Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made this statement on Afghanistan on March 6, 2008.
Today Hillary Clinton announced her plans to address the forgotten front line in Afghanistan as she met with a group of respected retired admirals, generals, and other senior officials to discuss current foreign policy and national security challenges.
Al Qaeda and the Taliban have largely recovered from the blows inflicted after 9/11. Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan have now merged into one of the most dangerous regions of the world, and one of the most strategically important to the United States. Today, Hillary pledged to make Afghanistan her highest security priority after Iraq, and outlined her agenda for winning the war in Afghanistan. As President she will:
- Increase International Support to Afghanistan.Rebuilding Afghanistan requires establishing basic security. But getting Afghan security forces up to the level where they can defend their country, defeat the militants, and resist domination by the insurgency will take time. Therefore, an increase in international forces supporting the Afghan people’s fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda is required. As President, Hillary will ask our NATO allies and other nations to play a larger role, and she will press for elimination of national caveats -- restrictions placed by individual NATO governments on the use of their forces in Afghanistan. National caveats weaken our NATO effort and create resentments within the Alliance. She will encourage countries unable to contribute more forces instead to increase assistance to Afghanistan. As President, she will be prepared to send additional American troops to Afghanistan as part of a stronger, larger NATO effort. She will consult the field commanders and our Allies in deciding how many troops are required.
- Work with Afghan Government to Improve Security Forces - both Police and Army. While the training of the Afghan National Army (ANA) has made progress, the same cannot be said of the police, who are equally important for long-term national security. Yet the Bush Administration has neglected the police and did not understand their importance early enough, or adequately fund them. They subcontracted the work to outside groups. As President, Hillary will seek adequate funds for a significant upgrading of the ANA and the National Police. Hillary will ask NATO and other international partners to take a larger responsibility for training and equipping the ANA. She will make it a priority that the Afghans receive modern weapons and airlift capabilities to win their war, not hand me downs left over from the Cold War. She will make greater use of Afghan forces in US-NATO operations, as the Afghan government seeks.
- Revitalize International Support for Reconstruction. Hillary will convert the first international donors conference after taking office to a summit-level meeting. This meeting will help to revitalize and recommit flagging international support for Afghanistan’s long-term reconstruction and the Afghanistan Compact, and to ensure that donors meet their pledges. Hillary will encourage greater support of donors from the EU, Russia, China, India, and Japan, as well as the Gulf States.
- Redesign the Counternarcotics Program. More than 90% of the world’s opium and heroin comes from Afghanistan. The drug economy in Afghanistan supports the Taliban, ruthless warlords and drug lords, and corrupt government officials. Forced crop destruction often drives poor farmers into the arms of the Taliban. The Bush administration’s program, in effect, is a recruiting tool for our enemy. As President, Hillary will redesign the program. She will target enforcement against drug lords, labs, and corrupt officials, not farmers. Using the inspirational agricultural programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal as a model, she will propose to the international community and the Congress a multi-year program to develop Afghanistan’s agricultural sector to provide alternative livelihoods. This is the best way to undermine the terrible nexus of drug lords, corrupt officials, and Taliban who are now strangling the legitimate side of Afghanistan’s economy. This would mean an integrated approach to agricultural development that employs all resources from seeds to fertilizer, irrigation to electrification to roads, and markets to education.
- Appoint a Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Providing security to Afghanistan cannot be accomplished without greater security on the Afghan-Pakistan border and greater stability within Pakistan. As President, Hillary will appoint a special envoy to work with Afghanistan and Pakistan and NATO to develop a regional strategy to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda. This strategy would include the provision of needed security aid and expertise to Pakistan as we worked with that country as a full partner in addressing extremist threats. Military aid would be accountable. The envoy would also attempt to engage Iran to prevent drug smuggling and support the Afghan government. This would give the United States an opportunity to engage Iran positively in an area in which we share common interests.
- Support Afghan Government’s Capacity for Self-Governance. While the outside world will have to continue to help Afghanistan, in the end it is the Afghan government and people who will have to succeed. The government needs to reach out to the people in a tangible way to gain respect and support, including providing essential services like water, roads, transportation, education, opportunities for employment, and security. Women must be given the right to make progress. A major investment in infrastructure will need to be made. As President, Hillary will encourage the international coalition to provide the infusion of trained administrators, builders, designers, educators, and rule of law specialists to jumpstart this initiative. She will support greater funding and coordination for Provincial Reconstruction Teams to address local needs based on local priorities. The government needs to have the respect of the people by providing them with things that will improve their lives. We must help them -- but ultimately they must do it for themselves.
Hillary’s plan to win the war in Afghanistan builds on and complements her strategy to address the challenge posed by Pakistan. The elements of her plan include:
- Ending President Bush’s one-dimensional Pakistan policy. The recent Pakistan elections are a key step toward the return of democracy for Pakistan and the establishment of a civilian-led government. The Pakistan elections should send a signal to the United States about U.S. policy toward that country. For the past seven years the Bush administration has pursued a one-dimensional policy toward Pakistan, focusing its high level attention overwhelmingly on President Musharraf to the exclusion of other important political actors in Pakistan and its civil society. It is time for this to change.
- Increasing non-military assistance to Pakistan. This aid should be targeted at strengthening democratic institutions, building civil society, and improving economic and educational opportunities. A stable and democratic Pakistan will be a stronger security partner for the United States in the years ahead.
- Support improved relations between India and Pakistan. Promoting a stable relationship between India and Pakistan which will further contribute to Afghanistan’s long-term stability.