U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Afghan president Hamid Karzai participated in this moderated discussion at the U.S. Insitute of Peace on May 13, 2010. The discussion followed up on President Karzai's meetings at the State Department and White House during the previous two days.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Mr. President, Madam Secretary, thank you very much for being here. It’s clear that it’s been a very successful visit. Congratulations for this. The message of an enduring partnership has been throughout the discussion at the State Department two days ago, at the White House yesterday, the Vice President. You’ve met many of the press many times.
We hope here at the Institute of Peace this afternoon to have a more relaxed discussion over tea in our living room here. (Laughter.) It’s an informal opportunity to discuss serious issues, and so this is our opportunity to have a conversation.
Mr. President, tomorrow you will head for the 101st Airborne and then you will head home.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Yes.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: And the focus will shift from the headlines of today to implementation.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Right.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: You and President Obama, our governments, have made commitments and have made specific timelines. There will be a policy review in December. So there are many things to be done in a short period of time.
What are your priorities? What specific steps will you take when you go back to Kabul?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: The trip indeed was very good, rather, from my perspective and that of my delegation, remarkable, and excellent hospitality. A lot of warmth and substance of discussions and the output was --
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Oh, this – okay. I thought I was loud enough. (Laughter.) No need for repetition, I hope, of the part I spoke. Okay.
So it worked very, very good. I had the pleasure of an informal dinner with Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates, followed up the next morning by an extensive meeting between the Afghan Government and the U.S. Government, the counterparts with one another. We came in groups of five clusters of Afghan ministries, from security to economics to human resources to agriculture to army and to reconciliation and governance, then followed up with a visit – a very important one – to the Walter Reed, where I had the honor of visiting some of your soldiers who had returned from Afghanistan with serious wounds. Some had lost limbs, just like I had seen some of our soldiers lost limbs. This was a very touching part of the trip, one that reminds us once again that we need to do a lot more to have these sons and daughters of yours come back home without injuries and happier.
We had also an extensive talk yesterday with the President and his team, and today was busy with the Congress, yesterday was busy with the Congress till event today. I visited the Arlington Cemetery this morning to pay respects to the dead ones buried there.
In short, the trip was meaningful, substantive, and had all the right tones and objectives. Going back home with this in background, the conclusion of the trip would bring me to the implementation of all that we discussed during our trip. That means following up on my speech during my inauguration address, the London conference, the pledges that we have made to the Afghan people, the commitments that we have with our international partners, and to follow up and implement all that we have in mind and promised, meaning the peace process on which we’ll be convening a consultative jirga around the 29th of May, which will have at least 1,500 Afghans from all over the country, from all the people, from all the provinces, including, I hope, at least 20 percent women, at least 20 percent women, who will advise us on how to move forward with the peace process and what pace should it have, how to time it, and how to model it as we move forward, with one thing taken for granted; that is, that the peace process will be with those of the Taliban or other militant groups who are not part of al-Qaida or other terrorist networks or ideologically against us – when I say “us”, I mean the allies and all of us – in any way that would endanger our constitution, the freedoms, the democracy, and the progress that we have achieved.
Beyond that, we have the Kabul conference, which will be Afghanistan’s plan for the future and end programs for which preparations are going on. From our side, Dr. Ashraf Ghani is in charge of preparing for the conference. We’ll be giving the world our outlook to the future and asking for support for that. And then we’ll have the parliamentary elections for which we’ll have made the preparations with the backing of our international partners.
Around these three main agendas and in continuity to the future, there is, of course, the issue of governance in Afghanistan, handling corruption in Afghanistan, and making sure that we complete our success in all aspects as soon as possible so Afghanistan is a prosperous, good, peaceful country, so you are much more secure here in the United States and the rest of the world. And the question of strategic partnership with America, we’ll keep for a moment later.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Madam Secretary, we made commitments – the United States made commitments as well. Are there specific steps that we have in mind taking between now and December when the policy review is?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me echo what President Karzai said. From our side, this was a highly successful visit. And the substantive discussions that we had, I think, took our relationship to an even higher level, which will serve as a very good starting point for the efforts to rewrite and refurbish the strategic partnership declaration that we hope to complete by the end of this year. And that will be a statement of our commitment, our commitment between our two countries, not just our governments but our people, and it will specifically set forth the areas of cooperation and focus.
We had a great visit, in large part because we had excellent cooperation and coordination in preparation for the visit. I want to compliment President Karzai and his team, some of whom are sitting here in the audience, who have done an excellent job. Those who have met any of the ministers and representatives of the government have uniformly come away impressed. I don’t want to embarrass them, but I’ve heard from many of my colleagues in government and my former colleagues from the Congress, and there is a real sense of the commitment and the professionalism of the ministers who accompanied President Karzai.
On our side, we had a great effort quarterbacked by Ambassador Holbrooke in the State Department here in Washington and his team, which is a very broad and deep cross-section of experts, and Ambassador Eikenberry and his team in Kabul.
I think that is the beginning of the answer to your question, Bill. We have put together on both sides a whole-of-government response. This is no longer president-to-president. As important as that is, or the occasional meeting between the secretary of defense and the minister of defense or the secretary of state and the minister of foreign affairs, we are building a very strong partnership that links together all levels of our government to work on these challenges that we are facing together.
Certainly, the headlines are about our military and our defense and law enforcement challenges, but we are working very closely with the minister of finance – and there’s been great improvements in the economy – the minister of agriculture, the minister of health and education. I could go on and on. So the implementation has already started, because following the opening meeting that we had in the State Department on Tuesday morning, groups broke off and went into great depth about the specifics as to what would be the follow-through. And as President Karzai said, we have some milestones along the way. There’s going to be an enormous amount of effort put in by the Government of Afghanistan, with our support, in preparation for the Kabul conference. We heard a description at lunch with the President yesterday by Dr. Ghani about how we’re going to be teeing up a lot of decisions. And it’s going to be the Afghan Government that does it, but we are going to be in support of that.
And that there then will be an implementation schedule following the Kabul conference. The parliamentary elections will be very important in September. And I met with the women ministers who are here just a little while ago, and there’s a great number of women who are putting themselves forward as candidates.
The story about what’s happening below the surface doesn’t get told often enough. And the ministers and the president and we on our side are determined to do so. And also, it is critical that we go into this with our eyes open. Even though we have extremely professional counterparts that we are working with on both sides, there are very serious problems and challenges. And that’s why, as President Karzai said, the first step in his process of moving toward some peace effort will be this peace jirga on May 28th – 29th, which will bring people from across the country for a consultation. The United States supports this. The United States supports the efforts that the president and his leadership and the people of the Afghanistan are pursuing.
So it is a multipronged effort. This is not just a meeting that produced a lot of good feeling. This is, unfortunately for those of us who are required to respond, a meeting that has produced a lot of work that we are going to be following up on day by day and aiming toward the Kabul conference for our first progress report.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Madam Secretary, there has been a lot of discussion of the date of July 2011 and a lot of discussion over the past week of this enduring partnership between the United States and Afghanistan. Is there a tension between those two concepts; that is, a date by which time some troops may begin to come down, be removed, and yet an enduring partnership that we’ve committed to, that strategic partnership? This is the discussion, so either of your impressions on how this fits.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’ll start from our side.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Please.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And I think the President said it very well in the press conference yesterday. We are aiming toward July 2011 to begin the process of transitioning security in some parts of the country to Afghan security forces. It is a conditions-based decision. We are impressed by the increasing capacity of the Afghan security forces. And both Minister Wardak, who is the defense minister, and Minister Atmar, the interior minister, on both the military and the police side, reported the progress but also talked about the challenges. So we see the July 2011 date as another date to aim for, and we believe that it can be the beginning of the security transition.
The enduring partnership will last long beyond any security transition, any withdrawal of combat forces over time. We are committed to a strategic partnership with Afghanistan. We believe strongly that the Afghan people’s love of freedom, their absolute commitment to their sovereignty, their belief in their own potential makes them a very good long-term partner. And we intend to work with our partners in Afghanistan. And as President Obama said, after he’s no longer president, after President Karzai is no longer president, we’re going to have this commitment between our governments and our peoples.
And the final thing I would say, Bill, is this is not an unusual model. I mean, we have relationships with countries all over the world where in previous times there might have been reason for American military forces to be stationed there, and in some cases they still are, from Korea to Europe. And I want people to remember our history. We’ve had long-term, enduring relationships long after the guns were put down. And what we are doing together is trying to create the conditions, thanks to the great leadership of General McChrystal and his people on the ground, to help the Afghan people regain security over their own territory. But we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to be there working with them, supporting their efforts, far into the future.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: On this question, Secretary Clinton really answered for both of us. I’ll be adding a little on the July 2011 pullout of (inaudible) troops question. We are planning in Afghanistan to prepare ourselves in the form of the army and the police and other institutions of the Afghan state to be able to provide for the security of the Afghan people in parts of the country where we can’t right now in the next two to three years, and to expand that, extend that to the entire country by 2014, by the time my term in office is completed, for which I’m in a hurry. So we are preparing ourselves for a takeover of security so we are no longer a burden on the United States and our other allies, neither militarily nor economically. Afghanistan has the potential, the resources, the manpower, the location, the geography, and the position as a hub of Central and Southwest Asia to do that.
On the question of enduring partnership, or as we refer to it, the strategic partnership, Secretary Clinton put it very, very correctly within the right context of that relationship. It is going to be beyond the military activity right now in our campaign against terrorism and into the future long after we have retired and perhaps into our grandsons’ and great grandsons’ and great granddaughters’ generations as well. So – and this is something the Afghan people have been seeking for a long, long time. The substance of – rather, the most important substance of our conversations the past few days has been this subject and it’s a subject that I can gladly take back to the Afghan people. Of course, this partnership between Afghanistan and the United States is for the good of the region and for the stability of the region and will provide the much-needed confidence and peace in the region that we are now seeking but not yet having.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. President. Madam Secretary, you both know that there are skeptics in both the United States and in Afghanistan, and they can be forgiven for asking, well, we’ve been at this for over eight years and they’re asking you, I’m sure, about what’s new. Why do we think this is going to be different? The skeptics in Afghanistan, Mr. President, worry that the American troops will be pulled out too early. And the skeptics in the United States, Madam Secretary, are worried that they’ve been there too, too long. How do you address the skeptics?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: In Afghanistan, the skeptics are not so much on the deed for a strong relationship with America. They are the other way around.
PARTICIPANT: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: I’m sorry for that.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Thank you.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: They are the other way around. They want a stronger, more formidable relationship with America for the sake of Afghanistan and also for the sake of the region and for the sake of the U.S. interest in Afghanistan and the completion of the struggle that we have.
The July 20 date does not pose a problem to us because we know that the United States will not abandon the cause. In this, we have succeeded fully. What we are seeking is beyond that, in what the Secretary so rightly described today is the assurance that we have.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Bill, in addition to that very fundamental point, skepticism is part of the American character. I mean, it just goes with the territory. And it is important because hard questions need to be asked all the time. And that’s exactly what President Obama did when he came into office. He was confronted very early in his term with a request that had been held over from the prior administration for additional troops. He agreed with that request, but he ordered a thorough review of our policy. And it was extraordinarily in-depth. I’ve lost track of all the meetings that we had both with the national security team and in addition with the President.
And at the end of that review, the President reached a conclusion that I think should be respected by Americans because it was not a foreordained conclusion, it was not something that he had to do. He did it after very careful examination of the facts of what was at stake for the United States and of the importance going forward of our commitment to Afghanistan.
And I understand why there are people who are skeptical, because, as I say, that kind of goes with the territory. But this is a commitment that we believe very strongly is in America’s interests. We want to see Afghanistan succeed. We want to see the people of Afghanistan have a future of peace and prosperity and progress after so many years of suffering. But we are in Afghanistan because it’s in America’s interests. And these interests converge and that is really what this meeting this week has been about – demonstrating clearly and unequivocally the convergence of our two respective nations’ interests.
And we are well aware of how hard the task is ahead. We are well aware that we face a determined, ruthless common enemy. We are well aware that Afghanistan lives in a dangerous and difficult neighborhood. I don’t think there’s any issue or any question that any skeptic could raise that we have not thought about and carefully worked our way through. And so we’re very committed, and as the President said, we’re very confident of the success of this going forward.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Mr. President, how comfortable are you with the plans of your forces and the coalition forces for the spring and summer in Kandahar?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: It has, since the past week, adopted the right approach. When I say “it”, I mean, the Afghan and the international forces. We are talking of a process there and the process means bringing conditions to Kandahar and the region around where there is better governance, better resources, more active, vigorous, vibrant intelligence activity, and then if and when and where needed, an operation militarily in consultation with the community and backed by the community. This is approach that we have adopted and this approach will definitely succeed.
When I return, I’ll be revisiting Kandahar. I’ll be once again engaging with the community and the leaders there of all kinds and colors to reengage them on the question and have their advice and move along with them towards stabilization. That area does not have front lines. It’s terrorist activity. It’s assassinations. It’s more psychological than physical presence of the terrorists and the Taliban. And we need to have the appropriate tools in the form I described to go ahead and win.
SECRETARY CLINTON: If I could add to what President Karzai very rightly described as the approach that is being taken by the Afghan and international forces concerning Kandahar, I think it’s important for people to realize that, number one, this is not Marjah. It’s a different campaign. Marjah was much more dominated by the Taliban. It became a real stronghold for them. Kandahar is a large, bustling city that has an enormous amount of economic activity. People are getting on with their lives. But there are, as the President said, pockets of Taliban insurgents who are engaging in a variety of violent acts, including assassinating the deputy mayor just a few weeks ago.
So as General McChrystal has explained to the President and the national security team, this is going to be an action that is going to use different tools, because the goal is to root out from what is a very active and ongoing urban area those who intimidate. They do not pose a threat to Kandahar. They are not going to take over Kandahar. But their presence has a chilling effect.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: It keeps people inside. It keeps girls from going to school. It keeps people from feeling comfortable going into public places or going out to work with the farmers, as we’ve heard.
So this is a different kind of campaign. It is not a huge, massive assault. It is a much more targeted effect or effort to try to weed out the Taliban. And we have no doubt they’re dug in. We have no doubt that they have support there. But as the President said, the combination of the military and intelligence assets of both Afghanistan and the international forces, the president’s own personal involvement in going to Kandahar, meeting with leaders – because in any counterinsurgency, the goal is to win the confidence of the people so that they will become your allies and will not be intimidated into giving safe haven to the Taliban, in fact, will pick up the phone or walk outside and tell somebody that there’s some suspicious activity going on.
So that is the goal and I think it’s being extremely well-planned. And obviously, we all hope for an early success.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Mr. President, in that same line, you are a war president. You are the commander-in-chief. And as the Secretary just mentioned, there are Taliban who are killing your officials in cities in Afghanistan. In the Afghan culture, how does this notion of being commander-in-chief, a war president, fit? Is this – how does this fit into the Afghan culture?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Well, this fits all right. (Laughter.) The Afghans are not unknown to a situation like that. So it is understood and comprehended well with one difference in my mind, that we are speaking from a higher moral ground; that I’m the president of the country in a time where there is terrorism, suicide bombers, IEDs, and those behind such attacks have an immense disrespect and abuse of the general morality of human beings.
For example, earlier, our minister of interior was describing to Senator Kerry and fellow senators over lunch that we have a 14-year-old boy who came and said that he was trained as a suicide bomber, that he doesn’t want to be a suicide bomber. We are looking for the parents of this boy so – to bring them over and to return the boy back to the family. We don’t find them an equal opponent in those terms. They have stooped very low into the abyss of lack of morality or, if you can describe, immorality. I don’t know if that term is right.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Sure.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: All right. So yes, but we are also morally higher, (inaudible) better, and that is the winning element there.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Mr. President, you have mentioned a couple times the peace jirga and preparations for that. I remember – actually, I was talking to Minister Stanekzai yesterday. He reminded me that in work here at USIP, Madam Secretary, Minister Stanekzai put together two years ago the plan for reintegration and reconciliation, and the surge, he tells me, as well.
Now – and it’s coming about in your plans later this month for the peace jirga. Ambassador Khalilzad, who was going to join us this afternoon, asked in a piece in the paper: What is the outcome, what is the end state for that reintegration and indeed the reconciliation?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Reintegration means the return back home and the disconnection with fighting and arms of those thousands of Taliban soldiers who have been driven out of their homes and their country by circumstances beyond our reach or control and beyond theirs, and those who have been driven out of their homes and into the arms of those who give them guns to fight against their own country because of the mistakes that we have made both as the Afghan Government and our coalition partners.
Now, these thousands of the Taliban that you are trying to address and reintegrate are ideologically not against us. They’re countryside boys who don’t hate the United States, perhaps a lot of them would like to visit the United States given the opportunity, who don’t hate their own government or their own country, who would not have a problem with our constitution, who out of fear or other circumstances are now having (inaudible) their own country, that we must try legitimately to return them.
Reconciliation is an entirely different issue. That’s with the leadership, mostly beyond our reach and mostly in our neighbors in Pakistan where we’ll have Pakistan also involved in a lot of regional questions involved there. Reintegration is about those who I described earlier and reconciliation is more difficult, a more to the future thing.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Madam Secretary, we have been – we’ve been hesitant, we’ve been cautious about the reconciliation component of this. And yet the President, you this week have indicated support. Certain conditions are there. Are we prepared to support these compromises that will presumably come out of these negotiations with senior Taliban?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we have the same position that President Karzai does, that there are certain conditions that have to be met, that people cannot just show up and say that they’re prepared to reenter Afghan society after having directed suicide attacks and other kinds of violence against Afghanistan.
And I think that as the president said, this process really starts with the reintegration off the battlefield that the president was describing of people who, for a variety of reasons, found themselves in the ranks of the Taliban. I don’t think any of us can predict what the outcome of the next phase will be. First, the president has to have his own consultative peace jirga and listen to his own people, because they may have very strong opinions. There may be people that they’re willing to see the president discuss potential reconciliation, and then there may be people that they’re not.
There also, from our best information, are leaders of the Afghan Taliban who do not want to reconcile; they are very much against it. We don’t expect to see them walking through the door. So I think starting with reintegration but thinking hard about what reconciliation actually would mean – and of course, from our perspective, everyone, whether it’s a person who pursues reintegration or reconciliation, they must abide by the laws and constitution of the government and nation of Afghanistan. They must renounce violence. They must cut ties with al-Qaida and these extremist allies that are in these networks that al-Qaida is either directing or inspiring.
And on a personal note, they must respect women’s rights, that the women of Afghanistan who still suffer too much, with one of the very highest maternal mortality rates in the world, they deserve our support and they are receiving support from their president and their government, and nothing can be permitted to interfere with that.
So there are many steps along this way, but the general principle is as the president stated. It is to see how possible it will be to try to move on a political track, because there is no military solution to this conflict. As with most conflicts, there has to be a political track that is pursued and we’re going to support the president’s efforts in doing that.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: As was mentioned, there are other people in addition to people in this room who are watching this right down the hall, and they’ve been able to ask some questions. So I’m going to turn to some of their questions and I’m also going to turn to questions
and people in this room.
One of the questions that have come from the other room is: Mr. President, can a free, fair, and effective election be held this year?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Absolutely, absolutely. Afghanistan began the current democratic process in 2002 after its liberation with your help from the al-Qaida and the terrorist networks, and we did well. Millions of people participated in the elections – the first election of the president and the provincial councils and the election for the parliament, the first election and then the second election for the president, and now the second parliamentary elections.
We have in place all the necessary tools to make sure that the election is credible and in keeping with the standards that we can apply in Afghanistan. There will be international observers there. We have a new commission set up. We have two international election experts who will be part of the complaints commission. The people want to participate. There are already 2,700 almost candidates, of whom 430 nearly are women, much more than we had in the previous elections.
So the enthusiasm, the zeal – is that the right word?
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Yes, sir.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: All right. Well, the zeal in the Afghan people to practice democracy and to participate and to challenge is great, and that is the motor running our democracy.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: It will be a challenge; you’re absolutely right. The time is short if you have it in September, but there are preparations that – as you say, that need to --
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Yes.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: -- take place.
Let me ask if there are questions from the room that people would like to raise. Marvin Kalb, I see his hand’s up.
QUESTION: My name is Marvin Kalb. I’m a writer in residence here at the United States Institute of Peace and I’m here to finish a five-year study of the effect of the Vietnam War on presidential decisions. (Laughter.)
My question, Mr. President, has to do with numbers. Could you tell us how many Afghan troops and police do you have now properly trained? How many do you think you will need to conduct a successful counterinsurgency, and how long do you think that’s going to take? (Inaudible.)
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Yes. The question has to do with the size of the Afghan forces, the police and --
PRESIDENT KARZAI: The army.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: -- the army, yes, sir.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: We are now at nearly the mid-stage of our preparations of our army and police; in other words, the ministry of defense and the ministry of interior. Our army has crossed 130,000 --
PRESIDENT KARZAI: -- 120,000 mark. We have trained, well-trained troops and officers. About three months ago, I went and witnessed and gave the certificates of the second batch of Afghan military academy graduates, who looked quite professional and uniformed in the right way. The Afghan police is nearly 180,000.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: The goal is 180,000 – 160,000 goal. So the training is going on. The army began its training early on from 2002 to ’03 onwards with speed with a little intervention. The police began much later. We only began to pay full attention to this important element of the Afghan security in 2007. Now, there is massive investment by the United States and our other allies in Europe to the training of the police. The structure is already emerging, the professionalism is emerging, and the discipline is being seen on the streets of the capital and the rest of the country.
While this is going on, sir, the police, especially as it is training, is also daily facing the threat of terrorism and sacrificing daily. At least four policemen a day are dying in Afghanistan defending the country. At least four; that’s the average that we have taken. Some days, there may be much bigger numbers.
The aspiration that we have in the ministry of defense and in the ministry of interior is to have our army and police reach together at least 300,000 that we have in mind. The minister of defense, of course is asking for much more. He’s asking for 400,000, only of the defense force, on which I’m quite cautious for the cost that it will incur to us in the future. But we are trying to have the right numbers between 300,000 to 350,000. For now, as we move forward and bring more stability to Afghanistan, of course, then we’ll be speaking more and concentrating more on quality and equipment rather than numbers.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Mr. President, that brings up a question of the sustainability of 400,000 Afghan national security forces. Dr. Ghani has been describing the mineral wealth of Afghanistan and you mentioned a couple days ago at the State Department sometime in the near future – not-too-distant future – where Afghanistan would be able to stand on its own feet, I think you said.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Yes.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Financially, 400,000 troops of various kinds will be expensive.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: If we keep going at the current speed of revenue collection, this year – and correct me, Minister of Finance, are you around – of which this year, we had 22 percent increase in our revenue collection.
PARTICIPANT: Fifty-eight percent.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Fifty-eight percent? Yesterday, you said 22 percent. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yesterday was a good day. (Laughter.)
PARTICIPANT: That was GDP growth.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: GDP growth, sorry, sorry, sorry. Okay. So that was GDP growth. 22 percent GDP growth and 50-something percent the revenues this year. Now, if we move at this speed, within three years, Afghanistan will be able to pay for the existing numbers of our security forces. Within three years, Afghanistan will be paying its civil services, its military, and police forces from its own pocket. Now, that will be a tremendous achievement and it is a benchmark that I hope our ministers will keep very, very strongly in mind so we can come back three years later to the United States and tell the U.S. Congress and Senate, look, we’ve done it. Now we will not be asking you for salaries, but we will be asking you for investment and F-16s. (Laughter.)
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: There is – there’s an Afghan journalist that I would like to call on whose name is Lalit Jha. Lalit is with us. Yes.
QUESTION: Yeah, I am Lalit Jha from Pajhwok Afghan News, but I am an Indian.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Pajhwok News?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Good. That’s very – that’s immense progress for you to be working in Washington on behalf of the Pajhwok News Agency.
QUESTION: Good. Thank you, Mr. President. As you conclude your trip here, the broader trip here, what’s the outcome of the trip and what’s the takeaways for you, for the people of Afghanistan from this country who are going back?
And Madam Secretary, I would like to ask you the question – the interview you gave to the CBS News on Sunday in which you referred to a sentence called “severe consequences” in reference to a question on Pakistan, what happens in the case of an attack in the U.S. which – having its footprint in Pakistan. Would you like to clarify about that? Because on Monday, Ambassador Holbrooke told us that the context in which you gave that statement was misinterpreted by the media and that CBS edited that interview.
And also, would you like to share your thoughts on the resumption of talks between India and Pakistan that’s in July, and how is it going to achieve – help you achieve the goal of defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Thank you.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Sir, I’ll be taking away back home quite a few achievements. One thing that I will take back home is to tell the Afghan people of this tremendously warm hospitality of the American people, that we have to do a lot more in order to ensure that we are also hospitable in Afghanistan.
Second, on issues of concern to both countries, we have reached agreements on a range of issues. The most important of such issues, as far as the Afghans are concerned, were issues of detentions and the continuity of detention centers in Afghanistan run by the coalition forces. We have agreed that there will be a transition of detention center to the Afghan authority January of next year, 1st of January of next year. And that will be as soon as we are in Kabul assigning senior teams on both sides to work the exact timelines of the complete transfer of detention centers.
There was a fundamentally strong sentiment expressed by the President, by the Secretary of State, by the Defense Secretary, and the Vice President yesterday on civilian casualties. And the desire for the protection of civilians was strong and very, very visible. The question of nighttime raids that concerns the Afghan people was raised (inaudible) and an instruction issued to reduce it to the minimum possible.
On strategic partnership and enduring partnership, you heard both of us spoke. On economic matters, we had extensive engagement on the issue of agriculture and the importance of agriculture and the viability of the Afghan agriculture sector, its ability to produce the best quality of foods and to export on mineral resources, the abilities of Afghanistan, the richness of the country and the mineral resources that can easily run of the knowledge that we have today of the Afghan mineral resources to over a billion dollars. Our ministers yesterday said that it can be between $1 to $3 billion --
PARTICIPANT: He said $3 billion.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: To $3 billion.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Yeah, 3 billion.
PARTICIPANT: No, no, 3 trillion.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Trillion, yeah, $3 trillion. Trillion, sorry. That’s what I meant. Trillion, trillion, yeah. $1 to $3 trillion.
Now, exploited well, this is massive (inaudible), massive opportunity, and with help given by the United States, to do it better, technologically sound, and a certain time Afghanistan will do it. So these are all very good messages that we can take back to Afghanistan. And of course, U.S. backing on the peace process and so on.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to the question that the gentleman asked me, I responded at great length to the interviewer on 60 Minutes. I started by talking about the importance of the strategic relationship we are developing with Pakistan, the fact that we have expanded our interactions far beyond the counterterrorism agenda, which was basically what we inherited, that we are focused on trying to create a broader and deeper understanding between our two countries, and that we have gone quite a distance in creating a better atmosphere.
However, we are concerned about the recent attack and other efforts that, thankfully, have not been successful, just as you heard President Karzai say that he was concerned. And we’ve been encouraged by the way that the Pakistani Government and military has, in this past year, been much more willing to go after the terrorists who are not only threatening outsiders, but threatening them – the military actions in Swat and Waziristan.
We think that there is more that has to be done. And we do fear the consequences of a successful attack that can be traced back to Pakistan, because we value a more comprehensive relationship. So we do expect more and the investigation is going well between our two investigative bodies. There is a lot of effort that is being undertaken on the Pakistani side to provide information to our teams over here. And we just believe strongly that there is more that Pakistan must do to face what is now a common enemy. The attacks by the extremists inside Pakistan are no longer aimed across their borders. They are aimed at destroying and killing people in mosques, in markets, in every walk of society. So this is a matter of great concern to the American people and to our government, but we think that the concern is being reciprocated on the part of Pakistan.
AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: We have time for one last question from someone here – all the way in the back, all the way in the back. Yes.
QUESTION: Mr. President, if I could ask you to clarify something you said a few minutes ago. What did you mean by that since last week, the approach to the Kandahar operation has taken the right tone? And if I could ask you separately, did President Obama or anyone else you talked to this week ask you to sideline or fire your brother from his role in Kandahar? Do you believe it’s appropriate for the United States to have an opinion on that?
And for Secretary Clinton, do you think that Ahmed Wali Karzai is an obstacle to the long-term success of the U.S. operation in Afghanistan?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: When I said that since last week this is in a consequence of consultations that we have had that the effort in Kandahar and the surrounding area has to be explained better. The modality of it has to be explained better so we are not calling it an operation. Operation would indicate a military operation of tanks and troops moving. That is not the situation in Kandahar, as the Secretary of State described very aptly. We are talking of a process and it’s only the change in terminology and for the right objective.
We – the President did not raise the issue of my brother in Kandahar. I raised it with him. And to the satisfaction of both sides, the – even if I were to resort to an activity of firing or hiring – fortunately, Afghanistan is a democratic country. One elected by the people cannot be fired by the president. They can fire me; I can’t fire them.
So no, that wasn’t discussed, and I think the issues that were raised in the American press or in the European press have now been understood better by our U.S. counterparts. So I’m not going to go into further detail on that. The issue is resolved as it stands now.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have nothing to add to that. I just want to add one thing, though, to what the president said initially about the Kandahar operation, because I heard some of the commentary in anticipation of this operation making it sound like it was going to be a massive military action, sort of sieging the city, tanks rolling into the city. That is not the kind of operation that our military leaders believe is warranted. They want to have a successful counterinsurgency operation that doesn’t destroy Kandahar in the effort to save Kandahar.
As someone rightly said to me – one of my military colleagues – this is not Fallujah. Lessons have been learned since Iraq, a lot of lessons, and the people who are guiding this operation, like General Petraeus and General McChrystal, learned those lessons in Iraq. And so I want the American press particularly to be disabused that somehow you’re going to wake up one morning and D-Day has started. That is not what this is about. It’s not what counterinsurgency is about.
We are not fighting the Afghan people; we’re fighting a small minority of very dedicated, ruthless extremists who, unfortunately, are able to enlist young men like the president was referencing earlier for a variety of reasons and send them out onto the battlefield. So the goal is to help the people of Kandahar recover the entire city to be able to put it to the use and the benefit of the people of Kandahar. That is what we are aiming to accomplish, and we have a lot of confidence in our Afghan partners and our international coalition.
MS. SONENSHINE: On behalf of the United States Institute of Peace, I would like to thank President Karzai and Secretary of State Clinton for being with us today, and would ask if everyone would remain in their seats while the president and the Secretary depart. If members of the Afghan delegation who are traveling in the motorcade would also please depart so that we can have an orderly transition. Thank you. (Applause.)