to fight terrorists and extremism, we will count on the continuing and substantial support of our biggest and most important ally, the United States of America.

And we will pursue all these priorities with special attentions to the continued promotion of the rights of Afghan women and girls in increasing their always significant role in the social, political, economic, and cultural life of our society.

May I take this opportunity to thank all those from the United States and Afghanistan committed to a solid and strong Strategic Partnership between Afghanistan and the United States, and to your determined effort and hard work. The challenges before us are great, but so too the promise of our partnership. So let us make the most of this opportunity and build on this strong foundation of our partnership to secure and better future.

Thank you very much, Madam.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Minister.

 

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Hillary Clinton had such a busy day in Japan on Sunday that last night I collected more than 100 pictures from her various events and then had to wait for the press releases to come through.  Most intriguing was a short series of pictures from an historical trilateral meeting with the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Hina Rabbani Khar,  and Afghanistan, Zalmai Rassoul.  As you know,  Hillary’s carefully worded apology to Pakistan this week finally permitted NATO land access once again at the border between the two countries –  a border that had been closed to NATO forces since November of last year.  What caught me about these pictures is her obvious delight in a trilateral agreement.  For our top diplomat agreement is what it is all about.  This particular agreement made history. What is amazing is that huge as this was, it was just one of many events in her busy day.  Here are the pictures.

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Here is their statement.

Joint Statement by U.S. Secretary of State Clinton, Afghanistan Foreign Minister Rassoul, and Pakistan Foreign Minister Khar at the First Ministerial-level Core Group Trilateral Meeting

Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 8, 2012

Capitalizing on the opportunity afforded by the Tokyo Conference – which represents the culmination of a period of intensive engagement between Afghanistan and the international community – we convened the first ministerial-level Core Group meeting today. We reaffirmed that the purpose of the Core Group is to enhance cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States to support an Afghan peace and reconciliation process, and further affirmed that:

Afghanistan should be a peaceful, secure, stable, and prosperous nation living in a peaceful, secure, stable and prosperous region supported by enduring partnerships with the international community. Great effort and sacrifice by the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and the international community has decimated al-Qaida’s core leadership in the region, reducing the threat to international peace and security that led the international community to intervene in Afghanistan in 2001. Afghanistan should never again be a safe-haven from which al-Qaida or other terrorist groups threaten international peace and security.

As agreed at Istanbul and Bonn in 2011, and reaffirmed at Chicago and Tokyo in 2012, the surest way to lasting peace and security for Afghanistan and the broader region is through an Afghan political process of peace and reconciliation for Afghanistan. This process should be supported by Afghanistan’s neighbors and by the international community.

After 30 years of war, all Afghans should be able to live together in peace. Only Afghans can determine how they live together, how the future of their country must be shaped, and how their country should relate to the region and beyond.

We are committed to work together to support an inclusive Afghan peace process through which individuals and groups break ties with international terrorism, renounce violence, and abide by Afghanistan’s constitution, including its protections for the rights of all Afghan women and men. As the international community reaffirmed at Bonn and again at Tokyo, these are the necessary outcomes of any negotiation.

Foreign Minister Rassoul welcomed Pakistan’s and the United States’ support for Afghan peace efforts, noting especially former Prime Minister Gilani’s February 2012 statement expressing Pakistan’s support for Afghan reconciliation and calling on the Afghan Taliban and related groups to participate in an intra-Afghan process for reconciliation and peace.

To build further momentum, we reaffirmed the importance of pursuing multiple channels and contacts with the armed opposition. Pakistan and Afghanistan committed to take full advantage of upcoming bilateral exchanges, including Pakistani Prime Minister Ashraf’s forthcoming visit to Kabul and High Peace Council Chairman Rabbani’s planned visit to Islamabad. These visits should determine and implement additional concrete steps to advance Afghan reconciliation. We also welcomed and encouraged additional progress on regional confidence-building through the Istanbul Process, since enhanced cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbors on issues such as narcotics, refugees, and regional trade will help create an environment for long-term stability and prosperity.

We welcomed the broad international support for an Afghan peace process, reaffirmed here in Tokyo, and emphasized that the upcoming opening of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly provides additional opportunities to support and advance Afghan peace efforts.

We reiterate our call for the armed opposition to abandon violence and enter a dialogue with the Afghan government. We call on all parties to devote their energy to realizing this vision, respond in the same spirit, and commit to support an Afghan political process that will result in lasting peace, security, stability, and prosperity for Afghanistan and the region.

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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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