Speaking in Chennai on Wednesday U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to reassure a worried India that the United States has no plan to cut and run when it comes to Afghanistan, no matter how ready the American public may be to end its longest-ever war.
"I want to be very clear. The United States is committed to Afghanistan and to the region. We will be there," Clinton said, acknowledging India's concern that Pakistani influence on the country will grow while the U.S. presence recedes. "Yes, we are beginning to withdraw combat troops and transfer responsibility for security to the Afghan people, a process that will be completed in 2014, but drawing down our troops is not the same as leaving or disengaging."
That American commitment, Clinton said, extends to the country's women. While the U.S. sees the "not...pleasant business" of negotiating a political settlement with the Taliban as the only viable option for ending the Afghanistan war, Clinton has vowed that women's rights will not be negotiated away during the peace process.
"Any potential for peace will be subverted if women and ethnic minorities are marginalized or silenced," Clinton said. "What we have learned in the 20th century that we must apply in the 21st century is that you cannot deny women and minorities, whether they be religious minorities or ethnic minorities or tribal or any other minority -- you cannot deny your own people the chance to be full citizens in their own country.
And so when we look at what will happen in Afghanistan, the United States will not abandon our values or support a political process that undoes the progress that has been made in the past decade."